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Holly Rey – The Future of Afro-House

Elesi Azumah

Unstoppable and a force within the Afro-House Genre – Holly Rey continues to pave the way of success by working hard and marking her territory all through Africa with her infectious voice and afrobeats.

Besides her musical success, Holly spearheaded top of her class and obtained a BA Cum Laude in Media and Cultural Studies and intends to complete her Masters and PHD sometime in the near future…. Talk about Beauty and Brains.

The 23- year old Independent Artist has achieved what many dream off, but with her fierceness and sheer determination, at this point the World is Holly’s Oyster.

So grab a glass and lets have a toast to the underdog who has risen above all the No’s, risen above all the challenges and still keeps pushing because her strength cannot be measured!

You currently boast the title of “Afro-House PowerHouse” within Southern Africa. Behind the title, who is the real Holly Rey?

The girl who never gave up! When I was 16 I was exposed to House Music and fell in love with Genre and the Sub Culture. ‘Everyone from the my peers to promoters, DJ’s, Radio Stations and anyone I met in the industry told me I did not belong’. Nothing anyone said deterred me. I just kept making music and building a fanbase”.

Your Breakout phase into the musical scenery has often labeled you as the “New Age Tamara Dey”. What is your take on new artists breaking away from comparisons and finding their own identity when emerging into the entertainment industry?

Comparison is such a trap. I never compare myself to other artists. I understand why people would compare me to Tamara Dey and I love the work she does. As a musician I  celebrate what other artists are creating and putting out in the world and so if people compare me to Tamara then I take it as a wonderful compliment. I was such a huge fan of Flash Republic growing up.  My journey in the industry and my entry into the market has been my own struggle and I have absolutely had to pioneer my own path so I don’t let the comparison take anything away from who I am and the artist I have become as a result of that journey.

On breaking away from comparisons I would say to new artists: Step into all that you are as an artist to find you. Be you, express you, create what only you can create.

When Deeper dropped, you literally took the African continent by storm and further gained momentum with sold-out shows in Lesotho and Botswana. Did you ever think the single would be this big?

When I released Deeper, I was suffering from allot of self doubt. We had developed a strategy about a year ahead of the creation of Deeper but I was more prepared for failure than I was for success. I had dealt with so much rejection and negativity that I was never ready for the love. The success of Deeper was more than just the song. It was about having a road manager who put me on the ground to connect with people across South Africa and beyond at the same time that the single was gaining traction on the radio, having a strong PR person on board plugging the single and then creating the content and putting it out to feed the machine alongside the success of the single. It  was also about having a 10 year relationship with my distributor who drove the online campaign for digital downloads. The video also played a huge role in the success of Deeper. It’s important to know exactly who your fans are or who you want to engage when you spend money on content.

But, having said all of that, no I never thought Deeper would be as big as it has been. I was never ready, I had 10 years of NO’s so I understood that everything I released was about building on a solid foundation.

Congratulations on your first SAMA nomination for the #SAMA25 Record of the Year. How does it feel being up against strong contenders such as Black Coffee and Prince Kaybee especially as a new artist?

Intimidating but awesome. Love all the songs and artists nominated so it feels incredible to be the “new kid” nominated amongst artists I love and admire.

Your profound success has been through the Independent Route despite the challenges of ‘Major Labels’ possessing a significant amount of “buying power” within the industry. Do share with us how you have managed to remain consistent yet successful within your own right?

Partnerships. When you are independent having the ability to partner with people is key. When you establish good partnerships be loyal. People are more likely to invest in you when you demonstrate a commitment to a long term relationship. I have been with the same distribution company for 10 years. That relationship played a huge role in the success of Deeper and is also playing a role in building the success of my new single YOU.

You also can’t be a slave to loyalty. You need to recognize when something is not good for you and cut ties early on.

It took me 10 years to build. Yes deeper came at the time of my breakthrough but the success was a combination of preparation and timing.

#openuptheindustry is a buzzing conversation which shows the cracks within the entertainment industry. What is your opinion behind the movement?

The industry underwent massive transformation in the early 2000’s and we have seen the consistent rise of the independent since then. That is not to say that there has not been a push back from the Major Labels and larger independent labels who still control the route to market and various income streams in the industry. Something I realized very young was that there are very few people who will have your interests at heart. There is often a hidden agenda and people will share just enough without compromising their control. It was very painful to have people use me as a stepping stone for their own careers and then close the doors behind them but as I got older I realised that “hurt people, hurt people.” The journey for artists in this country is so difficult that something happens to them along the way. over the years I have met so many Artists who very traumatized by the abuse they have experienced in the industry. We have to bring about change. We have to open up the industry. People work hard at controlling access to the market so as an independent it’s about developing your own market. The internet  has opened up the industry, if you have internet access you can find anything you need to know on the net, you can connect with anyone you need to connect with. Social Media has opened up the industry. You don’t need a huge following on Social Media, you need a following of genuinely loyal fans and then you need to be consistent in the kind of content that you share with your following. If you can produce quality content and your music connects with enough people then gaining some traction is possible. My opinion on the movement is, be the movement.

The Deeper video has hit a staggering 4-5 Million views on YouTube alone. Do you believe South African artists have reached a pinnacle of YouTube fame?

Absolutely. It’s also about streaming though. Youtube is streaming and as people gain more access to the internet at a lower cost we will see a rise in YouTube views for SA Artists.

Top 3 Career Highlights…?

Performing at the Cape Town Jazz Festival with the Mahotella Queens

The success of Deeper

Performing in Uganda at Bayimba Festival  (three planes, a bus and ferry across Lake Victoria later – the trip across the lake at night was terrifying and the most beautiful encounter with the stars, it was absolutely surreal).

On a lighter note, do ‘spill the tea’ of your current single ‘YOU’ and the inspiration behind it?

There a 7 billion people in the world but somehow in the madness we all meet that one person.

What future projects or endeavors can we expect from Holly in the year of ‘20-nice-things’?

I am currently working on new music.

In closing, any knowledge or wise words you’d like to share with upcoming artists who’d like follow in your independent footsteps?

Don’t let the industry dictate who or what you should be.

It’s easy to become a passenger in your own career if your willing to do anything for fame.

Don’t sell your career for the price of a music video.

Build a small team of people who genuinely care about you.

Respect the value chain in the industry and start paying everyone, even if you start small but pay everyone something for their work. Favors are a trap.

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