Yehaiyahan has gone through many evolutions in her career as a musician. Beginning her musical life as a singer in a variety of projects, she joined Uprooted Sunshine in Shanghai in 2007 and learned the trade of being an MC, a host and a freestyler under her longtime performative moniker, Chacha.
As Chacha, her music spread far and wide throughout China, Asia and the world, via her multitude of collaborations, including as part of the duo Am444 with Jay Soul, which brought the pair global recognition after one of their songs was included in NBA2K16.
In the past few years, she has been working on establishing two very different projects, Faded Ghost and Yehaiyahan. With Faded Ghost, she became the first artist to release on Shanghai label SVBKVLT, while the story behind the Yehaiyahan project has always been about renewal, connection and creativity.
A big part of her artistic identity now relates to her roots, and specifically her upbringing in a mountainside town in Guizhou. “I still don’t quite feel like I’m a person who belongs in a city. When I go back to the mountains and to nature I feel much more comfortable,” she says, softly and thoughtfully. “My reasons for doing things are sometimes quite different from people who live in the city. Where I come from shaped me. The way I write melodies and the way I write lyrics, many different details, made me realize that it all must come from somewhere. We all read similar books and we all go travel in similar places, and we share common friends but some things make you different. I realized it’s where I come from, the seeds that were buried inside of me since I was a child.”
She explores and maintains a connection with these roots in different ways. For example, she’ll join her friend Howie Lee on a China tour with two dates in Guizhou in November. She has also documented her previous shows through the province on video, and returns as often as she can.
The story of Yehaiyahan began at the start of 2018, with her mind full of ideas for this new project and new ways of making music and performing. Her work under the new alias is rooted in hip hop, R&B and beat-making, but more specifically songwriting and singing.
She joined the folks behind popular LA hip hop night Low End Theory at Vice’s New Year Party in Arkham, which presented an opportune encounter. “That was the first time I met Daddy Kev and that was the very beginning of my Yehaiyahan project. I had some basic structures of how I wanted to perform live and make music, so that show was my first-ever Yehaiyahan gig, and he was really interested in it,” she explains.
Image courtesy of Weiii
It marked the beginning of a friendship with Low End Theory founder and Alpha Pup Records owner Daddy Kev, who she met once again at Radii China’s china.wav show in LA in May of this year, this time taking to the stage as Faded Ghost. The pair had a chat, she revealed that she had a Yehaiyahan release coming up, and the decision was made to release her first album, Under the Moonlight, on the LA-based label.
“The most interesting part for me is that I love the label and all the artists and I think their audience is my target audience.” The decision to release was also in part an experiment to see how English-speaking audiences would interact with her sound. “I think for non-English language content, it’s still difficult,” she says. “I’m still learning what would be the best way to release my music. After this, I think I would prefer to run my own music.”
While that first album, Under the Moonlight, dropped in the middle of August, it had been ready for a year before being released. To us, the album is dripping with laidback funk, electronified soul and splashes of trip hop. Looking back, Yehaiyahan thinks, “I was too rushed; I didn’t give it enough space to be more free, to go off more. I was still a little bit safe,” a verdict we think is certainly too harsh, though she goes on to say, “I like that about an album though, it documents that period of time, the way you are thinking or the way you are making music, so you can look back to find out certain things. When I listen back now, I realize I was too hurried to make it happen.”
She’s already on to the next one, while she’s also building up a band to join her in her live shows and on tour. “So far, I have a bass player, a drummer and a keyboard player who can also play guitar and do the programming. So, four of us is big enough and easy to move. That’s my big plan for next year.”
To listen to ‘Under the Moonlight,’ click here.
[Cover image courtesy of Weiii]