Two parts hip hop, one part dance hall and pockets of drum and bass. These are just some of the elements that make up EJ von Lyrik’s musical arsenal – and the very reasons she is a perfect fit for the City Hall Sessions Mini Festival, writes Helen Herimbi
EJ von Lyrik is warm. Not just because she’s wearing a thick coat, a woollen hat and a pair of gloves on a day that the Mother City weather is moody. She laughs easily, shares her history readily and totally lights up when she speaks about collaboration. Throughout her career, which spans well over a decade, Von Lyrik has been heard playing various styles of music. She has also been remarkably successful in whatever avenue she’s explored.
When she takes her gloves off, she tells me the thing she is most excited about this weekend is that she gets to play with a 12-piece string section. “I was invited by Closet Snare to play with them,” she starts, “so I’m very fortunate to even be a part of the City Hall Sessions this time around.” ‘
She said Bokani Dyer will play in the band and direct the string section while Mr Sakitumi is also directing and will play samples and keys and she will be featured on three songs. But this will only be on Friday.
The City Hall Sessions Mini Festival will open with big band experience directed by Silent Revolution Music and will feature Errol Dyers, Khaya Mahlangu, Zolani Mahola and Morris Goldberg with narrative by actor, David Isaacs. Friday will see Closet Snare perform with guests, Inge Beckmann and EJ von Lyrik, before Joe Nina and MXO. Sunday will be The Contemporary African Music Session that includes Madala Kunene and Caiphus Semenya. There will also be a photographic exhibition called Not Just Divas running throughout the mini festival.
“From my perspective,” says Von Lyrik, “the more collaborations like the ones we’ll see take place at the City Hall Sessions, the better. You get people from different backgrounds who all bring their experience and their travels and it’s awesome because you get to learn so much and also impart knowledge in that situation.”
Travel is something the woman who was born Eloise Jones knows a lot about.
After matriculating, she started a hip hop group called the Neophytes with DJ Eazy and J-Seven then spent the last years of the 90s touring with SA hip hop icons, Prophets Of The City, before she became a founding member of Godessa, along with Shameema and Burni. By the time the group disbanded in 2008, they had successfully become the most recognisable female hip hop artists in the country.
In 2008, a rebirth of sorts happened to EJ von Lyrik when she decided to go solo and release her debut album, Method In The Madness. “Until then,” she shares, “my career was built on me being in other bands. Obviously it was a struggle to step out on my own at first but what helped was that I had the Godessa name behind me. There were financial challenges, which are always a part of an artist’s life.”
But she persevered and a year later, went to the Reunion Island on a French scholarship. “It blew my mind that there I was, this girl coming from poverty, from Mitchells Plain, and here I am.
“When you travel, you learn so much and tend to develop a compassion for others,” she says.
• The City Hall Sessions Mini Festival takes place at the Cape Town City Hall, Darling Street, July 5-7. Tickets are priced from R40 and available at Computicket. For more information, visit www.cityhallsessions.co.za