MoYah: “I feel that my music represents the amalgamation of all the beautiful cultures of Portugal.”
This week, our very own Joe B got to chat to Afro-Portuguese rapper Mario Barca, aka MoYah, who will be competing in the first semi-final of Festival da Canção 2023 with the bilingual track Too Much Sauce.
As well as his song and FDC itself, MoYah spoke to us of his love of Michael Jackson growing up, why his own experience of war and displacement has influenced his music, and the meaning of the title of his song, which might also be apt given the relevancy of food to his family!
You can listen to MoYah’s song for FDC HERE:
Thank you so much for chatting to us, MoYah! So, before we get started, we’d love for you to introduce yourself: who is MoYah, and how did you get into music?
I am a rapper and Afro-fusion artist, an events curator, arts programmer and workshop facilitator. I was born in Mozambique, raised in Lisbon and currently reside in England. My father was a singer back in Mozambique and I grew up in a household where my mother would play music everyday so I believe my love for music derived from that. As a child I was completely mesmerised by Michael Jackson, I spent hours and hours trying to learn his dance routines, and then when I was around 9 years old I was introduced to Hip Hop and it completely changed my life. It was the first time I was seeing a community of people who looked like me being portrayed in such a positive light. It felt empowering as a young black boy who was born in Mozambique and didn’t feel represented in what I saw in Portuguese television back then.
According to your GigRealm bio, you’re known for your “high energy, electrifying live performances”, but you also draw upon your “own experience of war and displacement” to “get people dancing and singing to strong messages of love and unity”. How are you able to turn your past into fun, upbeat music?
By recognising that every obstacle I overcame made me stronger and that is worth celebrating, I’m heavily inspired by internationally known artists such as Michael Jackson, Bob Marley and Fela Kuti because not only did they have the ability to create amazing music that has reached the four corners of the earth, they also ensured that their music contained powerful, educational messages, and they did all of this whilst making music that people would want to dance to.
You’ve toured quite extensively all over the world with your music. Where, in your opinion, has been the best place to perform?
That is a really difficult question to answer because every show has its own energy and I’ve enjoyed performing in so many different countries for different reasons. I absolutely loved performing in Sudan right next to the Red Sea in a open space to 5,000 people, it was absolutely magical. I loved performing across Mexico, people there received my music really well and showed their love and gratitude very openly. Lastly, I loved performing in Mozambique and Portugal because it always feels like I’m performing at home, to people who inspired me to create so many of the songs I wrote.
Your Instagram bio mentions that, like a lot of other Eurovision national finalists, you have several other day jobs when you’re not performing. Could you tell us a bit about this?
I’m honoured to have the ability to be fully immersed in the arts, when I’m not performing I may be curating my own artistic events or programming a wide variety of workshops to empower refugee youth groups or other marginalised and misrepresented communities through creative writing and music, or mentoring emerging musicians.
So, let’s talk about your song for Festival da Canção, Too Much Sauce. It’s bilingual in both English and Portuguese, and features some really interesting lyrics and rhymes. What does the title of the song, which you repeat throughout the chorus, mean, and what do you mean when you say you’re the “Shaka Zulu of the scene” in the opening line?
That’s a great question; the song is called Too Much Sauce, which is slang for ‘too much style’. Ultimately, it’s an up-tempo, uplifting song that aims to empower all those people who feel isolated, misrepresented or not fully understood and accepted by society. This will often lead to one having lack of self belief and the ability to see their value, so this song aims to remind every listener that we all have ‘too much sauce’. We all have a beautiful light deep within us that we should allow to radiate throughout the world.
As for the opening line: “I’m the Shaka Zulu of the scene”, Shaka Zulu was not only a South African Zulu warrior but a person who was able to unite the tribes, ultimately I’d like to unite different communities in our society. We often allow the small differences that we have to keep us divided such as race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. I believe that a wide range of ideas and diverse groups of people is what makes a vibrant society.
The song does borrow heavily from the Afrobeat, even Grime, sound that’s currently very popular in the UK (particularly in South London where I’m from). Given this is something we don’t normally hear on Festival da Canção, why did you decide to enter it into the most prestigious Portuguese music contest?
When I think of Festival da Canção, I think of traditional music, which is fine, but I feel there are other musical narratives, there is a lot of musical diversity that represents Portuguese musicians and the population both in Portugal and those who live outside of Portugal. I wanted to shed light on the amazing musical inspirations that we are impacted by whilst attempting to reflect different parts of my identity as a man who was born in Africa, who grew up in Portugal, who lives and listens to a lot of music from UK, who loves Afrobeat and who is part of the African diaspora.
Thinking ahead to Festival da Canção, without giving too many details away, what do you have planned for the song’s performance on-stage?
For now, all I can say is it will be a very enjoyable, high-energy performance.
Have you had the chance to meet any of your fellow competitors yet, and which songs from this year’s FDC roster are you most looking forward to seeing live (other than your own)?
I’ve briefly met some of the other competitors, and also had the opportunity to do a live with Bolha. It’s a real honour to be placed in a platform with such talented group of musicians. I’m looking forward to seeing every artist play.
Given Eurovision is in the UK this year, what would it mean to win FDC and go to Eurovision in your adopted home nation to represent the country that raised you?
It would be an absolute honour to represent Portugal, it is part of my identity and who I am today, I see Portugal as a melting pot of different cultures, especially when it comes to music and I feel that my music represents the amalgamation of all these beautiful cultures.
And now some bonus questions for our fans…
If you could perform with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Id love to perform with Michael Jackson, he is my favourite artist of all time and forever the King of Pop.
What are your favourite things to do in your free time?
I absolutely love travelling, I love trying out new foods, meeting people and learning about their culture, I love spending time with my loved ones, bringing people together through different artistic events, I also love watching cool films and reading good books.
What is one interesting and unusual thing that even your fans don’t know about you but you think people should know?
I come from a family of chefs, so food is really important in our family gatherings. Since I was a child it’s always been one of our love languages. I absolutely love trying out new dishes from all over the world and I’m really interested in exploring heritage through food.
I also love hosting and cooking for people.
And, just before we round off, do you have a message for the thousands of people who will now discover you through your involvement in Festival da Canção?
Firstly, I’d like to express how honoured and grateful I am for this remarkable opportunity, I appreciate all the support I’ve been receiving from everyone and I hope that my performance is enjoyable. Me and my team are working extremely hard to ensure that we give the best performance we can because the Portuguese people deserve that.
I know that my song is very different from what they may have heard in the previous years and I kindly ask the listeners and viewers to listen to it with an open mind and most importantly open heart. I would like send a gigantic virtual hug and love to everyone and, regardless of what the outcome is, I hope that we can come together as a nation and enjoy this beautiful event!
Thank you so much for your time, MoYah, and boa sorte for Saturday!
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