There is a glass ceiling I'm still trying to break through as a female South Asian Pop Artist - Zoya
For our first instalment of our new Music Series, we had the chance to talk to Zoya @iamzoya. You can find links to her music at the bottom of this article!
India born, California raised songstress, Zoya, has been praised by the likes of The Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, MTV, Vh1, Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and ELLE for her recollective songwriting and collection of catchy pop gems. With three albums to her name and countless tours worldwide, she's gained recognition from heavyweights AR Rahman and The Chainsmokers while touring on festival bills and as a support act for the likes of Kawehi, Natty, Lucy Rose, Madame Gandhi, Youngr, Submotion Orchestra, Bloc Party, Clean Bandit, and Martin Garrix.
Returning to Los Angeles after a four year stint touring India, Zoya signed with Chicago based label and management agency, Propelr Music. Teaming up with producers, Chuck Inglish (Chance the Rapper, 6LACK) and Mark Nilan Jr (Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born), Zoya kicked off her latest Bad Girls Dream series with a radio-friendly pop anthem featuring Kentucky based rapper, Jack Harlow.
Now Zoya lives in Los Angeles and hopes to shed light on what's brewing in her birth country while promoting the idea of a multi-culture and multi-color future for pop culture and pop music.
We had the chance to interview her to talk about her journey as an artist, what it means to be a South Asian on the global music scene and where her motivations come from.
Why did you begin creating music?
"I grew up in a very musical family. I started singing and writing lyrics very early on. My dad bought me a guitar when I was 11 and, I guess, the rest was history.
Growing up in Southern California I always felt that this whole music thing wasn’t possible for me because I was an Indian girl. The reality is we get bombarded with images growing up, especially in pop music, about what it is to be “beautiful” or “marketable”. As an adolescent, I kept making excuses in my head of why I was not pretty enough, not like the girls in magazines, and honestly not “white” enough.
Then the table’s turned after graduating from Berklee College of Music. One day in 2015, A.R. Rahman shared about me on Facebook and, overnight, India opened it’s doors to me. So I took a one-way ticket and went to go check out what was brewing in the “indie” scene in India. (“Indie” meaning Non-Bollywood. As we all know, Bollywood is the majority of the music industry in India.)
A one month trip turned into four years - I got signed, and started touring the country. A lot of my dreams came true in India. As one of the first female pop singer-songwriters, it really felt like I was apart of a 'mini-revolution' of sorts.
Suddenly, towards the end of my four year stint in India, it hit me like a ton of
bricks: There has never been an Indian pop artist in global music. At that time, global pop culture was just showing signs of evolution. There were actors and comedians like Mindy Kaling, Priyanka Chopra, Lilly Singh, and Hasan Minaj on big screens, billboards, and magazines all around the world. Recognising this made all of the emotional turmoil I felt growing up suddenly become the purpose of everything I was fighting for."
"Recognising this made all of the emotional turmoil I felt growing up suddenly become the purpose of everything I was fighting for"
Describe your musical style in 3 words.
"Pop, Singer-songwriter, Commercial"
What has your experience been of being a creative in the South Asian community? Were
there any obstacles you had to overcome?
"There are a lot of politics involved in music and entertainment in general. As a South Asian, to break the system in all forms of entertainment is important, because all voices and races should be considered beautiful, influential, and “normal” to watch on a movie screen or hear sing a pop song. Celebrities and artists are, if not the most, influential source on the planet to young girls and boys around the world. That is the glass ceiling I am still trying to break through as a female South Asian pop artist."
What music have you released?
"I’ve released 4 albums and 25 singles over the years. My last album, Bad Girls Dream, released this summer in May 2020 and the latest single release is called The Pattern which released on November 20th, 2020."
Do you have any upcoming projects?
"Yes, the next single is called Do Not Disturb and it is one of my favorite songs and music videos yet. It is set to release in Spring 2021."
What do you do for fun? Besides music?
I cook, love the beach and a good party. But, the most fun I have is in the studio writing.
Do you have any advice for other South Asians who are trying to release their own music?
"Good music will always speak first. So focus on your craft and be true to your sound. Second
step is marketing, so learn as much as you can about how to market and manage
yourself. And third, dream big while supporting others and working with others. We need more South Asian creatives on all sides of the music industry. Not just artists."
Upon reflection, if you could tell your younger self something before you started your musical journey, what would it be?
"Be yourself. That’s it. Simple, yet the hardest thing to do in this industry. If you unlock that, the world is yours. You’ll stop doing this for “them” you will start living your artistry for “you”."
You can find Zoya @iamzoya on all streaming platforms, and can stream her latest single "The Pattern" below: