FYA

Def Jam UK release FYA's hot new single "Must Be Love" featuring Smujji on 1 st March.

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FYA's ‘wicked triangle' of Kizzi Bennett, Tenza Foster and Emma Nhamburo have come a long way since they first belted out songs in Slough's youth centres three years ago. On the eve of release of their unfailingly bouncy debut single, ‘Must Be Love"- a near-flawless dancehall declaration of intent as they up the ante for homegrown reggae and pop music in general - FYA might just be the coolest girl group in Britain .

At a time when Sean Paul – the acceptable face of dancehall - has taken over CD:UK and Top of The Pops, every R&B diva worth their salt has him toasting on their record (Blu Cantrel, Beyonce Knowles) and rhythm compilations are being advertised on prime time TV, FYA shouldn't be mistaken for a gimmick band. They're reconfiguring the format for pop music drawing on lessons learned from the time before dancehall was fashionable and they struggled to make their mark, the highest grade riddims of J.A. which they've been down with since they first started listening to music, and their markedly different upbringings. Emma hails from Harare , Zimbabwe . Tenza comes from Montego Bay , Jamaica . While Kizzi reps for Slough .

“ Slough is alright,” opines Kizzi with a smile. “We all live there now, it's been a good town for us to keep our heads down and develop our music. You know you can step out of the door and there won't be any trouble. It's a small town and everyone knows each other” While Slough's isn't exactly known as a hit factory, FYA have crafted a formidable album on the downlow there over the past few years. As other British labels will now throw large amounts of money at anything that moves in Jamaican dancehall, Kizzi, Emma and Tenza have been creating the record that is as British as Mike Skinner (The Streets) or So Solid but will have the resonance of Sean Paul.

“Sean Paul has opened doors,” states Tenza. “But really performance wise we'd much rather hear Elephant Man, Bounty Killer (who appears on the FYA album) or Lady Saw. They're energy levels are closer to us.” While most artists these days just open their mouths and make pretty sounds, FYA have a depth and control beyond their years. They may be digging

 
Music - Def Jam UK release FYA's hot new single
Music - Def Jam UK release FYA's hot new single
Music - Def Jam UK release FYA's hot new single

Jamaica 's loudest mouths for style on the microphone but the slackness and rude lyrics prevalent in most dancehall aren't on their agenda. “(Elephant Man's) ‘Log On' was a wicked song,” Tenza continues. “ Everyone – black, white, Asian – would dance to it in the club, then when they figured out what it was saying, everyone took a step back. Maybe when these artists travel more and experience other cultures more they will become more accepting.”

“We don't have time for rude chatting in our lyrics,” adds Kizzi demonstrating a maturity that most 16 year olds in her position would struggle for. “FYA show that women can be just as good as man, and we don't need to disrespect ourselves or anyone else. We're strong people, we're a voice of reason reaching out for everyone. And we want to have a good time while we're doing it.”

Spend five minutes chatting to them and its apparent FYA's bright mix of personalities mark them out as something special in a dumbed down musical age, so much so that they were the subject of an intense bidding war before finally signing to Def Jam UK . Tenza – The DJ (that's the MC in dancehall) – is an excellent lyricist who likes to let on about her ideas. Emma – the singer - has a voice which can switch from steady simmer to crescendo with ease. Kizzi – the singjay (a mix of Dj-ing and singing) – is the most talkative one and on the mic has a unique soulful delivery. When they combine on album tracks like ‘Girl Talk', ‘Tic Toc' and ‘What's Going On' the result is a perfect blend of dancehall pop with entertaining messages that sets it far above the latest wave of conveyer belt pop idol clones that have flooded the charts.

“'What's Going On With That' is just our take on problems we see around,” says Emma. “Drugs and guns - when is it all going to stop. ‘Girl Talk' is just what it says, gossiping, girls kicking it.” “Tic Toc is just about getting down in the club,” interjects Kizzi. “But we didn't want to do the same lyrics as everyone else so to make it different it's about the last hour in the dance, everyone tired, sitting down. We're like ‘Get up! It's the last half hour to bust your moves.”

“We enjoy the process of constructing the songs almost as much as performing them,” explains Tenza. “One of us will come with a punchline then we all go away and come up with our parts, bring something different to the song, bounce ideas of each other. We usually start the concepts without a riddim (in contrast to the traditional method in dancehall of writing to a rhythm) but if we hear a riddim that's hot and pumping then that can sometimes inspire us to find a chorus or topic.”

FYA's distinctive voices and dynamic mean that all the tracks mentioned are pure Fya girls moments – engaging, communal and funky – it's not a sound you'll get elsewhere at the moment and a testament to it's wide appeal is the fact that they're going down a storm all over the UK , from Slough to Scotland . “ Glasgow is the best place we've ever performed, for real,” beams Tenza. “The crowd was going mad, they were wicked. Trying to follow our dance routines, they may not have understood everything we were saying but the energy was electric. I think we were so different to what they were used to that they really embraced it.”

“We love performing live and we take really big inspiration from people like Beyonce and Missy - they kill it everytime they step on stage and we want to be the same,” Tenza concurs. “It's more immediate than being in the studio. The crowds have been loving us so badly that we sometimes forget our dance routines and just vibe with them.”

“We love all the aspects of live shows, especially the dressing up,” adds Kizzi. “We like to look different all the time, same colours but our own styles. There's a lot of customisations of clothing we do. We have to look different all the time.”

FYA's forthcoming album features an impressive line up with guest appearances from Jamaican dancehall legend and Grammy award winner Bounty Killer and UK dancehall phenomenon Sun Cycle Crew. Producers include Skatta of the Coolie Dance and Bad Company Rhythms, Jazzwad - Jamaican based producer of Bounty Killer, Sizzla, Wayne Wonder and JA 13 who wrote and produced the critically acclaimed "Heroes of Kingston".

In their non-Fya life they're just like any other teenage girls, but onstage or in the studio the girls are set to revitalise the pop charts. With so much unremarkable music around at the moment, FYA are peddling something fresh and exciting. Listen up.

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