Introducing Malaikah!

The Malaika is synonymous with a Swahili love song. Not many Malawians, however, realise that we have our own Malaika. Sheilla Mkhumba, who uses Malaikah as her stage name, is a promising Malawian musician based in the United Kingdom. She has already established herself overseas and is now trying to make inroads on the local scene. Our Arts and Entertainment Editor EDITH GONDWE caught up with her to get to know her better.

Malaikah: We female artists need support and respect

Q

: Who is Malaikah?

A

: My name is Sheilla Mkhumba and I am known as Malaikah in the music industry. I was born in Malawi but I grew up in Zimbabwe and I’m now based in England. I am an up-and-coming artist and, besides music, I am a business woman, owner and founder of a music entertainment company called Panash and CEO and founder of the Angels Across Africa Organisation. After completing high school I wanted to go in the entertainment sector but somehow I found myself getting interested in studying law because of a fascination with criminal investigation. As I was studying law, my love for music could not be ignored. I built a commercial recording studio and started signing and managing under my label Panash Entertainment. On completing law,  I decided to concentrate on my music career and learn a few things that would facilitate in the growth of my personal music journey.

At the same time, I also started a brand here in Leeds, UK, where I am based and we called it Celebrate Leeds, an annual charity event raising money for different charities in Leeds.

Q

: You seem to be a well established figure in the entertainment industry over there, but very little is known about you here.

A

: The fact that I did not grow up in Malawi, and that I am not based in Malawi as well, makes it hard for me to be recognised as one of the locals. I am a pure Malawian from Dowa and my family is based in Malawi, too. I love my language and it annoys me when I speak to someone in Chichewa and they respond in English purely because from the judgement, they assume I’m not Malawian. I run a registered charity, with the help of family and friends on the outskirts of Lilongwe, Bear Dzenza, and we also assist children at Banga Primary School in Dowa. Besides the charity work, I have teamed up on a Chichewa track with Malawi’s finest producer and artist Janta. I, with a team of like-minded Malawians, have also started a new festival here in Malawi, named ‘Celebrate Africa’, which brings African artists together to help raise money for Malawian-based charitable organisations. I have also just recently registered to have an artist profile on Malawimusic.com so I can reach out to a larger local audience.

Q

: How did you come to work with Janta?

A

: I found myself being nosey and snooping on local artists that I wanted to work with them, then I came across Janta on Instagram. I listened to his music and I loved his style and production skills so I contacted him. It turned out he lived within a mile from my mother’s house, so we linked up and My Babie, the track was made in which he also featured.

Q

: The music industry is currently dominated by men. How best can we level the playing field?

A

: It is a sad observation, but it’s reality, too, at the same time. There is a large male dominance in the music industry in Malawi. I think the best way to level this is to encourage more female artists to come forward and up and for the local audience to give them more support. I have noticed there is a lot of judgement and name-calling of female artists. For example, I’ve heard people calling certain up-and-coming female artists mahule (prostitutes) because of the way they choose to express themselves through dressing, but there is never such treatment towards our male counterparts. We female artists need support and respect.

Q

: What’s your impression of the local music?

A

:  I must say the quality of the local production surprised me. Malawi has a lot of talented music producers and engineers.

Q

: Do you have an album to your credit?

A

: Since I embarked on my music journey, I’ve only released singles, no album yet. I have four singles to my name. My first single was Falling For You, which I released in July 2017. In January 2018 I released my second single entitled Let You Go. These were released at a time I took music as a hobby, while I concentrated on other things. In 2019, I decided to take this more serious, so I went back in the studio in May and did a song called Complaining, which comes out today and at the same time I’m also releasing a song for the local audience entitled My Babie, which features Janta and was recorded at his studio. In December, I’ll be releasing another track for the local audience as well, entitled Be With You, which I recorded in Zimbabwe and collaborated with Zimbabwean king of pop Rocki aka Rockford Gold.

Q

: What inspires your music?

A

: I am romantic and I write about love and heartbreaks, which are a part of life. What I write and sing about are not an illustration of my personal life but I try to relate with the general audience, with ongoing issues in their relationships. Some things are inevitable, we all go through it. When I sing, I know there are a few others who can relate and I like to capture the attention of the audience and make them feel they are a part of the song, or the song is narrating a certain part of their life.

Q

: What are the highlights of your music career?

A

: It hasn’t been long since I launched my career, but it’s been a journey. I’ve had my songs played on radio stations throughout the world, including big commercial stations in Canada and Russia. My songs have featured on the BBC introducing channels in Yorkshire, England. I’ve had several interviews with different radio stations and media houses and bloggers. I have worked with one of the best producers in the world Rymez (producer for Stefflon Don) on my first and second. n

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