For over two and a half decades Silfatu Mornikji Wahabie Tella, better known to her fans as Sylvia Tella, has captivated her audience with sell out shows and has kept her fans bawling for more. Sylvia was born to a Nigerian father and English mother in Manchester, England 40 years ago.
Music has been a part of Sylvia's everyday life from an early age. Her father played the congoes in an African band and he used to contribute Reggae in the form of Blue Beat and Ska playing at a shebeen. Later she was inspired by her stepfather's Jazz playing. Also Sylvia's sister, Jayzik is part of her backing singers and has been around all aspects of the business from singing to acting and modelling.
Sylvia was inspired by artists including Bob Marley, John Holt, Jackie Mittoo, Jackie Edwards and Alton Ellis to name a few. "Marcia Griffiths and all them kind of people they became for me inspirational in the latter part where you see their individual talents but as a collective band it was like Bob Marley & The Wailers and the I-Threes. Individually I wasn't inspired by those particular singers it was more on an earlier tip like your Gladys Knight."
The bright lights of London appealed to Sylvia and by the age of 15 she was performing there. She continued to live in Manchester until she was about 16_ and then she finally took the plunge and went to live in London.
Sylvia was famous for her cover versions, in fact her whole 'Spell' album revolved around this practice and she covered 'You Might Need Somebody' by Randy Crawford and Millie Jackson's 'Love Is A Dangerous Game'. By 1984 Sylvia's reputation for covering other peoples music was all but becoming a memory.
Sylvia wrote and co-produced the vast majority of her tunes after that time. In fact she writes a lot of material not only for herself but also for many different people. She has penned lyrics for the likes of Frankie Paul, Jack Radics and Leroy Mafia from Mafia & Fluxy to name a few.
Until quite recently Sylvia was based in London but she is now working out of New York. She works in collaboration with the production teams of London's Mafia & Fluxy and New York's Sidney Mills.
Sylvia had taken a break from stage performances but luckily for the UK crowd she recently did a launch of her new album 'Tella Like It Is'. She also graced the stage at Three Mills in East London at the Peace & Love Concert and joined forces with Luciano, Cocoa Tea and Mikey General at Rodigan's Reggae at the Subterania nightclub in West London.
She has very strong views on the UK Reggae scene, "They need to give more to black producers and the range of more prime jobs in the record companies like the A&R and MD's it would be nice to see… I could go on man you know yourself. Everything that we do here when it's representing black it's either pirate or blacklisted."
Shortly before Dennis Brown's untimely death Sylvia was due to work with him and owing to them both having busy work schedules unfortunately this was not to be. She had a chance to give a little something back to his memory when she along with a number of other UK artists got involved in the 'Tribute to Dennis Brown' album. "I know at the end of the day that what he represented hopefully the people can remember which was the positive side, his smile. Not the negative side of how people were hearing about his end life with the drugs and everything."
Birmingham is well known for it's Reggae scene and the UK's second city is the home of Steel Pulse. Donna Sterling and Sylvia joined Steel Pulse at the end on 1997. Sylvia has worked alongside many artists including Glamma Kid, Mafia & Fluxy, Frankie Paul, Jack Radics, Owen Gray, Joseph Cotton and Daddy Freddy.
She has also worked with a number of top producers including Jamaica's Lloyd Charmers, Saxon and Barrington McLeod from Stingray and Sly & Robbie. At the present moment she's working with Sidney Mills and Barrington Bailey from Living Room Records.
If you want Sylvia to 'Tella Like It Is' then make sure you check out a live performance you will not be disappointed. She has performed in Africa from Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Bali and in the US from California to New York, Detroit – the heart of Motown. She has played Reggae on the River, and the whole of Europe. At the time of conducting this interview Sylvia was preparing to fly out to Jamaica to perform at Sumfest.
Sylvia wanted to send a message to her dedicated followers. "Love and respect and nuff blessings for all the people who have supported me over the years. Look out for the new album ‘Tella Like It Is' because I pray it's inspirational to those people who do buy my music and to those who are starting to buy my music. It was written and performed with that motive to be inspirational to everyone really and I hope that people can identify with the growth".
If you are interested in getting your hands on a copy of Sylvia's recently released album 'Tella Like It Is' please check your local music outlets. Alternatively contact Sidney Mills via email on Livingroomrecord@aol.com, by telephone 718 -287-0189 or at Living Rooms Records, PO Box 1093, Columbia, Maryland 1 1044-1093.