Ayilla and the Life of Many Roles
Cut oranges, whole oranges, goldfish crackers, plastic wrapped-candy, sugar-coated orange slice candy, granulated powders, cheetos puffs, and varying levels of liquid serve a gradient. Plates, candles, and the tablecloth are all set to support this morning’s spectrum on the table in the middle of the yard.
Ayilla, accented in orange, is alone at the head of the table.
It’s the second and final day of the video shoot for the soulful recording artist’s latest single Satire. The on-screen party for one is a public invitation into the expansion of her artistry as a storyteller through video production and direction.
Out of the frame, it is an intimate creative party that Ayilla is very much a part of because she is behind it.
“It felt empowering,” Ayilla tells ASLUT. “Because now I'm like, ‘Oh yeah, I'm an EP. I produce things, you know? I work on storyboards and shit.’
She recognizes the power of video for a musician. Merciulago’s video was a sample of Ayilla’s work that led to her 2022 collaboration with DJ Drama, Kill us both: Gangsta Grillz. She recognizes her power as an artist with available technologies and resources in 2023.
“I feel free to do what I want,” Ayilla says. “I love that I don't have to depend on anyone else. I feel really blessed that this is the era of music that I'm in, honestly, because I can't imagine being in any other era.”
Intentional about those she works with, Ayilla chose Mandela, a painter, graphic designer, and visual translator, as director for Satire. The singer starting to record at WaavHaus led to them sharing a set after previously only sharing rooms in passing.
“The chemistry and connection just grew,” Mandela says. “We always cultivate a very open, imaginative, creative, brainstorming sort of thing. And we started connecting to that.”
With their artistic and professional interests aligning, the pair began meeting weekly. For the two months leading up to it, those meetings often focused on this video shoot.
Orange, an unforgettable component of the video, was coming up early in the planning with the need for a color to pop against a natural background.
“It's like when you just rip that orange peel, and it's this burst of positivity,” Mandela explains. “Also just from an art standpoint, it's poppy, it's bright, it's contrasty. It’s of nature and of the earth.”
As prevalent as the color choice is, it was only one of the countless decisions the women made. Together, they embraced the responsibility of making it all happen.
“In a society that's very male dominated, we have to fight for our ideas,” Mandela tells ASLUT. “We have to stand up for ourselves and what we believe. And so this was really an opportunity for us to take the reins of that and manage that whole project together and with our own ideas. I've worked for men, and I've worked for women too, but I haven't worked for my own vision [like this].”
Helping the pair execute that vision was a crew of local talent, including Boomintree behind the camera, who has known Mandela since childhood and worked with Ayilla on most of her videos.
“Which goes back to that community thing. It's really amazing how we already have access to everything we need here in Tulsa,” Ayilla says.
Satire, yet to be publicly streamed, plays a broken loop through a Bluetooth speaker in the North Tulsa yard. Quickly turned off and restarted along to the rhythm of the crew as they work through the shot list.
Young children peek through a living room window into the yard/video set. Eventually they can no longer wait, and Ayilla’s two kids make a cameo in the yard. Even as the morning sun is becoming brighter while it rises, those in charge don’t mind a break for the littlest to jump into the talent’s arms.
“I'm great at being a mother. I'm great at being an artist. But I'm having to learn how to go back and forth between the two.” Ayilla says. “I think it just takes work and effort. Being intentional about what I'm doing and how to cater to not only myself, but my children. It's also important that I do it because I really want my children to see me pursuing my career and killing it. I think it's important.”
Filming quickly resumes. And is wrapped not long after.
Her daughters witnessed first-hand Ayilla killing it today. Everyone else will have to wait to see it on YouTube.
Satire is available now on all streaming platforms. View her music videos and other content on her Youtube channel: @Eye.am.Ayilla.