A stylish pop outlier with Afro-Caribbean soul, R&B swagger, and hypnotic mystique, London-born and Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter, and artist Taliwhoah immediately elicits a reaction any time she sings or even steps into a room. That typical response can be found in her very moniker.
“My real name is Talitha, but ‘Whoah’ is the reaction someone had to me once, so that’s how I got the nickname,” she explains. “It’s a true representation of who I am, and it’s also what I plan for my music.”
Born in a big musical family to a British born, Nigerian-Lebanese mom and Jamaican dad, she recalls studying VHS tapes of performances by her aunt Maizie Williams and mother Toyin Adekale during their time in the influential European group Boney M. “When I was a kid, I learned so much from those videos,” she laughs. “I got to see my mom and my auntie play to huge crowds in Russia and all over the place. It was like Vlogging back in the day!”
At the age of 13, she relocated from her native London to Seattle, WA with her mother and stepfather who served in the military. During high school, she devoted any free minute to dance, graduating early to attend FIDM in Los Angeles. During a particularly trying time alone in the City of Angels, her destiny became clear in 2011 as a dormant desire to sing awakened.
“The person I was staying with just decided to leave, and I was left homeless,” she sighs. “I had to sleep at Union Station for the night many times. I was scared, so I wrote songs because I couldn’t listen to music. Writing became something I turned to. It was a survival tactic. I met some friends that were working in recording studios, and if I sang and wrote all night I could crash in the studio. I started grinding.”
Taliwhoah returned to London for her grandmother’s birthday in 2014 and ended up recording the acclaimed Melodies & Madness EP. With a sound best described as Brandy crooning over nocturnal Timbaland beats punctuated by a sly Caribbean swing, she started to stir up a buzz amongst tastemakers, notching praise from MTV and Complex in the UK followed by the glowing endorsement of Earmilk, Respect Mag, You Know I Got Soul, and more. Crossing the pond again, 2017 saw her put down roots in Los Angeles as Rostrum Records offered up a deal.
Now, she introduces a singular style on her forthcoming full-length debut New Wave Order.
“I’m a fusion of cultures,” she goes on. “I like the fact you can’t box me in. I like to blend genres because I come from such a diverse background culturally and ethnically. That’s empowered me to mingle in different crowds and relate to various people. Musically, I have strong pop and R&B influences as well as a lot of UK house and Chicago funk. Plus, that Afro-Caribbean sentiment is at the heart of everything. That’s who I am.”
Her 2017 upbeat anthem “Alright” shuffles from a dancefloor-ready beat into a bridge steeped in fresh nineties R&B bounce before culminating on the undeniable chant, “Right now it’s a lot, but I swear I’ma be alright.”
“I was having such a crap day,” she remembers. “After I had gotten through all of the things that tried to beat me, I decided I was going to make the best of it. I texted a friend to see if his studio was free, and I made my way over there. On the way, I was thinking, ‘I can persevere through anything if I tell myself I can. I treat every situation as an obstacle that I can overcome.’ That was the overtone of the song. I wrote it at a time when I needed to be encouraged that everything would be okay. It comes with the responsibility of deciding to chase a dream. That’s the universal message. We’re going to be alright.”
On “Details,” her voice takes flight over a skittering synth, entrancing at every turn. “I was thinking about tattoos as an analogy for life,” Taliwhoah goes on. “The biggest risks you take define you. Those little details we’re left with are what matter the most. It’s a moment of reflection for me.”
Ultimately, “Whoah” is an apropos reaction to everything she does.
“This is the wave of music I want people to feel,” she leaves off. “It’s so diverse. It won’t be confined to one style. There’s no longer going to be a one-dimensional artist. It’s all multi-dimensional. That’s the New Wave Order.”