Laydy Jams’ Phenomenal Duo Featuring Missy D And Sejal
Laydy Jams’ Phenomenal Duo Featuring Missy D And Sejal
Laydy Jams is a duo of 2 women of colour, based in Vancouver, unceded Coast Salish territories. Featuring Missy D as femcee and Sejal on violin and vocals, our music is a mix of hip-hop, vocal harmonies, violin, and a lil 90’s throwback to bring you home, hope, and love for the revolution. We use our music to empower youth and challenge the themes often seen in popular music and society.
Laydy Jams’ music and the message is impacted by our diverse cultural backgrounds, with influences hailing from around the world. We write our life experiences into music, knowing that we provide a kind of comfort, familiarity, and radical joy for other people of colour and marginalized communities. We bring the sound of our lives to audiences through roots of R&B, hip-hop, soul, classical, jazz, and funk. Take a listen. Welcome to the family.
Laydy Jams, a duo of two women of color. Tell us more about this duo.
We are both settlers of color, living, learning, unlearning, and working on decolonizing every day here on the unceded, stolen, ancestral territories of the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam) peoples. Missy D is a bilingual Hip Hop, Rap & Soul Artist. This femcee has been rapping since she was 11 years old in French and English from the 3 corners of the motherland (Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe). You will hear the sounds of MC Solaar, Diams, Erykah Badu, India Arie, J.Cole, Missy Elliott, and Lauryn Hill echoing through her voice. Before Laydy Jams, Missy D would be hesitant about singing her own choruses/songs and even shied away from the term singer but this newfound confidence is a result of that Laydy Jams friendship.
Sejal is a violinist and singer of South-Asian-descent from Surrey, wrangling together influences from classical, folk, South Asian, and 90s R& B music into her own acoustic sound. Laydy Jams became the perfect meeting point for the two of us, given our influences in music!
Talk about this collaboration. How did you two meet?
We actually lived on the same floor in our first-year residence at UBC. Across the hallway was that student that plays the violin and has a band and on the other side was this rapper girl. We always talked about jamming together. We got to perform at some UBC shows together but only came together thanks to serendipity. One of our close friends Francis Arevalo hosted an open mic and we got to connect with other previous members Maneo Mohale and Roya Bennett back in December 2013. We then organized a jam session at Roya’s in January 2014. The only people that showed up were Maneo, Roya, Sejal, and Missy D. It was magical and a small world where even Roya and Sejal knew each other from their work experience and Maneo and Missy had done some shows together. The evolution of Lady Jams came to be a duo as we saw our two friends travel away and shine around the world and create their own beautiful life gardens. Sejal and Missy decided to keep going. We feel such love and drive for music, and we were still hungry to see what we can do with this project; hungry for change, hungry to sing, perform, transform the spaces around us, and be there for one another. There is a new chapter that is awaiting and maybe even a new name (hint, hint! 😉 )
The music industry is quite competitive. What inspired you two to pursue a career in music?
We always talk about music, dream music, can be in the middle of a conversation about work and reference a song – and break into that song – that’s the kind of conversations we have. For me, it was evident that music will always be part of our lives in some way and we love doing it with Laydy Jams! For some people, they have their favorite video game, we have our favorite thing – music – we can make it, we can and should be paid for it, and hopefully, we can inspire others with it!
We’re super close as friends, we work well together. We’re on the same page about the kind of music we want to write, the message we want to share, and the way we try to ensure we uplift community voices with every step.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far as a female singers?
Because we want to pursue it as a career – I think navigating those money conversations can be challenging, both as women/femmes, and people of color – We have to fight the fight for ourselves, or we’d get taken advantage of by being paid less and not credited properly, or being underestimated for what we’re capable of.
We have often notice that some of our peers think we were hired “for diversity” until they hear us in the soundcheck, and then we notice them be a little taken aback, be less condescending, and treat us with a bit more respect.
For example, I often see the sound tech being surprised that Sejal knows what she wants and needs with her soundcheck; we’ve seen male rappers on the same lineup gawk when they see Missy in soundcheck and realize that she’s stronger at her craft than they are – I’ve seen some folks underestimate us in so many moments, and try to justify it by paying us less money – but we will be in the space – we will be loud and proud and Missy always laughs because suddenly after soundcheck – the mood changes with Respect – and we wish it was like that from the moment we walked in. If that’s how they treat us, I wonder how they treat other people of colour in more vulnerable positions.
