Arts

Haviah Mighty and OBUXUM's new single is an exuberant anthem for International Women's Day

"In Women Colour" is a powerful whirl of a track teasing Haviah Mighty's upcoming new solo album.

'In Women Colour' is a powerful whirl of a track teasing Haviah Mighty's upcoming new solo album

Haviah Mighty. (Matt Burns)

Haviah Mighty has a lot of energy.

She has a lot of energy when she's performing, bursting on stages as she interchangeably raps, mixes beats and sings in front of crowds. She has a lot of energy when she's working with her all-female rap crew The Sorority, or when she's in the studio producing tracks with new collaborators for her upcoming solo record. And she even has a lot of energy when she's being interviewed at the end of a long week — she's multitasking, getting her nails done and mentally preparing for a video shoot the next day.

"My energy is naturally extremely exuberant, large and in-charge," Haviah says. "I'm most comfortable in my element when I'm creating music and performing it."

For the singer-songwriter-rapper-producer, the past few years have been filled with hard work. After breaking through with The Sorority, she released her 2017 EP Flower City, named after her hometown, Brampton. She kept growing her repertoire, like when she collaborated with producer Book for "Vamanos," a popping track featured on the popular HBO series, Insecure.  Now Haviah is gathering the fruits of her labour with her upcoming solo album. Slated to release later in the spring, the record will be filled with new sounds and collaborators — and the first single is released today for International Women's Day.

"In Women Colour," a powerful whirl of a track, was produced and penned by Haviah in collaboration with Toronto producer OBUXUM. On the track, Haviah is reflecting on navigating the world — and the music industry — as a 5"1, young, Black woman, and remembering what it was like to grow up as a tomboy who was bullied. Most emphatically, though, she's exploring how she found strength in those experiences.

"'In Women Colour' was a song that came to fruition when I was reflecting on where my confidence came from," Haviah says. "It came from navigating being someone who often didn't fit in and the many reasons that are associated with that, whether it's skin tone, or hair or height." For Haviah, there's real power in fully knowing and embracing who you are.

"It's very difficult to feel confident when you are different, so it's an empowering message in that sense — it's fine to be different in the ways that you are."

Haviah's and OBUXUM's track is reflective and brazen, a stomper with powerful lyrics and details like distorted synths, staccato piano notes and an electric guitar punctuating introspective verses.

Haviah Mighty. (Chelsea Danica)

"The song means many things to me. The biggest significance for me is that it's important for women, particularly women of colour, to work together, especially in industries where our visibility isn't always present," says OBUXUM. "Haviah and I have different sounds, and we were able to come up with a beautiful and very important product."

OBUXUM, who is working on her own first album, says she wanted to bring an "experimental, grungy vibe" to the track. "Haviah is a beast live, so I imagined creating a beat that is heavy hitting but still had that unorthodox vibe to it and I feel like I did just that."

It's very difficult to feel confident when you are different, so it's an empowering message in that sense — it's fine to be different in the ways that you are.- Haviah Mighty

"In Women Colour" resonates on International Women's Day: it's a track produced by two Black women in an industry where female producers, and especially women of colour, are very much underrepresented. A 2018 report from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative (a think tank studying diversity and inclusion in entertainment) that included a study of recording studios in 2012-2018, showed that the ratio of male to female producers across 400 popular songs was 47 to 1, and that women of colour were particularly underrepresented as producers, with only four represented in a study of 871 producers in total.

For Haviah, "In Women Colour" is a triumphant response to those kinds of industry stats. "This song was curated by two women. We sat in the studio and we talked about what it's like to be in the industry and those things that we face," she says. "Working with OBUXUM was great — she's really talented and she's got a cool, unique sound. I don't know anyone who produces like her. Her sound is not like anything else I've heard coming out of Toronto. It's beautiful that she's also a woman, to add to the narrative that women are dope, and we make dope music just like men do."

It's not the first time that Haviah has worked on a project for IWD: In 2016 she performed in a cypher with Kesha Fressh, Phoenix Pagliacci and Lex Leosis — a performance that celebrated women, gained critical acclaim and ushered in the group that we now know as The Sorority. The vivid single "Ladies Night" followed the next year, and an IWD show the year after. Haviah says that she grew a lot while touring with The Sorority — growth that she poured into her new album.

While she's mostly keeping tight-lipped about the upcoming record, if this track is any indication, the rest of her album will be experimental in sound and exploratory in themes. "I grew up on dance; I grew up on reggae and hip hop," she says. "So for me, that's a natural combination of sounds. [This album] is about tapping into the Afro beats, the dancehall style. I wanted people to hear that music from me — but also to [get them to] dance."

And with that, Haviah Mighty gets up from her chair. Her finished nails are a beautiful rose gold chrome. She's getting ready to channel all her energy into a weekend of nonstop creative work — producing, writing, editing, and shooting videos. A multi-hyphenated homegrown talent with a story to tell.

About the Author

Veronica Zaretski is a writer covering arts, culture and technology.

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