The Art & The Muse: Trayc Selasi
Multi-faceted British-Ghanaian singer, dancer, and songwriter, Trayc Selasi has taken her talents to new heights. Following the momentum of her previous releases and a successful, continent-spanning dance career across Europe and Africa, she has officially released her highly anticipated debut EP, The Art & The Muse. Through meticulous refining and evident obsession over the finer details of song creation, this project puts her first in line for Afrobeat’s next generation of stars. Selasi displays a high-level demonstration of genre versatility, energetic production, compelling songwriting, packaged together in easy to digest yet unforgettable project. Backed with significant features from Worlasi and Ghanaian legend Efya, the EP invites listeners to experience Trayc’s carefully curated dreamworld. It’s even more impressive to observe her transition from being a dancer/choreographer and touring with some of your favorite afrobeats artists into a high-caliber artist in her own right, which begs the question – is she the art or the muse…or both?
We caught up with Trayc to find out more about the project, her music career thus far, what she has planned next, and more in our interview below!
You initially got your start in the industry as a dancer/choreographer for major African artists, touring and performing alongside them on stage. How and why did you make the transition into being an artist yourself?
Yes, I started as a dancer but making music was always my ultimate goal. I remember when I first met Fuse ODG and I told him I wanted to sing and he asked me to sing for him out in the open somewhere in south London. At that time, I was in an all-girls dance crew but singing and performing were what I really wanted to do. I toured and performed on big stages for Fuse ODG with my dance partner KB and it was so amazing as I learned so much about the music and entertainment industry on the job. My transition was not always rosy but it was beautiful as I was quite observant with everything music [related] around me during my dance career. I learned how to record and engineer in the studio, engineering for some great artists including Fuse ODG himself at times. Every day there was something new to learn although it wasn’t always easy, it was all worth it. I started making the transition around 2015 and it was in that year that I knew I had to start following my passion. Although I went through a great deal of personal struggles, I am so grateful that with God, my family, and the team I’ve been able to still follow what I truly love and not give up. I now have my own home studio set up where I’m able to record music of my own and also started learning production so I can create my own beats and maybe become the next Dr. Dre with a mix of Beyonce haha.
How do your Ghanaian roots affect your music, if at all?
I am always proud to be from Ghana and Africa as a whole because it’s just so rich with amazingness from food, weather, to culture, and music. Being born in Ghana, I grew up listening to so much good music like Highlife and Hiplife. I like to infuse those elements in my music now, as you sometimes hear live guitars, saxes, and the percussions used that gives my music an enjoyable groove. I try not to follow trends as I’m not always good at following them but I try to do what I feel is great to me which includes my Ghanaian roots so people know me for me and not for anything else. My mum always reminds me of where I’m from so I’m grateful for her constant reminders, as she tells me old stories of me or of herself and other family members and speaks to me in our language ‘Ewe’. My dad used to also play a lot of African music from other legends across Africa such as Angelique Kudjo, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, and Osibisa.
Being based in London creates another dynamic for your core audience. How would you gauge the reception of your music from people in London compared to folks back home?
The reception of my music here in London is slightly different from back home. I feel like back home, they appreciate my sound a tad bit more than here and this is not to say London doesn’t appreciate my sound as I know they do because of their genuine love and support they give and show me every day. In Ghana, Highlife and Hiplife music is still very prominent in the scene and people still enjoy it, which makes it easier for them to accept my sound as they can relate, especially as I sometimes sing in the local dialect Twi. I would say though I am quite surprised by the great reception I am getting here in London with my sound as I didn’t expect so much love coming out from my London supporters, so yes it’s been AMAZING!
How has the pandemic affected your ability to create music?
2020 has definitely been unexpected but I believe it’s been both a blessing and a curse at the same time. I prefer to keep my focus on the blessings, which is the fact that I was able to finish my EP. I won’t lie, It wasn’t always easy during the lockdown. At first, I went through a stage of trying to get used to being home alone, working from home, and not being able to see anyone, and I thought I would be okay as I usually love being on my own in my own space. However after a little while, it did take some toll on me where I got a bit stuck with my creative process, but with the help of my amazing team, Coelle LDN, I was able to push through and finish writing and recording my project. I’m grateful for the lockdown because it taught me a lot about myself and also helped by giving me more time to connect with God and it made me even more grateful for my home studio setup. We thank God.
Listening back to one of your earliest releases, “WUTU”, how would you compare yourself musically from back then to now?
