Ya Tosiba is a Berlin-based duo – on the mic we have Zuzu Zakaria, who uses mainly found, historical lyrics in Azeri, her mother tongue. On synths and drum machines we have Mesak from Finland, one of the pioneers of Scandinavian Skweee music.
As heard on their first single (“Mad Barber” from 2012), Zuzu uses lyrics found during field studies about the history of Meykhana, which is a traditional, improvised form of rhythmical folk vocals from Azerbaijan. Think of it a historical kind of rap music which, during Soviet times, was forced underground. Since the fall of the iron curtain, artists have been marrying it with electronic instruments and it is finding new popularity abroad these days.
We caught up with Zuzu to get a little more insight into her music and influences.
What was the first tune you loved and why?
My favourite sound from childhood is the rooster singing at my grandmothers farm when I was spending my summers there. Still my phone and alarm tone.
What is your favourite song/piece of music that you’ve written and why?
Often I like the last ones I have made. I am working on one song now called Arif which I think is gonna be my favourite.
How do you know when a tune you’ve written is complete?
I never feel the tune is totally complete, but you just have to stop at some point. It is a good thing, since I want my listeners to add their ears and interpretations to it.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written and why?
So many of them, from the top of my head Fairouz – “Al Bosta” and Erkin Koray – “Estarabim”.
What artist(s) has been your biggest influence and in what way?
It is always many influences and combination of different names. If I have to name then Kuryokhin from the Soviet punk band Поп-меха́ника [Pop Mekhanika], and my Armenian-Russian music teacher Larisa Grigorievna.
Name a song that makes you happy and why does it have that effect?
Last week it was balkanized edit of twin peaks soundtrack by Patric Catani. It is funny.
What is the best new band that you’ve heard recently?
Can I suggest a band that I’ve known for years but that might be new to you and your readers? It’s Joxaren from Stockholm. He is generally very including person and I enjoy the results of his projects. He recently released music made with refugees and it sounds amazing.
Other new bands that I’ve heard and liked recently are Tsembla, Patric Catani and Debmaster, Prunk Möbel. Andi Otto’s new Bangalore Whispers is great.
What’s your favourite radio station?
Who would win a fight between a drummer and a bass player, and why?
The drummer – I guess because drummer has more tricks and made more muscles during rehearsals.
Your band/artist name- How did you come up with it and what does it mean to you?
It is a religious chant of a fortune-teller woman who replaced her belief to God with technology. Her “Ya Allah” turned to “Ya technology” – here Ya Tosiba.
How did the idea occur to you to use the old Meykhana lyrics in modern songs?
After my field-trips to the region of Baku and its suburbs I ended up with lot of texts including personal unpublished stanzas, interviews, jokes as well as official publications, books, documents, newspaper articles and similar. While reading those texts I was already singing something in my head triggered by the original poetic rhythm in the poetry and later putting them into electronic music was natural.
What is the reaction like to your music back home in Azerbaijan?
The audience appreciating Ya Tosiba is actually very little. Some people write me quite offending massages because of the videos, others find it embarrassing promotion in Europe since Meykhana locally belongs to “low culture” which lately has become contentless pop.
What question would you like to be asked that you never are? (and what would be your answer?)
Difficult question. Maybe – Would you be available to play a concert in Baku that certain day. Answer – Yes I would.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
Maybe some Finnish “itkuvirsi” so they can get inspired to cry.
Next live concert -29th of April in Helsinki.