Born Nwamaka Sam-Ejehu, Nigerian musician, Maka, studied law at the University of Lagos, but has since abandoned the legal profession for music. She is a winner of the Beat FM Fresh Beat competition for her song, Loving You, and has just released the single, Mu Na Gi (You & I), accompanied by a simple, well-realised video. In this interview, Maka talks about her Music and her life.
Congratulations on the release of your single, Mu Na Gi. The song is an appeal for love; what inspired the lyrics?
Thanks a lot. Well, to be honest, the instrumental inspired the content. The song, as much as I would have loved to say it was personal, it really was not.
Mu Na Gi is a blend of music genres. Which musicians did you grow up listening to and who are your musical influences?
I grew up listening to a lot of genres – surprisingly, more hiphop and classical than others. The soul genre seems to come very natural to me. It was when I realised my love for soul/jazz that I started listening to its greats like Nat King Cole, Billy Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Lauryn Hill, Asa, Sade Adu, Erika Badu, Jill Scott.
For people who haven’t listened to your music, how would you describe your sound?
To make it easier to be understood, I use examples of popular artistes who have either the same or similar sound to mine. To sum it up, I am a soul singer with a blend of afro, jazz, hip hop sound.
The concept of the video is really effective, with the on-screen text and colour contrasts. How much creative input did you have in that?
The credit goes to the video director Mr. “RCube” Oshodi of (Str8Buttah/RCube Vision) and of course the graphic designer Psalmurai
Take us behind the scene of the video shoot. Was it fun or just grind?
Where Maka is involved, it’s never just work. I could be a clown when its needed. So yeah, I had fun. Everyone else did too.
How has it been working with the producer, Teck-Zilla?
Teck is the most “chilling” human being I have ever met. He does not come with the drama people usually come with. The best part is, I am like that. Teck and I understand each other. He has been there from day one. I mean when he was back in Canada, I used to send him my songs for him to critique. I can say that he has watched me grow musically and that helps us work better. I love working with him.
If this single is anything to go by, your forthcoming EP, The Truth, is going to be something to look out for. When is it coming out?
Oh yes! I am not one to toot my horn, but yeah, the truth is The Truth is going to be awesome. It’s something to look out for. (See what I did there?)
Will you be collaborating with any musician on the project?
The EP has just me on it. However, for other projects in the foreseeable future, I would work with my colleagues.
I understand you are a songwriter, do you write songs for other artistes? Any plans to?
Oh yes, I have written songs for people, not necessarily artistes. I was credited for my songwriting on Indigo, a musical web series. You could check out a few episodes.
Any other genres we can expect to see you in the future?
The only one that comes to mind is afro soul-house.
The music scene in Nigeria is quite competitive, how do you hope to navigate your way to recognition?
It’s all about strategy. Luckily, I have an idea strategist for a manager. Basically, I have the best people around me.
Besides music, you also practice as a lawyer. How do you juggle both careers and how has one impacted the other?
It is very accurate that I am a lawyer, however, I do not practice as a litigator. It was not easy juggling going to work and having a music career. It helped that I had an amazing boss, but the days off he gave so I could attend interviews could only do so little. I finally decided to take that leap of faith to do what I believe I was born to do, music. My legal know-how has definitely helped my music.
The legal profession is quite demanding; did it rob you of studio time?
Both careers are definitely very demanding. I found it very hard to get creative enough to write songs not to talk of finding studio time because of work. Eventually, I decided I had to focus on one of them.
Please tell us something about your background. What was growing up like, and how did you get into music?
I had a pretty sheltered childhood. Being raised by my mum (lost my dad to cancer at the age of six) and two brothers, we were very close. We still are till date. My mum made sure none of us felt the hole my dad left when he passed. Except for the occasional feelings of sadness every Fathers’ Day and the day of his death, everything else in my childhood went swell.
I come from an academically inclined family. My dad had three degrees; Engineering, Accounting and Law, my mum has a PhD, older brother is a Pharmacist, and my younger brother is studying Chemical Engineering presently. The switch to music was a bit tricky. I recall during my undergraduate days, my mum and I had our biggest fight yet. It was huge. It led to my putting music on pause till I finished school and got called to the Nigerian Bar. I have that now, so I guess there was no reason to stop me. I had earned my family’s support.
What are you listening to on your playlist? Which songs do you listen to on repeat?
I earlier said that I listen to every genre. So long as it’s appealing to the ear. I could tell you that my playlist is organized into categories; Classical- for my Handel, Beethoven, Mozart, etc
Maka – This is a collection of all my music…ever. It also includes voice notes and ideas for prospective songs.
Slow songs – we have soul, jazz, ballads here
Naija – well, here we have the up tempo afro-pop Nigerian sounds that I use for my morning run.
Old School – I think this explains itself. I should clarify that my old school is more 50’s than 80’s.
Rap – also self explanatory. You would find a lot of Eminem here though.
Gospel and Inspirational – ranges from a capella to hymns. I also have separate playlists for my Jewish, Chinese, and Indian songs.
Your sense of fashion is strong and edgy. Who are your style icons?
With regard to my fashion, it’s just an expression of myself. I guess I am edgy. I would not necessarily say that I am being inspired by anyone.
Check out the hot new video to Maka’s single ‘Mu Na Gi’: