The name Malaikah is quite new to many music fans in the country. Though she grew up in foreign land, Malaikah, real name Sheila Mkhumba- Hemingway, is trying to make music that connects her to her motherland. In this interview with our reporter BRIAN ITAI, Malaikah talks about her journey this far.
Q: What is your name?
A: My full name is Sheila Mkhumba- Hemingway but as a music artist I am known as Malaikah.
Q: Tell me a bit of your personal background.
A: I am a Malawian who grew up in Zimbabwe but I am now based here in the United Kingdom (UK) where I have been for the last 15 years. I am a married woman with four children. Academically, I studied law though I am not in practice, I am a business lady, founder of a charity organisation called Angels Across Africa based both here in UK and Malawi and above all that I am a music artist.
Q: What type of music are you into?
A: When I first started, I was doing pop but I have since diversified to afro beats and dancehall. So, basically it is pretty much about everything I can sing.
Q: What inspires the type of music you do?
A: I stand and speak for positivity not negativity. My music is mainly based on actual facts not necessarily me. I want my fans to relate and be one with the music. I have touched on the love theme in the past, but it is not an obsession. In my upcoming work you will see me singing about other things beside love and relationships.
Q: Is there any connection between your music and your Malawian roots?
A: I have released five songs and two of them have bits of Chichewa just to show my pride in being Malawian. But I do hope to release a whole song in Chichewa in my upcoming releases. On top of that two of my music videos were filmed in Malawi and featured a local artist Janta in one of the songs.
Q: Have you ever had gigs here in Malawi?
A: I have performed in Malawi three times. In March last year at the Celebrate Africa Concert, which I founded and in October when I supported Janta on his Mwezi Watha tour which took us to Zomba and Lilongwe.
Q: What response did you get from the Malawian audience?
A: It was mixed really as it was my first time introducing myself to the local audience. Some loved me from the first moment but to some I had to do a little explaining about the person I was.
Q: What strategies do you think you can employ to get the local music lovers buy in into your music concept?
A: I think there is need for an increased interaction with my Malawian fans. I know it is much harder as I live far away from Malawi. But we seem to be heading in the right direction towards the right direction as we are making maximum use of numerous social media platforms to increase my visibility. I believe I also need to do more songs in my vernacular language.
Q: Are you in touch with music trends back home?
A: I am trying to play catch up so I am really trying yes. Lately I have been listening to a lot of music from home.
Q: Who is on the list of your favourite local artists?
A: Definitely Sangie and Wikise.
Q: Any plans for collaborations with local artists?
A: I did a collaboration with Janta last year and I would love to work with more local artist in the coming future. So, definitely that is in my plans.
Q: Are people able to access your music here in Malawi?
A:Yes! My music can be accessed through my YouTube channel Malaikah and also on Malawi music.com, Mikozi network and my music platform which I have recently created Panashmw-music.com.
Q: Elsewhere, how has your music been received?
A: When I started here in UK I got a very positive reception. To the extent that my first releases were played on BBC Radio. I also had good media reviews from all over including Russia and Ghana.
Q: What is the progress on the Celebrate Africa Concert that you founded?
A: The first concert was good even though the attendance was not that impressive. The concert was set up as a charity initiative to raise funds for the charity I founded to benefit the underprivileged and disadvantaged children in Malawi. Preparations to have another concert this year are underway though we are wary of the coronavirus pandemic. So, it may either take place or not depending on how the situation will turn out. n