Thandi Draai is a Music Producer, Songwriter, Vocalist and DJ from Port Shepstone in Kwazulu Natal. She’s a humble soul, down-to-earth, ambitious, and is fast becoming a very influential brand in the entertainment industry. With her being the first woman of color in South Africa to have released a self-made EP. Her fierceness to acquire all 4 skills has gotten her much admiration and support from some of the biggest labels and artists in South Africa and Abroad.
Main picture: © Mark D Khoury
In addition to her talent, Thandi Draai is a committed, fulfilled and cool young woman. This was clear to us when we spoke. It’s up to you to discover this artist who will mark our hearts.
WODJ MAG: Hi Thandi Draai, how are you?
Thandi Draai: Hello, I’m fine thanks and you?
That’s great. Could you introduce yourself for those who are discovering you for the first time?
my name is Thandi Draai and I’m obsessed with music. I produce music, I sing on music and Dj music. My motto Peace, Love and Music always.
You are a complete, self-taught artist: you produce music, you sing, and your vocal appear on collaborative tracks. What has been your journey to get to where you are?
Ok, so my first love is Music, music production to be specific. Just after high school I moved to the Hollywood of South Africa to pursue my dreams. The only thing I had was my voice so I used that to get myself recognized and closer to my vision as a music producer, vocalist and Dj. After high school, my late Mom made a call to Soul Candi and I was given permission to get involved with some upcoming producers/artists. This was good practice as a vocalist as I was always in the studio around some of the very best producers analyzing and asking questions. I pushed myself as a vocalist for the longest time but in the background, I was practicing my Djing and getting into production. As my brand grew I tried to make sure I put myself on anything that could open my brand up and entered Dj/production competitions to show another side to me other than just a vocalist. Right now I’m still evolving, growing and still discovering a lot about my artistry, and I’m truly blessed by all the positive reception from some of the biggest labels, artists and the Thandi Draai audience. I’m inspired and can’t wait to give more.
Do you have a significant moment from your past that is related to your musical journey to tell us about?
My love for music started at a very young age. It was a great way to escape a lot of the darkness I had been exposed too. I loved how music made me feel. That’s when I understood how powerful music is and since then I wanted to make music that will make people feel good things.
Which people or artists influenced you to get into music?
O.M.G where do I begin lol, LMAO so many artists have inspired me and have made me feel different things. I remember one significant moment when in my hometown they booked the Queen of House Music, Bucie. She looked and sounded so magical and at that moment she reminded me that this is possible. Otherwise I generally listened/felt different genres, from RnB, Gospel, House music, Opera and lots of musicals lol. So depending on the artist and their artistry, there has been a lot that inspired me to get into Music. There’s just something so magical about music.
If you had to pick one track that best defines you, what would it be, and why?
have two songs that I have done that best define me, ‘Dreamer’ and ‘Lomhlaba’. ‘Dreamer’ was a love letter to myself and anyone who felt discouraged by their surroundings. I sometimes go back and listen to that song to remind myself that I must keep Dreaming and keep going no matter how crazy or tough my visions may seem. Then I’m also obsessed with nature so ‘Lomhlaba’ was a love letter to Mother Nature and thanking the almighty for such beauty in a world filled with broken people. Look outside and you will see Waze Wamuhle Lomhlaba es Phila Khuwo.
You as Producer
You are from Port Shepstone, South Africa, how is the music scene in your city?
I’m originally from Port Shepstone. And have been based in Gauteng for the past 10 years. I moved from Port Shepstone as the House Music scene was non-existence. I wanted to be part of Soul Candi as they were the only label/outlet that was serving us the very best and diverse House Music from all over the world. I wanted to be part of that greatness.
You were the first woman of color to release a self-produced EP in your native South Africa with ‘Down on Me’ and ‘Ingozi’, can you tell us a little about this?
So, ‘Down on me’ was one of my very first few attempts to introduce me as a producer not just a vocalist. I’m very happy I took that step as at that time females in House Music were only vocalists and I wanted my audience to start trusting me on production just as much as they trusted my vocals. I got amazing feedback not from just S.A but abroad and got my audience talking and vibing with me on another level. Oooooooh maaaaaan ‘Ingozi’ was a birth of a different angle to my production and sound as I was preparing to go to Europe for the very first time and wanted to showcase my interpretation of E.D.M. Another brave step and evolving step to my brand and sound. The reception to ‘Ingozi’ was beautiful some of my favourite Techno artists charted some of my songs and encouraged me to deliver more and I can’t wait to serve more of my sound.
Your music has rhythm, and your voice accompanies the grooves of house music and softens the beats of techno. Are you drawn more to a particular sound with electronic and dance music?
In general I’m smitten by Afro Tech and Deep Tech it really hits hard and I always find myself trying to sing or hum to the rhythms, lol. There’s something magical about how this genre feels and sounds, so vocally I want to be apart of that. Otherwise, when it comes to house music anything is possible, I would say that is what made me vocally love house music, you can jazz it up, put RnB, gospel anything you can imagine so as a diverse vocalist, I have a lot of fun vocally.
Your collaborations are also rich, notably with ‘LoMhlaba’ EP with Cee ElAssaad or ‘Self control’ with Citizen Deep, ‘Dreamer’ with ‘Ultra Tone’: could you tell us how you work with other artists?
I simply would say I work best when I make a connection with the artist I’m collaborating with. The above artists trusted me to complete their songs and I felt the vibes they sent me and they had visions for the projects and as usual, I love being part of nice things lol.
You feature on the Josi Chave’s ‘Baleka’ single alongside Cuebur via All Electronic Music. Could you tell us a little about this record and how it came together?
The song talks about emotional and mental abuse. What inspired the song at the time was a huge rise in gender-based violence as the song talks about being in love with someone that you shouldn’t be in love with because the relationship is toxic. The lyrics say « her heart is in love with this person, but she mustn’t look back, she must run away. » A direct translation for the word Baleka is run away. I was touching on that emotional and mental abuse stage before it gets physical, but it represents all types of abuse. The twisted sense of the song is that it’s actually a love song, but a dark kind of love. When it comes to abuse, people from outside always see it first before the person within because from within they will always find reasoning that makes it okay.
More about You
Where would you like to play the most in the world?
O.M.G this is a tough one as I would love to sprinkle my Afrotech Love everywhere Lol but I’ve been eyeing out a few festivals in Mexico and Germany, Africa and the whole world.
What’s your top 5 favorites techno tracks?
OOOOh Maaaan this is an unfair question! Eish ummmmmmm, Lol Ok . Right now on the spot:
01. Billie Eillish & Rosalia – ‘Los Vas A Olvidar’
02. Bon Iver – ‘21 Moon Water’
03. Cee Elassaad & Thandi Draai – ‘Lomhlaba’
04. Floyd Lavine – ‘Masala’ (Pablo Fierro Remix)
05. Black Cofee & RY X – ‘Falling’
What is your biggest dream and how do you plan to achieve it, if you haven’t already done so?
My biggest dream is to keep making timeless music. I want to make music that will hit people’s souls hard, just as much as I feel other artist’s music. Then record amazing vocals and travel the world to spread my love, peace and good vibes in my music, I’ve already started practicing. Every other day their different opportunities the visions get bigger and bigger and all I can do is push towards those goals.
Thank you for this dope invite. My name is Thandi Draai. Peace, Love & Music Always.