Lutho Naye Manentsa, better known as Naye Ayla, is the songstress behind Exi(s)t. She is a University of Johannesburg student pursuing a degree in psychology. As an avid listener of the Culture Cartel, I was pleased to see their only female member have a full body of work. Exi(s)t only dropped last year, in November, has garnered over 1,000 streams on Soundcloud.
On top of her budding music career, Naye is not new to the entertainment industry. In 2016, she acted as “Thando” on SABC’s soap opera Muvhango. On top of her work as an actress, Naye has a keen interest in visual arts; for instance, charcoal drawings and painting.
The importance of writing and inspiration in music
For Naye, her love for the arts manifested as a child. She wrote songs, which she also sang, and poems on different topics and never stopped from there. Writing, she says, “really pressed the need to express anything bubbling inside me.”
Growing up, and to this day, Naye uses writing to make sense of her thoughts and emotions. It has become a type of coping mechanism. Starting at the tender age of fourteen, she says creative writing has taught her “to be very very honest and transparent about how I think about things.”
This reflects in the candid and intimate feel of the the singer’s music. Naye lists Sade, Erykah Badu, SZA, Nina Simone, and Thandiswa Mazwai as sonic inspirations when she creates music. “I really enjoy making people feel like they’re being transported,” she says to describe her creative process.
Two of her visual inspirations are Frida Khalo and Solange. She loves the way they express themselves about the things that occur in their lives. Above all, she looks up to the way Solange has managed to balance her music and aesthetic. “That’s the kind of level I strive for in terms of putting together different mediums of art,” Naye says.
Naye meets the Culture Cartel & features YoungstaCPT
Naye is no stranger to collaborations and features. On her debut EP are the likes of Una Rams and YoungstaCPT. From when Naye was thirteen, she had been friends with her – now – producer, Kaywizz. Kayizz makes beats for different artists and has a studio of his own. So during a YoungstaCPT studio session, the unfinished version of “Fire” happened to play, and “of course, it was a blessing,” Naye relates.
You may recognize one member of the Culture Cartel already, a former Misa Narrates feature, Una Rams. After they met the first time at a Woke Arts event, they ran into each other again through Yfm interviews. When she was booked for Yfm’s Live and Rewired, Una suggested she approach the Culture Cartel to back her as her live band. “From that moment on, it was kind of just instant” the singer says.
Dreaming out loud
Naye hopes to have a long lasting career in the music industry. “It’s the most natural thing in my life,” she says when describing her love for music. Like any artist, she hopes to be on world stages like Coachella one day. She dreams of sharing herself through music with the world.
Naye wants to maintain her authenticity as an artist throughout her journey in the industry. However, she also wants “to maintain being an artist and [allow] creativity to take its own form in its own time.” So while she aims for success, she also feels that it is important for her to be able to take time to herself.
Dreaming about what the future holds, Naye describes her ideal performance as being very personal. she hopes to be able to connect with her audience during live sets. “I really like intimate things…which has a lot to do with the atmosphere created,” she describes.
Naye recently dropped the video for “Fate”, check it out and leave a comment!