Going into 2020 as one of Britain’s most talked-up new artists, TSHA could be forgiven for feeling bitter about the opportunities the coronavirus situation threatened to take away from her. But the London artist, producer, and DJ is instead thankful for the time and space. “I was in America when lockdown happened, so I had to cut the tour short and come home early,” she tells Apple Music. “But it gave me time to be 100% doing music. I’m quite an anxious person, but my anxieties were really low. I could hear the birds all day and everything felt quite calm.” TSHA emerged in 2018 with the self-released Dawn EP and quickly won illustrious fans including Jamz Supernova, Pete Tong, and a musical hero in Simon Green—better known as Bonobo—who included her track “Sacred” on his fabric Presents DJ mix. It was easy to hear what caught Green’s ear: Both artists share a knack for intricate, globally sourced melodies that soothe the soul as much as they move the feet. 2019’s Moonlight EP built steadily on TSHA’s diverse promise, and Flowers is proof 2020 is nothing like the wasted year it threatened to be. Released on Ninja Tune and inspired by everything from recurring floral lockdown dreams to the Chicago Bulls documentary The Last Dance, it’s a glorious dose of electronic optimism. Here’s TSHA’s track-by-track guide.
Sister “During lockdown I discovered I had a half-sister I didn’t know about before. We were chatting on Facebook and getting on really well and I was making this song at the time, so I decided to name it ‘Sister’ after her. The instrumental keeps together nicely, then I had a vocal from Ell Murphy, who also sings on ‘Renegade,’ which fits over the top really nicely.”
Renegade (feat. Ell Murphy) “I was watching The Last Dance a lot, and this track was inspired by Dennis Rodman. I just fell in love with him and thought he was so cool and saw someone write online that he’s the ‘original renegade’ so named the track after him as I found myself thinking a lot about his vibe when making it. Then when I started building the guitar part and the drums, I thought it had a bit of ’90s gangster movie vibe—almost a Tarantino vibe maybe. So because of that, I started watching trailers of ’90s films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and played the track over the top of the visuals. The vocal from Ell was something I already had and when I laid it on top, just by coincidence it was in the same key and worked perfectly.”
Change (feat. Gabrielle Aplin) “This started with a piano sample that I’d made, and I was chopping it up and looping it. Then I made the beat on a Roland TR-08 drum machine and added a vocal I already had from Gabrielle. We’d worked on a track at a writing camp 18 months before and it worked perfectly. She’s got such a lovely tone to her voice and is a really quick and talented writer. She’s just got a good soul and we get on really well together.”
Demba (feat. Trio Da Kali) “I had made a track for another EP where I sampled a Malian artist but couldn’t clear the sample, sadly. But after that, I really wanted to use a Malian sample or artist as I love the tone of Malian singers and it sounds amazing on electronic music. I got in touch with a lady called Lucy Durán, who’s an ethnomusicologist and specializes in West African music. She recommended Hawa from Trio Da Kali. Originally we were thinking about asking her to write something fresh, but then I heard this track that hadn’t been released yet and got them to send me the a cappella. Later I found out the song is about instances like weddings and births in Malian culture where the godmother—often the bride or mother’s sister—will rally around to raise money for a big party. It’s one of the few instances where the women have the control and power in Malian society, and it’s about celebrating that. I was really pleased to find out the lyrics were about female solidarity.”