You entertain your audiences through roots of R&B, hip-hop, soul, classical, jazz, and funk. Which one is your favorite?
There is no favorite we really are a blend of all those styles and influences – but perhaps 90’s R& B is what really gets us singing along in the car together, and where there’s the most crossover in our musical influences.
We both have older sisters who are 8-10 years older than us, so we grew up listening to the likes of Lauryn Hill, Toni Braxton, Craig David, India. Arie, Maxwell, BoysIIMen, Brandy, Monica, Usher, Missy Elliot, Aaliyah, etc, etc.
Did you take any formal training for singing? Missy has no formal training for singing – actually had my first 2 voice lessons back in 2019 and probably should keep going – but I want to say Laydy Jams have been my teachers for the past years informally. Sejal mostly learned how to sing in the shower, but learned a lot more from singing with Laydy Jams, and having a few lessons with various mentors and teachers over the years to accompany her violin training.
Tells us about a performance that still dazzles you.
BC Place is one of the recent performances we did – that I think I’m still beginning to unpack what that moment meant for us. I initially thought it would be me and a camera singing by myself in the middle of a pandemic and come to find I get to be with a whole band in an empty stadium – singing with my best friend – I think it’s a moment I will never forget.
Sejal’s favorite Laydy Jams performance was probably when we got to play at the Chan Centre for a UBC student leadership event. That was the most beautiful sounding venue we’ve ever been blessed to play in, and to hear our own music and voices in such a gorgeous space, it felt like space was honoring all the heart and soul we’d put into our original music. For memorable performances by other artists, Missy recalls the performance by Sons of Kemet back in 2019 for the Vancouver Jazz Fest which we’d opened for. They were so good, they got an encore request from the audience, and I was dazzled by their encore being this toned-down saxophone solo. The whole room was quiet, and you could hear every single note. Sejal remembers the performance Han Han did in 2019 during the Indian Summer Festival, at the Imperial. Han Han raps only in her indigenous Filipinx languages, and she put on a STELLAR show. She has created this incredibly unique sound that no one else has. I couldn’t understand a word of her performance, and that didn’t matter, I still felt SO emotionally tied to every song she performed. Her music, her style of flow, and melodies are so creative, it’s so clear that she’s entirely one of a kind.
When you are not singing? What does the day look like for you?
Vancouver is expensive, so we both have our 9-5’s.
Missy: Nowadays, I am taking zoom call meetings every hour discussing ways to build community and create a sense of belonging for first-year students at UBC.
Sejal: I work for an environmental research firm for my 9-5, and other than that I am usually found procrastinating from practicing my violin… I am also the Vice President of the South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), and it’s through that organization that I’ve been slowly learning about the connection and history of social movements here on Turtle Island and how they connect with struggles for liberation abroad.
Talk about your experience with the Indian summer festival.
It was such a privilege to perform again and to be supported by an amazing and talented crew. We were treated respectfully before we even stepped up to a mic, given space and freedom to play our music with joy and playfulness, asked what we needed, and to top it all we got to work with Michael Vidler and Leonardo Harim ( a close collaborator to Missy D’s previous work Yes Mama) I think Art is so needed at this time – and really brings in the community – we get to highlight our cultures, our ancestors, our stories and sing to the change we hope to see in this world.
I am so excited that we finally got to join ISF this year – I love the variety of artists and scholars they bring in each year, who are at the cutting edges of their fields, doing things in ways no one else is doing them. I remember so many incredible performances and talks over the year – from Eden Robinson to Han Han, to PIQSIQ, to Arthur Flowers, to Arundhati Roy, to Vandana Shiva, to Vivek Shraya, to Ruby Singh, to Anoushka Shankar, to Jillian Christmas – these are artists who we admire, who’s crafts we respect and are inspired by, and it’s really surreal to be included in the festival along with such brilliant artists.
What is the goal for the next few years?
For the past years, we have been working on some self-development – because we know that if we work on ourselves – when we gather to join – it will even be more powerful. Missy D is currently working on a French Project connecting back to her first language and Sejal is also working on her debut solo project. Rest assured, these two forces are building the plan for Laydy Jams for next year – a new project, a tour, a revolution ….. or at least even just a new name 😉