When Bristol, England-based rapper MoYah received a call from a Portuguese phone number, he initially thought it would be a relative or friend on the other line. But to his surprise, it was a representative from Rádio e Televisão de Portugal.

MoYah’s manager had submitted his upbeat hip-hop track “Too Much Sauce” for the annual Festival da Canção. As weeks went by, MoYah almost forgot he’d even sent it — that is, until RTP called with good news. Now, the Lisbon-raised artist is just a few days away from competing in the festival’s first semi-final on Saturday, Feb. 25.

“I didn’t even know how to react,” he recalled. “I was delighted.”

Born in Mozambique and raised in Portugal after his family fled during their home country’s civil war, MoYah started writing poems at a young age as a way of expressing himself, and that eventually turned into rap. As an adult, MoYah moved to the United Kingdom to pursue his music career and currently leads an artist mentoring program in Bristol.

Music is more than entertainment for MoYah. Through rap and Afrobeats music, he addresses issues relating to identity, social injustices and spirituality from the perspective of a child of the African diaspora.

Today, we’re excited to welcome MoYah for a Q&A with ESC United as we await Saturday’s semi-final.

How does it feel to be participating in Festival da Canção?

In Portugal, it’s a big thing, so you kind of grow up watching it with your family. It’s an amazing platform, so for me to even be considered as a contestant in Festival da Canção is such an honor!

Who are some of your favorite artists who’ve competed in Festival da Canção and Eurovision?

There are artists I like for different reasons. Before my time, in 1967, there was a singer of African origin named Eduardo Nascimento. It was really good for me to see someone like that, in terms of representation, and his song was really beautiful. I absolutely loved Maro’s song “saudade, saudade.” I also really loved the energy of Pongo & Tristany at Festival da Canção 2022. Also, of course, the Portoguese Eurovision winner in 2017, Salvador Sobral. His voice is ridiculous. I loved Michael Schulte’s song for Germany in 2018. “You Let Me Walk Alone” was a beautiful song with beautiful lyrics.

Tell us a little bit about the story behind your song, “Too Much Sauce.”

It’s interesting, because sometimes when you create something, you don’t think about the demographics of your listeners and how they will perceive it. Saying “too much sauce” is a very common term, it’s like slang for too much drip, style or swagger. But when I saw reactions from the Portuguese audience, they were like, “Too much sauce? What’s he talking about? Ketchup, mayonnaise, olive oil?” They thought it was literal.

I sometimes try to create music for a young MoYah, and what he would like to listen to, and how the music I create would impact him. Ultimately, I’m trying to create music that’s uplifting, energetic and empowering, and displays representation. There’s a lot of us in society who don’t feel fully embraced for various reasons. It could be because of our race, color of our skin, sexuality, sexual orientation, religious views, whatever it is — and when you feel secluded, you can start to lose hope, trust in yourself and self-value. This song is for anybody who has felt segregated, not fully embraced, or misunderstood, to remind them they have too much sauce. They have this beautiful light that resides inside them. We’re all super valuable, regardless of society or how you feel about yourself.

And then there are also references to me being a Mozambican, a migrant and a refugee. I really want to amplify the voices of those who have experienced displacement and trauma because of wars. All around the world, this is taking place. Millions of people are impacted and I want to represent the voice of those people.

Why is it important to you to use your platform in such a meaningful way?

It’s important to amplify voices that are not being heard, to break down stereotypes. I’m really into community cohesion. Sometimes when we don’t understand each other, that’s when stereotypes exist and division can take place. The more we break barriers, we see that there are so much more similarities than differences, and differences should be celebrated. A vibrant society is one that consists of people with different views, different walks of life, different tastes.

Your song’s style and genre stand out in this year’s lineup. What is your sound inspired by?

As an artist, you try to create art that reflects you, but humans are so multi-layered. I’m so many things. I’m Portuguese; I was raised in Portugal. But I’m of Mozambican descent and I was born in Africa. I’m a rapper and my parents were singers. I’m a refugee, and now I live in the U.K. On “Too Much Sauce,” I start the first verse in English, which is the language I’m most comfortable expressing myself in. But then I wanted to touch on the fact that I am Portuguese. So the second verse is in Portuguese. God-willing, if this were to win and even go to Eurovision, I want people to know, “he raps in English and Portuguese.”

I’m really inspired by Afrobeats. There’s hip-hop elements, afrobeats elements, it’s like an amalgamation of musical genres. In terms of musicians, there are so many to mention. From old-school rappers Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli to Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. Equally, I love the new wave of Afrobeats, reggae, and more traditional Afro-Portuguese music. I love old-school artists such as Bonga, and I also love Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson. If the music is good, I appreciate it!

Last year, we got to see a hip-hop song win Eurovision, and a rock song the year before. How do you feel about the diversity of genres represented in the contest?

A lot of times, you associate Eurovision with a specific sound or tempo, which is absolutely cool, but the musical diversity that exists is not always reflected in spaces like Eurovision. I was really happy to see Pongo in Festival da Canção, and even in Eurovision, you’re starting to see more diversity. I think that’s really, really important. Whether I win or not, for me to be present is important, especially for future artists and emerging musicians who feel that maybe their music wouldn’t be understood or received well at Festival da Canção. The more we are able to push boundaries, the more it becomes open for every genre of music.

How do you spend your time when you’re not making music?

I love traveling. I come from a family of chefs and my wife is an amazing cook, so I love tasting new food. I love meeting new people, exploring new places. I like to be immersed in a whole culture — the food, the arts, everything. I love watching film, spending time with my plants and in nature, and reading.

What’s on your travel bucket list?

I’ve had the honor of visiting many places. There are many places I’d still like to travel to. I’d love to visit Ethopia, especially older cities like Lalibela. I’d love to go to Brazil and Jamaica.

What other plans do you have coming up this year outside of Festival da Canção?

I’m headlining a show at a venue in Lisbon called Musicbox on March 9. I’m also going to be shooting a brand new video for “Too Much Sauce” while I’m in Portugal. I’m so excited, we’ve got a whole bunch of talented dancers. It’s really a lot of fun to work with such talented creatives. I’m working on some tours in Europe, Dubai and Mozambique. I’ve only done one show there, so we’re hoping to arrange a full tour. I left there as a child when I was 2 years old and I’ve returned as an adult, but haven’t had the opportunity to properly tour as an artist, so I would love that.

Lastly, I’m working on an EP that should come out this year!

What message would you like to share with fans?

Keep radiating your beautiful light, have faith in yourself. Sometimes, what we believe and how we view things is what’s manifested, so if you think the world is rubbish and everyone’s a bad person, that’s all your subconscious mind will see. Now, more than ever, is a good time for us to come together.

Are #YOU team MoYah for Portugal? Let us know on social media @ESCUnited, on our discord, or on our forum page. Stay connected with MoYah on Instagram and Spotify.

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