At 18, as a number of 18-year-olds do out of naivety, I found myself in a string of chaotic connections. The first time I heard “GEMINI”, I was in a dimly lit hotel room, chugging cheap red wine straight from the bottle; in the company of one of such “friends”. To say I connected with this album would be a disservice – I ate, slept, and breathed this album throughout the entirety of 2019.

 In this 16-track debut masterpiece, Tay concisely explores the nuanced complexity of modern-day romantic connections, unrestrained in honesty and rawness. Released 26th of March, 2019,  after a number of sneak peeks, Gemini has solidified Tay Iwar’s status beyond doubt, as an artist with impeccable songwriting and production skills; carving a unique niche of alternative soul and Afro-fusion. 

Three years later, these songs still ring timeless.  Gemini isn’t just an album, it’s an exquisite work of art that delves deeply into the duality of the human psyche. Gemini season just ended, and we’ve decided to bring back this album.

  Alluding the album title to his star sign, it’s interesting to see how this album is also an attempt at self-reflection without it being too bogus. Gemini is the third sign of the zodiac, one that can have a polarizing and chaotic social reputation sometimes. Master communicators and quick to evolve, Geminis give very much “I’m just trying to hustle and play the game” energy, something Tay digs into over the course of the album, especially in songs like “SUGARDADDY”.

This narrative is brought to life starting from the avant-garde cover art where we see an image of Tay in the middle, with two mirror figures on opposite ends of the stylized image. The white figure wears a turban draped in clouds and flowers, while the darker figure has horns with a menacing expression; surrounded by black and grimy green hues. The peacock eyes symbolize the sage status that Tay adopts in the portrayal of the album. This already hints at the emotional tension that we are to experience throughout the album.

“It’s like I’m looking at the sun in the morning when I lay my eyes on you.” Like the budding stages of new romance, the self-produced 2-minute intro “SATISFIED” gives all the fuzzy feel with Tay seductively serenading his love interest with sweet sayings over sleek mid-tempo beats. 

Very few words can describe the seamless transition to “MONICA”; arguably the most popular track off the album. With the enigmatic opening lines of  “I fell in love with you and I almost died, I fell in love with you and I lost my light”,  the subtle decline of the connection begins. Lyrics like “Cried buckets when you lost your mama, way too young for that kind of drama”, let the listeners know the root of her avoidant and non-committal ways. 

 “You were too cruel to love, heaven only knows. I want it all; Winter, summer, autumn, fall” is the crooning chorus of  “WEATHER SONG”, the Afro funk bop where Tay describes the profound but equally disappointing experience of romantic love

One of my favorite things about the album is how each track with glaring meticulous attention to detail, is crafted with distinct quirks; easy for them to stand on their own. 16 songs is a LOT but regardless, the cohesion across the album’s soundscape is airtight. 

“ITS OKAY”,“STRANGERS” and “FOOLS”, all continue to chronicle his crumbling esteem as a result of his lover’s unpredictability, and even indifference. With surprising gentleness, he continues to beseech her to rethink her actions and consider acting right.

 “Who did you think I was? Did you think I was down on my luck? Rum in my cup.”

It isn’t till “KEEPS” we finally get to meet the darker cynical Tay. Fed up with his lover and retorting to subtle sarcasm and jabs, the song ends with a monologue of his love interest declaring reflections of change. 

In his interview with Okay Africa, Tay speaks on how the first song to be created off the album as early as 2014, is “UTERO”. It’s even more beautiful when you find out that Utero is the Portuguese word for “womb”. On first listen, this is the song that really pulled me in and in my opinion, one of Gemini’s top 3; “CALL U” and “SIDELINES” are my two other favs. “Tell me, is anybody there? It’s time to believe what I’ve been told”, a heart-tugging question that Tay already knows the answer to. We can really hear the classical influence that Tay grew under in the composition of this track.

In groovy upbeat songs like “SPACE”, “SUGARDADDY” and “DON’T KNOW” featuring his brother, Suté Iwar; he collaborates with other Gemini outliers, Odunsi and Santi, with vocalist Preye. In these songs, the push-pull dynamics are even more prominent.

The album ends with lustful string melodies of the glittery songs, “MIRACLE GIRL” and “CALL U”, leaving us with an open ending of the tale. It’s no fairytale ending, but the practical reality of how difficult it can be to end these distorted entanglements, even in the face of glaring codependency. Gemini is the album that will draw you in, while you find yourself deeply resonating with its message; regardless of who you are.

Thank you, Tay, for giving us such a gem. 

Let Me Tell You Of A Tugela Fairy…

– Ntokozo Botjie


Let me start in the corniest way possible; it was Thursday the 15th of November just after 5pm CAT, she walked through the doors at Trans Africa Radio where I work as a Radio Host & all round superman. I had finally reached the end of the road, it had been months of sliding into her DMs trying to arrange an interview and here she was in the flesh. I was ecstatic!

Continue reading “Let Me Tell You Of A Tugela Fairy…”