LU KALA is Redefining Pop Music

“I don’t feel pressure to change myself, I’m here because I am myself.” LU KALA

Every once in a while, an artist appears who is destined to break the mold, LU KALA is one of them. The fiery voiced songstress—with signature vibrant orange hair to match—is redefining what a pop star sounds and looks like.

At the age of three KALA’s family immigrated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Canada, first living in Toronto’s Regent Park, and later Ajax. Gifted with a talent for writing striking pop tracks and memorable hooks, the independent, Toronto based musician has written for local artists, as well as R&B star Jennifer Hudson. Track, “Dangerous,” co-written with DVSN (Drake, DJ Khaled, Majid Jordan) and Stephen Kozmeniuk (Dua Lipa, Madonna, Lights) landed on Hudson’s 2014 studio album, JHUD.

Despite song writing success, behind the lyrics was a voice waiting to be released, a voice that didn’t conform to the vocal style producers assumed they’d hear. Instead her sound—raw, intensely emotive and mercurial with an ability to lean into dance, R&B, rock, soul and pop, at will—defied it. “With me being both black and plus size, I think people expect a very specific voice and style. And while I can sing those songs, I express myself differently.” Unwilling to vocally bend into the box black female performers are often expected to exist in, KALA has embraced her distinctive sound, transforming her trajectory as an artist, and a woman, in the process: “Everything about me says, ‘Nah, I’m going to be in any space I choose to be in. And I’m going to command it.’”

Since, she’s released her 2018 debut track, “DCMO (Don’t Count Me Out),” co-written with Robyn Dell’Unto. The self-empowered pop anthem disarms with frank and deeply vulnerable lyrics. KALA describes the writing process as one that pushed her into emotional spaces she hadn’t allowed herself to go before: “I’ve always been able to write well-structured songs, but I would never speak about myself. I’d speak about a love scene I saw in a movie or my friends’ relationships. I had all these feelings, but they were buried deep. When I was writing “DCMO,” I closed my eyes and free styled the line, ‘I know I’m a big girl and you are afraid to claim me,’ once I did that something within me opened. I realized that I wanted to write real things about myself. I wanted there to be no filter.” Its inspired her to begin telling the stories she didn’t realize she needed to tell. “I would rather leave my imprint on the world with something that is honest than just do something that’s fun.”

With over 1,000,000 streams—Apple and Spotify combined— “DCMO” has landed on official playlists such as Spotify’s It’s a Bop, Indie Pop Chillout, Morning Commute and New Music Friday Canada, as well as Apple Music’s, Breaking Pop playlist, Pop Deluxe and Pure Pop Radio. “DCMO” also cracked the top 40 on the Billboard Canada CHR chart after gaining airplay on Top 40 stations across the country. In 2018, she was just one of two Canadians invited to take part in legendary producer, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Good Vibes Discovery Song Camp. And in 2019, KALA’s performed at festivals such as iHeartRadio FanFest, RBC Bluesfest, and on stages that include Girl Talk 2019, Canada’s Walk of Fame 20th anniversary gala, the The Kali & Jorja Tour pre-show and The Basement Series: BET Weekend Kickoff.

With the upcoming release of her debut EP, KALA continues venturing into emotional places few dare to go—on or off record: “Writing these songs helped me process things that I hadn’t realized I needed to process.” Written, and co-written with a select group of writers in Toronto, New York, London and L.A, her EP is unflinching in its tales of personal, hard-earned love lessons. Romantic disillusionment, identity and self-worth, all are laid-bare with breathtaking, unapologetic honesty.

KALA, a body positive and freedom of expression advocate, hopes her message will empower others to own their own voices, literally and figuratively. “I do music that is true to me, and it would be cool to see more girls in this city, and the world, feel like they can do the same, whatever the genre, no matter their race.”