Just after her shoot & session for DISORDER magazine I was able to catch up with recent UMA award winner Malaika. We were able to discuss early beginnings upbringing, influences, the Leeds music scene, twitter trolls and a whole load of other things! We’ve also got a preview of her new single!
Malaika: I always knew that I really wanted to play music and get involved with many different styles. It started with Total Guitar (the guitar) magazine. I started teaching myself when I was 11 and my favourite bands were Machine Head and Pantera.
Goke: Metal? That’s a far cry from Jazz?!
Malaika: (Laughing) It is! It’s a bit of a difference but I really liked metal and that’s where my love of music really began. Gradually I decided to go to college and start studying and that’s where I learned about Blues and Jazz… Coming from an African background, I really wanted to learn about that style of music.
Goke: Where are you from?
Malaika: I’m from Ireland but my Mum is from Uganda.
Goke: So can you speak Swahili?
Malaika: No. Not at all, I can say Jambo, which means Hello. But my name’s Swahili.
Goke: Would you ever learn it?
Malaika: I would love to!
The irony is when writing this I realise that Malaika means angel in Swahili! It’s also the name of one of the most famous Swahili love songs across South and East Africa! Maybe we can spin this as a new catchphrase for Malaika “a Voice of an angel by an angel”
We then talked about the music scene in Africa, with me trying to convince Malaika to join the likes of Wizkid in the growing Afropop/Afrobeat industry. Malaika music coming soon to a Afrobeats party near you ☺
Goke: Would you ever consider other music genres?
Malaika: I write music anyway and write in a lot of different styles. Sometimes I will write a pop song sometimes a metal song sometimes a dance song. I only tend to release my music in a specific genre because I want it to be consistent. But if I wrote a dance song tomorrow and thought it was amazing, I would release it because it’s still truly me, It’s still something I want to write and enjoy and I would want people to hear that. I would definitely change my genre but only on my own terms.
Goke: So you write your own music?
Malaika: I write some of my songs and I’ve co-written with people. I’ve written with a couple of producers and songwriters that I really enjoy. What I did was research a few artists similar to me which included, Izzy Bizu, Eliza Doolitle and Lianne Las Havas; I love all of their music so I thought I’d find out all of their producers and songwriters, then tracked them down to see if we could a little session. So I contacted some of their songwriters, we got talking and eventually we were able to write a couple of songs together.
Goke: Any of these songs been released?
Malaika: One has been released already – I don’t feel the same
Goke: That’s the single you’ve just released recently!? Is it about anyone?
Malaika: No it’s not. But I guess I’ve taken inspiration from things that I’ve been through in life, but it’s not about a specific person. But I definitely take influence from relationships be it good or bad.
Goke: You talk about all these amazing artists Eliza Doolite and Lianne Las Havas, but who would be you dream collaboration?
Malaika: I would love to collaborate with Nile Rogers!
Goke: From Chic?
Malaika: Yep! From Chic and Daft Punk. Robert Glasper as well, He has the ‘Phatest’ Chords!
Goke: I like Robert! You have such good taste! Do you play piano as well then?
Malaika: I play a little bit of piano.
Goke: How phat are your chords then?
Malaika: (Laughing) Disgustingly skinny, just like triads. I don’t get how they do it. It’s like the voicings they use and how they play them that makes the difference……. Also I would love to work with Michael League!
Goke: Who is he?
Malaika: Have you heard of Snarky Puppy? He’s the leader of that group. He’s ridiculous, he’s got sick feel, like such good feel. He just recorded an album called Family Dinner where artists from around the world come together and collaborate. It was amazing!
After a little fooling around with our phones I then try (I have no idea I’m no expert) to do some celebrity media training with Malaika.
Goke: You should have two phones!
Goke: You’re an artist!
Malaika: (Sarcastically) In case I get stalked by fans?? All those fans?
Goke: You never know you’ve been getting played on Radio 2? How’ did that feel being played on a national stage?
Malaika: I know! That was extremely exciting, and I was not expecting it at all. I was just so humbled that someone on such a large radio station would want to play my music.
Goke: What have you been doing since the UMAs?
Malaika: I had the opportunity to meet people like you, making all these great contacts, collaborating with all these people. It’s great to have the opportunity to do all these film sessions, get my music out there and get my name out there, get heard!
I’m sure she’s not lying there! Her thoughts on the UK Jazz and Leeds music scene:
Malaika: I haven’t given it much thought really. I guess you take for granted that Jazz isn’t really a big thing over here, it might take a long time before it is. But things like BBC introducing help to showcase jazz musicians in this country which will hopefully start making changes.
……….There’s a great underground jazz scene in Leeds. It’s all very cool. We are able to support each other by getting out to local gigs.
On her big break:
Malaika: I uploaded Call me Honey (Her first released song) onto Soundcloud and BBC uploader and a month later that was picked up by Jamie Cullum who was able to bring me over to Montreal for the Jazz Festival.
Goke: How was the festival?
Malaika: It was amazing. I felt like I was at home. It seems weird but it felt like this is where I want to be, this is what I wanted to be doing
On her gig the night before in at The Underbelly, London:
Malaika: The gig was brilliant; I had a lot of fun. I didn’t have my guitar with me, so I was a little nervous about not having that boundary between me and the audience. You get used to having your guitar with you so I felt very exposed.
Goke: do you have any rituals and practices before performing?
Malaika: Loads. Absolutely got to do vocal warm ups. Don’t eat any dairy, no chocolate no alcohol for a few days before or after.
Goke: In the Life of a singer you must suffer a lot then?!
Malaika: I know it’s awful. You kind of live and learn! When I first started singing, I would take a pint on stage but then you can’t sing for a couple of weeks, and when singing is your career, if you are not able to sing you won’t be able to make a living.
Goke: You live on your own?
Malaika: No, I live in a house share at the moment
Goke: What do you other housemates make of music career?
Malaika: They say that they like it, but I dunno. I probably annoy them a lot because I’m singing pretty loud all day and sometimes until 2 or 3 in the morning. Ooops!
On the perspective all musicians being seen as wild:
Malaika: I think there is a stereotype that musicians live this wild, rockstar lifestyle, whereas a lot of them such as myself, are actually really boring.
On Social Media and trolls:
Goke: Have you got trolls yet?
Malaika: I’ve seen negative comments under some of my youtube videos before. That’s about it.
Goke: Do you ever take that to heart?
Malaika: The first time I saw a negative comment I was annoyed, but then I realised this comes with the music business. The comments are going to get worse the more I release music and get with into the business. It’s how you perceive it, the people who send these comments are obviously very unhappy so I wish them well. You need to surround yourself with positive people; negative people would weigh you down. Although it’s important to realise that not everyone is going to like your music.
And finally what’s ahead for the rest of the year:
Malaika: I really want to go on tour! I’d love to release more music, I think I’m going to release another single!