Malaika’s ‘Dear Love’ Comforts In The Face Of Pandemic Anxiety

I first met Malaika Kamure at a university event I hosted during my first year. I distinctly remember being taken by her passion and the poetic way in which she expressed herself, so hearing that she’d released her first EP wasn’t exactly a surprise. Malaika seems to me as someone who finds fuel for her creativity through her vulnerability, whether that manifests itself as poetry or music. I invited her to walk us through her EP and creative process.

Q: COuld you tell us a bit about yourself? maybe something about you most people don’t know?

I’m not sure where to begin or what to say…

Lets start with where I am from. I often find this question difficult and drawn out so I either say Uganda or London depending on who asks but I’ll bullet point it for you. So, I was born in London and left when I was about five to Uganda where I spent most of my childhood. I miss it so much, I miss the sun, as most know, the UK doesn’t do much for heavily melanated individuals needing large doses of Vitamin D.

Anyways, after about seven years, I moved to Ethiopia where I spent my teenage years until graduation and came back to the UK four years ago for university. I feel that when you move around a lot, it’s difficult to call one place home, and much less, feel at home. However, at this point in my life, Uganda is where I resonate with the most; it’s where my stomach and soul feel satisfied.

Q: what inspired you to start your journey as an artist? why music?

That’s a funny one actually, because I often forget how this journey started . The earliest point I recall is when I was in school in Uganda. My mum got me piano lessons which I quit later on (I regret this now), and during this time I also became part of musical productions that the National Theatre in Kampala held. I really loved singing and performing and always found myself in choirs of some sort. From that point it developed to performing covers in assembly with the school band in secondary, and now, I can call myself an artist.

Hmm….why music? The short answer is, it is quite frankly the best therapy for me. As soon as I picked up the guitar and started composing and song-writing, I realised that whenever something was going on in my life or if I was feeling something intensely, it was the best outlet. Music is how I communicate how I am feeling and how I try and relate with people. It makes me feel less powerless.

Q: dear love is your first album; what’s the story behind this PIECE OF WORK?

Well, I’ve always wanted to be able to write an album- I didn’t really know when, or how this would happen, but it was a hope of mine. The journey of the pandemic as well as the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Oluwatoyin Salau gave life to my EP; the general anxieties of the pandemic gave life to my music.

Each song has its own identity but the album is a collection of experiences and feelings that the intensity of the pandemic brought with it.  Louder, More Than A Colour and Open Your Eyes are inspired by the plight and mobilisation of Black peoples globally. They express that we are more than the systems that oppress us. They are songs of hope.

Just Me and Stop The Time are inspired by symptoms of the pandemic. They depict the feelings of time running out, missing human contact and furthermore, feeling isolated and needing distance from human contact and the noise of the world.

Milky Way, is the most upbeat of the songs- it expresses fantasy and wanting to keep your head in the clouds rather than down on earth with the pandemic.

The last song Dear Love, was inspired by a friend that reminded me of how unloved we can feel; it was a letter to myself and everyone else reminding them that we are worthy of that love and that it can be found.

Q: WHat would you say is your favourite song on the album?

Louder is by far my favourite, and in my opinion is the most emotional. I wrote it after I heard about the death of Oluwatoyin Salau and Belly Mujinga. Hearing about the suffering of these Black women really broke me. Throughout the song, you hear “as a Black person you have to work harder than anyone else, but as a Black woman, you have to work twice as hard”; this quote is something I remember my mum telling me when I was young, and I never fully understood until I came to university. I made sure to ask a couple of Black women in my life to send me recordings of this because I wanted to echo reality but also to empower and show how powerful we are.

“Music is how I communicate how I am feeling and how I try and relate with people. It makes me feel less powerless.”

Malaika kamure

Q: You worked with a number of other individuals/artists on producing YOUR EP; how did you find it?

I really want to acknowledge Fernando Sarrias Lopez and his amazing composition and production skills on this album. I think it’s one thing to want to work on a project, but it’s another thing to be able to carry it out and be happy and passionate about the finished product, so with that in mind, I have Fernando to thank for that. He was a constant encouragement and allowed me to feel confident and make my EP sound as amazing as it does.

Q: tell us about your creative process. how do you deal with writer’s block?

I tap into strong emotions to motivate my music but sometimes that’s not enough. In those times, I write keywords or phrases in my notes (app) on my phone and eventually that turns into a poem or a song. I think being patient with myself is really hard but key to my process. When I give myself time, it allows songs to form organically.

Q: who or what would you say are your inspirations?

My inspirations are my feelings, experiences and the people around me.

Q: any advice for anyone looking to get into music?

I feel like we are often looking at social media and feeling so small because so many people are doing their thing, they are out there and proud and it can make us feel like we will never measure up. The point isn’t to measure up, but to do you. This is something I am trying to live up to, and to be honest, it is so hard but I think thinking about the reasons you started, allows you to continue. Your art is for you, from you and that’s what makes it special.