Local Spotlight: ToriTori

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The Brockton-based R&B prodigy gears up for a Boston Calling set just one year after the release of her debut EP, but make no mistake—her pedestal has been a lifelong project.

Nearly six months ago, R&B sorceress ToriTori hosted her first event at Warehouse XI—an open concept event space in the heart of Union Square. BBQ catering, local visual artist booths, and opening sets from an all-women cast of DJ WhySham, Aura, and Zed Kenzo fostered an atmosphere of warmth and comfort, setting the scene for ToriTori to cap off the night with an electrifying mix of a live band  with a looper to perform her 2023 EP, Pocket Knife. The evening stamped ToriTori as a flourishing act to rally around—not only as a vessel of sinuous vocal runs, but as a community harmonizer.

Sofar Sounds concert later in the evening. To state that businesspeople in the creative market like Peggy are fundamental to the growth of local talent would be an immense understatement.

To classify ToriTori as a growing local talent would also undersell her. With three Boston Music Award nominations (winning R&B Artist of the Year) and one New England Music Award for New Act of the Year—interspersed among a slate of intimate venue shows all leading to a Boston Calling invitation—“skyrocketing” would be a more apt adjective.

The outpouring of love and backing for Pocket Knife may have felt sudden for ToriTori, but the clay did not mold into a brick foundation overnight. Raised in a family of musicians (two of her five siblings, Latrell James and Lilah!, are also active artists in the local scene), she credits her parents for having nurtured and supported her passion for singing. “Since I was seven years old, my mom got me into talent shows and never turned down Whitney Houston when I would blast it and scream over it,” she recalls animatedly. “Thank God she just let me do my thing.”

While the sonic roots of Pocket Knife sprouted from the family tree, the seeds of subject matter sewn across the EP can be traced back to a more recent past of 2019—a year demarcated by drastic forces knocking ToriTori off her axis. Ending a seven-year relationship in tandem with needing a massive surgery uprooted her life in Brooklyn. With significant changes compiling at light speed, her preconceived notion of needing someone else to instill confidence in her vanished once reality struck: she did not have time to waste. “Seven years have come and gone, and I still don’t have what I want,” she expresses with the same urgency that subsumed her then.

Avril Lavigne’s STAGE! I’m on Paramore’s STAGE!” 

David Alexis, as well as the interweaving of dance and movement—something she has always sought to implement in a live setting, yet has been fearful to execute—until now. “You won’t see me doing a whole lot of Beyoncé stuff,” she declares upfront, “but I’m gonna give you visuals, and I’m gonna give you movement and excitement through my music.”

Though a production of this magnitude may serve as a nonpareil in her resume thus far, ToriTori has a decorated track record of breathing new life into each performance of Pocket Knife. Whether delivering a stripped-down rendition accompanied by guitar and vocals, or dialing it back even more with just her and her looper (she may or may not possess a looped version of Pocket Knife to eventually be released on Instagram), she prioritizes these alterations to keep it fresh with every reincarnation.

Emily King as a paragon of this practice, explaining, “She doesn’t sound like her first project at all; it’s okay to not sound like what you want to sound like yet, and you will if you continue to put the time, energy, and effort into what you love and being authentically yourself.”

Thundercat, Kendrick Lamar, and Fleetwood Mac. What tops her list, however, is a desire to not rush into the next batch of songs: “I just want to commit to my freedom of not being pressured by what people think I should be producing, or what time it should be produced, or how it should be produced—just listening to my gut and trusting my gut.”

With an unrelenting grip on her own reins, ToriTori will undoubtedly continue to shatter ceilings; it’s in your best interest to observe the unobstructed sunshine this weekend.

Catch ToriTori’s Boston Calling debut on Saturday, May 25 at the Allianz Blue Stage. Tickets may be purchased here.

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