Her music gained praises from stars such as Willow Smith and Tyler the Creator
Over the years, social media has not just given an avenue for people all over the world an easy way to connect but also a golden ticket to success, particularly speaking, to fame. The rise of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and now Tiktok has provided artists the freedom to create and share work that’s true to themselves and that plays according to what they want—better than any reality show ever could,
The latest addition to the list of artists discovered on social media is Towa Bird. With a head full of curly locks and her edgy sense of style, she is, without a doubt, one cool person. But what makes her a stand out in a sea of cool individuals on social media—mainly on Tiktok—is her artistry, which she expresses through music.
This London-based music student and member of the band Cassyette now has more than 700,000 followers on Tiktok, with music stars Willow Smith and Tyler the Creator taking notice of her musical works. And would you believe she has Filipino roots?
In this feature, Manila Bulletin Lifestyle chats with the 22-year-old queer rockstar as she shares stories abour her early introduction to music, her life during the pandemic, and what makes her more than just a Tiktok superstar.
What inspired you to pursue a career in music? Do you have icons you look up to?
When I was around 11, I watched a Jimi Hendrix documentary on YouTube and from that moment I told myself that that was what I wanted to do. Honestly, I’ve never looked back. I have so many icons I look up to, they kind of range across popular music: Hendrix, Prince, SZA, Gorillaz, Rihanna, Arctic Monkeys, Oasis, Missy Elliott. These are the ones off the top of my head, but there are so many more.
How has growing up all over the world, particularly in Asia, influenced you and your music? Has Filipino culture/music/arts/artists inspired you in any way?
Sure, I think that my Filipino side manifests itself in the way I feel the music. I had a Filipino guitar teacher for a couple years, those years being very formative years, and he helped me understand a more soulful approach to music. He essentially taught me how to make the guitar sing. His teachings felt different to the more Western school of thought that was around me at the time.
Also going to church a lot when I was a kid meant I was around live music. Whether I was in Thailand or Hong Kong, at the time the church band always consisted of all Filipino musicians
In the future, are you open to collaborating with Filipino artists and musicians?
Yes, of course. There are so many talented Filipinos I’d love to work with.
What is your process when it comes to composing music? Did it change during the pandemic?
I think it did change during the pandemic. But it’s hard to tell whether it was directly influenced by that or if I was just growing and changing as a person, which happened to be in the landscape of a pandemic.
But I usually start with a guitar riff or melody or chords, I’ll track it into Logic (digital audio workstation) and start building the idea. Usually bass and drums come into the beat next, but it really depends on what I’m working on.
Apart from creating music, what has kept you busy while staying at home?
Making covers for the internet, cooking, hanging out with my housemates, reading, working out.
Do you have any favorite Filipino dish?
Pancit Malabon or Lumpia Shanghai but a vegetarian version.
What made you join Tiktok? What do you like about it?
My friend told me about it before it became super popular in the UK. It’s cool because it gives a platform to a lot of different kinds of talent. The virality of Tiktok is kind of insane.
With more than 700,000 followers, you are a legit Tiktok success story. While the effects of Tiktok on you have been positive, do you think the social media app also has its downside?
Sure, because content is so quick and exciting on TikTok it’s super easy to fall into long hours just aimlessly scrolling. Consuming a lot which you don’t always retain. This is pretty common with all social media not just Tiktok. But in my case, Tiktok has definitely served me a lot more than it has not.
Why is it important for artists to continue creating art even during the pandemic?
I mean, it’s not! The last year has been an incredibly difficult time for everyone, some a lot more than others. If you have the facility to create that then that’s great. If it allows you to channel your emotions into an outlet or take your mind off things for a bit then that’s brilliant! But there shouldn’t be any pressure to do so. I think during this time, the most important thing to do is to take care of yourself, keep your close friends, family as well as yourself safe.
What can your followers expect from you next?
Honestly, there are amazing things to come, things I can’t announce just yet. I think some people think of me as a Tiktok guitarist, which is great, however, there is more to me! There is so much original music that I’m cooking right now which will come out when it’s ready.
This article first appeared in Manila Bulletin.