SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:
South Africa-born musician Toya De Lazy was first introduced to acclaimed director Kyle Lewis’s bold aesthetic style in 2014, when he produced the colourful music video for her hit single Forbidden Fruit. Since then, the artists have remained great friends and worked on several other projects together.
Now based in London, Toya has reinvented her sound to a newly-formed genre called Afro-Rave – a combination of African beats and contemporary British sounds like garage, bassline and grime. Toya debuts her fresh new look and sound in a music video for her new song Funani, directed by Lewis.
According to Toya, the song is about embracing yourself to the fullest while also reclaiming your culture and language. Lewis is known for having a hands-on approach with regard to art direction – this includes the designing and making of props and décor, as well as lending a hand in the costume department – and it was no different with the video for Funani. The result is a bold visual explosion that celebrates Toya’s edgy artistic sound and cultural identity, and could easily be mistaken for a fashion film.
Eccentric fashion designer, Blünke Janse van Rensburg, who is also known as an advocate for self-acceptance, offered some of her first-year varsity pieces to Lewis and his team to work with on the video. Additionally, a crotchet ‘wander-piece’ was made and supplied by stylist Thom van Dyk. Lewis and his team put together all the props and décor, including the eye masks, intricate headgear and comical sock puppets.
“Kyle has to be given the credit here – he made 95 per cent of the props and accessories you see on the screen. We’d be having Skype meetings while he was glue gunning eyes to shoes!” comments producer, Vjorn du Toit. “As adults, we’ve forgotten to a large extent how to play and imagine. I love how if you look at the video closely, it is everyday washing up gloves, hair curlers, etc. which Kyle has given life to.”
Between Lewis’s busy work schedule and Toya making the trip from London to Johannesburg, the art direction team had just one week to prepare everything needed for the shoot. “Kyle had the concept for a while now, he was just waiting for a gap in his schedule to shoot it. Once he did, he phoned up Toya, told her his vision and asked how soon she could be in SA. A week later we were shooting in Tembisa, Johannesburg,” shares du Toit.
Funani was shot by cinematographer Rick Joaquim on the Arri Alexa Mini with Panavision Primo anamorphic lenses. “Kyle knew from the start that he wanted to go over-the-top with the art direction and wardrobe… So I did the same with the camera,” says Joaquim. “We shot most of the video handheld but then also over-cranked the camera at times and messed with a higher shutter speed, which gives Toya that robotic and animated feeling in parts of the track.”
Joaquim says that while Panavision Primo anamorphic lenses “are amazing”, they aren’t always the easiest to shoot handheld with due to their size, “but they render skin tones beautifully and flare wonderfully,” he adds. “I lived mostly on my Easyrig Vario 5 with Flowcine Serene to help with the weight.”
The video was shot on a sunny day in Tembisa, with a small crew working hard to maximise the use of natural light as best as possible. “I still lit the talent and dancers with a mindset of ‘fashion’ or ‘beauty lighting’. I embraced their beautiful skin tones using softer sources or bounced light to pull out the reflection in darker and stunning skin tones,” says Joaquim. “When dealing with harsh sunlight I’ve seen others lose the details of faces. So I wanted to make sure we kept that in.”
Since the release of the Funani music video it’s garnered over 49,000 views on YouTube, with local and international fans clearly enjoying Toya’s new look and sound, leaving comments including “sick visuals”, “lit dance moves” and “fresh sounds” to name a few.
“We make music videos for the art and enjoyment factor. We want to wow the audience and for ourselves walk away feeling like we made something special,” du Toit concludes.
Director: Kyle Lewis
Producer: Vjorn du Toit
DOP: Rick Joaquim
Technical Team: Dean Hibbert, WP Haak, Tyler Geldenhuys