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My name is Layla Mokoena, professionally known as Chayuta. I am a singer/songwriter, philanthropist (giving back to my community) and student in Ghana. I started singing when I was nine years old when my first music teacher told me that I had an extraordinary voice. Who felt strongly needed mentorship and development. My mum and I decided to give it a try but at that point never even thought about a professional career in music. But as I got older, I realized that I really can’t see myself doing anything else but music. My approach to music has been a bit different, I spent the first years of my music career just training my voice and working on my live performance skills before I even got into the studio to record my first song. I believe this has really shaped me as an artist. I recently wrote my IGCSE exams and in October I started my university foundation year. Everyone expected me to study music in Uni, but I want to have two separate careers - music and public relations.
Tell us about your journey, inspire someone
I was born in Belgium and spent the first few years of my life between Holland, the UK and South Africa before settling in Ghana. My early years were very comfortable, my dad was a professional footballer and we moved quite a lot because of his transfers to different clubs in different countries. As a young child, I had everything I could ever want and travelled the world with my parents. Then when I was about six years old my parents split up. My mum and I moved to Ghana. Things changed a lot for us. My mum is very hardworking so I can’t say that we are struggling but our lifestyle changed drastically. From the moment my parents split, I was basically raised by my mum and grandma because I would only see my father once or twice a year and then suddenly my father chose not to be part of my life anymore. The last time I saw him was six years ago when I was eleven years old. He came to visit for a few days and then just walked out of my life for good. My dad walking out was not easy for me and I could have broken down, but I told myself that I will not let negative experiences influence my life. I can’t force anyone to like me or what I do and I feel really blessed to be raised by two very amazing, strong and courageous women who want the best for me. I rather choose to use the difficulties I have faced and will still face in my life to express myself through my music and take my education very seriously to build a better life for myself, my mother and grandma.
What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?
It is definitely not easy being a young musician in Ghana. People still feel that artists decide to do music because there is no other career option for them. It is still not considered a real career in Ghana. In high school my teachers would always tell me to focus more on my academics and tell me that they felt that music has a negative influence on my academics even though I take both school and music equally seriously. Also, I won’t be the first female musician to say that it is very tough in this industry for us. I have received the most interesting advice, from starting beefs with other female artists to dressing sexier or provocatively and being more seductive on stage because people feel that my image is too clean. At a certain point in my career, I just decided to stop listening to everyone and just take advice from my family and my team and I think that was the best thing I ever did for my career.
What books are you currently reading?
I love reading, especially poetry, inspirational books and biographies. Currently I am proofreading my grandma’s yet to be released book which is a memoir of her life in Ghana.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started?
A lot! I honestly had no idea how complicated the music industry really is. All I knew was that I wanted to sing. I didn’t know anything about the business aspects of music and how difficult it can be sometimes. I just assumed that once you have a good song the rest will just happen. Luckily, I have a solid team to advise me and take care of all the other aspects so I can fully concentrate on my music. I have also had the opportunity to meet quite a lot of artists and they have given me a lot of advice as well so I am getting more and more ready for this industry.
What advice would you give to an upcoming youth or talent locally and internationally.
I have a few pieces of advice.
Firstly, stay true to yourself and create a small circle of mentors, friends and advisers who want the same goals for you. If you know what you want to do. Come up with a plan and stick to it and try to reach your goals without deviating too much or taking too much advice from people who are not part of your inner circle.
Secondly, always keep working on improving yourself. Don’t let one success make you think that you have achieved it all. There is so much young talent out there. People are just as hungry as you are to be successful, so you have to keep working hard every single day.
But the best advice I can give is, even though you have a talent, don’t give up on your education. It is so important to have a good education, even if you know you won’t have a “regular” job it is still important because when signing contracts or buying properties you want to understand what you are doing. And of course, no one knows what the future holds so keep your education as a backup plan in case the creative part of your life slows down for a while.
Youtube: Chayuta Music