Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Feature: Sonya Teclai of OZ

Very rarely you actually meet someone who does what they actually set out to do. Many often start, but fail to actually finish because of the guaranteed 'bumps' in the road and listen to meaningless comments from naysayers. Not Sonya Teclai. She is what I call an inspiration. With a nursing degree in her back pocket, she up and left her West Coast roots, jetted across the country and is successfully establishing her music career in New York City. An all-natural, East African beauty stays true to her roots and embraces her lush, flowing, voluminous curls. Along with her personal, unique style blending in 90s retro with all things current, she's one you can't miss.

Get more on Sonya, her style, and music below with an exclusive interview and photos:

Xiomara: When did you discover your passion for singing and writing?

Sonya: When I was about 3 years old, I got on stage with my favorite Eritrean singer at a show and sang one of his songs to his audience.  All I would do was sing as a kid.  I guess I fell in love with it before I knew what love was.  I had been in choir from the third grade until I was 18.  My writing started when I was in middle school.  I'd write poetry when I was bored in class, which was all the time.  It developed over time when I was a part of a girl group based out of Oakland called Delyte in high school where we all wrote our songs collectively.  I picked up on format and learned to write verses, catchy hooks, and bridges.  Adding the feeling behind poetry and experiences is what really developed my passion for it.  The ability to use wordplay to convey an emotion as close as I possibly could mixed with the feeling behind a voice became everything to me.

Xiomara: How would you describe your singing style?

Sonya: My singing style is a mix between r&b and neo soul.  I pick up soul in my voice from time to time and I hear that it's sultry a lot.  It really depends on the feel of the track and the emotion I'm conveying.   

Xiomara: Favorite music artist? Style icon?

Sonya: Favorite musician?  That's a hard.  I can't just pick one, I don't want to leave anyone out.  I will say that I really idolize Lauryn Hill and how she went about her "Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" and "Unplugged" albums.  She rapped and sang and kept that balance throughout the albums while being honest in her music.  That's pretty much my goal in my career.  As far as style goes, I've always appreciated Aaliyah's style.  It also resembled TLC's style.  Loose pants, a fitted top, and some kicks.  Comfortable, yet fly.  

Xiomara: Top 3 beauty rules? Hair rules?

Sonya: I'm a fan of eyeliner, might be the Egyptian in me.  A shampoo and conditioner without sulfate is a must.  The alcohol dries my hair out.  I love leave-in conditioner for my curls, or any curl moisturizer (Aveda's line works really well).  I'm not too big on putting too much product in my hair.  I like to air dry it, but in the winter it's too cold for that so I just use a hair dryer.    

Xiomara: Does music influence your style? If so, how?
Sonya: Always has, always will.  Music invokes feeling, and in turn style.  I was a tomboy as a kid and wanted to be the first lady of wu-tang so bad so, I was on my sweatpants and oversized tees for the longest.  It didn't help that TLC, Total, Aaliyah, etc. were a bit on the tomboy side with their style and I loved their music too.  I'm pressed over the 90's and it's style to this day.  Everything retro from Jordans to Timbs and crop tops with door knockers.  I love it all.  It represents an era of music that makes me feel good.  It might be because everything from '91-'05 is still in heavy rotation on a daily basis. 

Xiomara: When was the inception of Oz and what's the meaning behind the name?

Sonya: OZ was formed two years ago.  Alexander and I got close and had both been music lovers all of our lives.  Being hip hop heads, we got in the booth and would just spit for fun.  One day, we put a song together called "Princess" (on our first mixtape called "IVL Presents: OZ") and were just impressed with the chemistry and how well we sounded together.  We decided to put together a compilation and then we decided on the name of the duo.  Alex actually thought of OZ first.  It reflects the movie "The Wizard of OZ" and how OZ was where they were all going to fill a void.  We felt as though there was a void in hip hop/r&b.  I was tired of listening to what's out now and hearing wack shit.  It just didn't feel the same anymore, and we wanted to bring the feeling back.  I think we've been pretty successful with the content of the music so far.

Xiomara: Biggest accomplishments in your career so far?

Sonya: Man, it's between being able to perform/have a song with Phife Dawg from "A Tribe Called Quest" and interviewing Nas.  I've been a fan of both of them since I was a kid.  Shit, "Illmatic" is my favorite hip hop album so I was like a kid in a candy store.  Other than that, it's being able to make music that means something and having the opportunity to share it.  I don't really listen to our music very often because we're so meticulous about it in the process of making it so by the time we release it I've heard the songs a billion times, but when it does randomly pop up it feels so good.

Xiomara: Describe a day in your life as a musician?

Sonya: What no one knows is that Alex and I do everything ourselves from the pictures to the writing to the marketing to the publicity work.  An average full day of music would consist of checking the numbers of listens, responding to emails, listening to new tracks, writing to those tracks, and if there's time available to go to the studio and lay the work down we do.  

Xiomara: Biggest hurdles you've had to face in your career?

Sonya: As a woman, it's hard to decipher what a man in a higher position in the industry's intentions are.  And even if their intentions are to pursue me personally, would they be able to control their emotions so that it doesn't interfere with business.  I'm a stickler about respect and even though this industry is different from a professional setting, I still feel like there's an aspect of professionalism when it comes to pursuit that needs to be upheld.  I'm really chill and down to earth so I can see where the comfort level is adapted but there's still a line that's drawn.  I'm also in a relationship so dealing with that is twice as hard.

Xiomara: Where do you see yourself 10 years in the game?

Sonya: Hopefully, I'll have a couple of grammys and will still be making music.  I also want to start a production/songwriting company, kind of like what Ne-yo has going on with "Compound".  


Keep an ear out for OZ and get a taste for more via the links below:

OZ official site:

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