If your last name is Silva, chances are you might be Brazilian. Like Smith in the U.S. or Hernández in Mexico, Silva is a common family name in Brazil. And yet, it took a while for one member of the clan to come to terms with her own heritage. Born in Brazil and raised in the Netherlands, Lysa da Silva realized early on that she would be neither this nor that, but it took a couple of DJ classes and several EPs for her to manifest such a feeling in the shape of music. With her first mixtape, Mosquito, under the moniker Lyzza, the 20-something artist wears as many hats as she wants to annoy easy-listeners and embrace a sort of non-sited, in-between music — just like herself.
“I was really young when I first accepted that I wouldn’t be just one thing,” Lyzza says from her room in Amsterdam, in front of a wall covered with photos and wrinkled papers; notes and hand drawings of all sorts. “I got here when I was a child, so I don’t necessarily know what it is to be Dutch, and I don’t know what it is to be Brazilian either. I do believe, though, that making music is how I connect with Brazilian culture.”
As if she needed to prove her own hypothesis empirically, Lyzza headed to Brazil a few months ago after almost 10 years since she had last visited. Returning to her home country was also a chance to finish her mixtape and connect with artists and crews she had met online or briefly during European tours. Among underground techno parties and baile funk street gigs, Lyzza found time to link up with Limitrofe TV. This video collective was founded by artists Enantios Dromos and Pe Ferreira in 2017 and rapidly became a cutting-edge platform for queer artists in Brazil. In collaboration with them, Lyzza and her friends shot a fun video at a Brazilian beach for the song “Ressaca.” This is one of the tracks featured in her first mixtape, Mosquito, released last week by Ninja Tune’s imprint label Big Dada — a first for a Latin American artist.
The mixtape is a transdisciplinary club pop experiment that ranges from bouncy post-PC Music songs like “Lucky You” to gritty beats and fast-tempo dance floor joints like “Hold Me.” All of the tracks are written, produced, mixed, mastered, and interpreted by Lyzza. It’s a one-woman band endeavor; a musical patchwork that echoes Lyzza’s self as part of a generation crossing genre tags as easily as gender labels. “Bjork, Arca, and even Lil Uzi have gone beyond categories. Why are we put in boxes?” she says.
Mosquito also mirrors the months Lyzza spent in lockdown, back in the room she used to sleep in her mom’s house, away from the clubs and DJ booths that saw her blossom as an artist. “When I’m playing as a DJ, it’s like Alice getting into the rabbit’s hole. I’m the crowd’s puppet master,” she says. “But I’m making music. It’s me expressing my feelings, dealing with my anxiety, all alone in my room.”
Before growing into Lyzza, Lysa was a young kid roaming through Tumblr aesthetics repositories and YouTube’s first music videos. “My mom was a babysitter for a rich family, so while she was working, I was all by myself,” she explains. As a teenager craving to express herself, she enrolled in a local music workshop by the skilled Dutch DJ and producer Jarreau Vandal. “I was playing some weird things at the end of the class, and he told me, ‘I think you got talent!’ Then I got my first gig as a DJ, but I was 16, so I told them I was 17 and was about to turn 18,” Lyzza recalls while laughing.
“I was really young when I first accepted that I wouldn’t be just one thing. I don’t necessarily know what it is to be Dutch, and I don’t know what it is to be Brazilian either. I do believe, though, that making music is how I connect with Brazilian culture.”
It didn’t take long for her to become a go-to DJ in the Amsterdam club music scene and then go beyond that. Within a couple of months, Lyzza was living in London and lined up for Boiler Room nights, clubs in Ibiza, or left-field techno stages at European festivals. “Amsterdam has a club culture, but it’s more institutionalized, whereas London is more experimental,” she says. “There aren’t many young, black DJs in Amsterdam. And at the parties I was playing, I felt I was only accepted by queer and POC people, or by people who read in Pitchfork I was cool — so they didn’t really understand me.”
With Mosquito, Lyzza gets closer to fulfilling her dreams and growing as an artist. It’s like a rite of passage: not only was the mixtape concocted in her old bedroom, surrounded by walls covered with childish and teenager memories, but it also sent her back to Brazil. Like a comeback journey, her debut mixtape is a step back so Lyzza can move forward for herself, her family, and her fans: “If I can be who I want to be, this gives strength to people who want to be themselves.”