Oh my goodness, let’s just say – Thank you God for growth. I remember after putting that song out, I hated it because I felt like I wasn’t making the music I really wanted to make and was trying to put out music that people wanted or expected of me. Now when I listen back to it, I absolutely LOVE it. This is coming from the fact that I have grown musically with my sound and I am proud of where I started and where I am now. The WUTU sound was for vibes and dance purposes but with a message as it the title is an acronym for ‘Wake Up To Urself’ which was dope as it was helping me with my own awakening with following my own footsteps. A massive thank you to Ajay, who produced the track, for helping me start my journey and pushing me through it. When comparing my music from when I started to now, I can say it has even more meaning to it where my lyrics and melodies are versatile but can still have you dancing to it.
You also started out making covers/mashups of different songs that you like on your “Traycing Lines” episodes. A lot of fans (including Worlasi and Maleek Berry) gravitated to these episodes because of your unique ways of mashing up songs. Is this something you might do again in the future or is this something you feel like you’ve “graduated” from?
“Tracying Lines” is my baby and I don’t think I will or want to ever graduate from it. I am definitely bringing it back as I have had many requests to bring it back. I do miss making my mashup covers, it was so fun playing around with different songs and sounds. The reason why I had to put it on pause was because things were getting a bit much with music and working my 9-5, so I wanted to pause on that to focus on a few things. I was thinking of bringing it back earlier this year but during the lockdown, I decided to use that time to work and finish my EP project so this year’s focus was all about that. However, I have started working on some arrangements to bring “Traycing Lines” back bigger and better for 2021.
What is the meaning behind the name of your EP – “The Art & The Muse”?
My EP is a representation of who Trayc Selasi really is. Most people have recognized me as the famous Antenna Dancer which is great but I wanted to piece together a project to show people who I really am and what I can do. The Art represents me the creative, singer, songwriter & dancer and The Muse represents all my experiences and influences from the music I grew up listening to, my fashion, and all my experiences. I just hope everyone gets me after listening to my EP.
Speaking of names, your birth name (Selasi) is also very important to you, as it should be! The words “Selasi [is] my name” are sprinkled all over the EP. Even your Instagram bio says “Yes SELASI is my birth name”. It seems a little more than just an adlib. Is the focus on your name intentional for this project or something that has been a focal point for you for a long time?
I absolutely love this question, thank you. My name Selasi is very important to me as you hear it all over my music. Selasi in my language means “God hears”. In Ghana, everyone called me by my “African name”, Selasi, which to me is my first name. When I came to London and continued my life here, everyone started calling me by my British name, Tracy. At first, it did confuse me a little as it took some getting used to. I don’t think I even knew I had that name Tracy until I came to London haha. When I grew older, I wanted to be known for my African name as I started having a lot more pride in my culture and where I was from. So when I got asked my name, I would usually say Selasi but then I would get a surprising look like ‘really’? I would always have to tell people yes it’s my birth name and yes it’s in my passport etc. I know the name holds great power because of the great Ethiopian Emperor Selassie, which I’m very aware of but I always inform people that my name holds a different power and meaning in its own way, not to mention, it’s a common name from my tribe ‘Ewe’. I love my name so much because of its meaning, given to me by my dad, so yes it has been a focal point for a long time and will continue to be.
On “Honest” (which slightly interpolates “Killing Me Softly” by the Fugees), are you talking to the same “Somebody” from the intro of the project? How honest and open about your life do you feel like you have to be on your songs?
I’m glad you picked up on that because the Fugees were one of my inspirations growing up and I wanted this body of work to include my influences and experiences throughout my life either through the lyrics, melodies, or instruments. Being ‘Honest’ is all I ever want to be when creating music which includes being honest with myself, my friends and family, and also my supporters around the world. As I mentioned before, I used to make music I thought people expected of me but as I matured I can say staying 100% honest in my music is very important to me in order to get the best out of Trayc Selasi. ‘Honest’ is actually about someone else. It’s from a different experience I had in the past, some years back with another and Somebody is about my last experience with love.
It’s safe to assume that Efya may be one of your musical inspirations. She’s featured on “Militant” and you refer to her again on the last song of the project, “Ayelele”, (A favorite). What does it mean to you to be able to work with her?
Yes, I’m so glad you took the time to listen to this EP well. Efya is and has been one of my biggest inspirations from Ghana and it’s not just with her music, but her lifestyle and the amazing person she is. I had the privilege of meeting her a few times during my dance career before I ventured into music and every time I met her, I was always star-struck just from her energy and the way she is with everyone. She is such a beautiful soul, God bless her. I have watched and listened to her music closely and I love how she is herself in everything and that inspired me to start being myself a lot more in my music. I love her sound especially when she is in her soulful bag as [Soul] is one of my favorite genres from Erykah Badu, India Arie, and many more. Efya was on my list of features I really wanted to work with, so It means so much to me having her on my EP. I even thought I would work with her on something more soulful at first but ‘Militant’ fits so perfectly.
This interview has been condensed for clarity.
Check out her EP below!