Maka: A Woman Without Definition
Maka is a musician, unlike any other. A soul/jazz singer who raps and also has a background in law Maka looks everything like you’d expect someone of her background to look like: like no one else. She steps into The Alley in an ankara top, a beaded African patterned choker and black cycling shorts to match her black lipstick. When I ask her about her unique fashion sense, she laughs (something she does a lot) and says she was built to perform.
The restaurant she asks we meet at, The Alley, is almost impossible to find. A hole in the wall in Lekki Phase I it has no signs, nothing but a gate that opens up into a cosy bar right by the water. Maka admits she knows several of these hidden nooks all over Lagos and they are her favorite haunts. “I’m a performer but I’m also a loner.”
But when I ask if performing is tiring she brightens up. “No, I love performing I’ve been doing since I was six years old in church choir.”
Maka is a woman full of contradictions. She started performing from an early age and has been in the music industry since she was sixteen but her career didn’t take off until 2015. Starring in Felabration last year and Amazon this year, she’s also performed at concerts with artists like Bez and Simi. Her first solo concert in Abuja and Lagos sold out. She’s not just a gifted performer but also a gifted writer-she wrote the soundtrack for season one of Ebonylife TV’s web series Indigo. A rising star in the soul, jazz and rap industry, The Guardian Life takes a deeper look at the woman who refuses to be classified into a genre.
How did it feel to find out you’d sold out your solo concert?
It wasn’t even a free concert! It blew my mind that everyone bought tickets! I had N3000 and N5000 tickets, and they all sold out! I’m very grateful to God. I used to be more of a glass half-empty person, but I’m learning and I’ve put myself around a lot of positive thinking people so now I’m more of a glass half-full person! I see everything I do as a step of faith now. If it works out good, if it doesn’t work out it’s a learning curve. When that show was a success I was totally blown away.
Who do you stan right now?
Asa, Adekunle Gold and Simi. I love what they’re doing, I love their tenacity.
What’ve been your highest and lowest moments in the industry so far?
My highest moment was when I was interviewed by the New Yorker, my lowest have been the broke periods. I have a lot of things I want to execute and seems like sometimes there’s no funds to do what I want to do at the capacity that I want them done.
You laugh a lot.
I laugh a lot! I like to laugh, I make people laugh. It’s mostly Instagram that makes me laugh. My brother likes to laugh too. He recently tweeted something that got 5000 retweets. Someone met me the other day and was like So-and-so is your brother? Oh My God I love his tweets. It’s usually Oh so you’re Maka’s brother? The tables are turning!
What kind of child were you growing up?
I was very mischievous. I have two siblings but I grew up in a house with a lot of kids. My Mom couldn’t have children of her own for 15 years, so she raised a lot of other people’s children. She tried various ways to get pregnant, she was one of the first women in Nigeria to get IVF, sadly it didn’t work but me and my brother still came along later. My brother’s birth was actually in the newspapers! So me, my brother and all the other kids all lived together growing up. It was a very fun childhood. It was mostly boys and I learned a lot of mischief from the older boys in the house. I was very naughty. I still see myself as a kid at heart.
How do you deal with pain?
I like to be alone, I go to my favorite secret spots and drink. I’m a very emotional drinker. A lot of times when I’m mad I think Oh I just want to drive somewhere quiet and drink. But I can’t keep going to alcohol when I’m upset. I watch Netflix, cry and I throw my emotions into my music.
Your music is such an eclectic blend of different genres, what do you think influenced that?
My Mom introduced us to a lot of music from the 50s and 80s. We used to listen to Frank Sinatra, Simon and Garfunkel, ABBA, a lot of stuff like that. I discovered music on my own as I grew up, Erykah Badu, hardcore rap. They all made me who I am today. It’s written in print that I’m soul, jazz and reggae but to be honest I’m none of those. The songs in my head, what I’m writing and recording can’t be strictly classified under one genre. It’s not really about genre for me but I have a soulful voice, if you give me an EDM beat I’ll probably still drop some soul on it. I’m a soulful singer.
With R. Kelly’s recent scandal there’s been a debate around art vs artist. Is there a separation between art and artist for you?
No. They’re one and the same. Most of the songs I’ve written have been my experiences or things that people have told me. Anyone who listens to my music is reading my diary. But I’ve loved R Kelly for a long time, more than half of my life, so it’s hard to let go of. As a songwriter and musician I relate to him on a different level, his composing is out of this world. I don’t know if I’m part of the people who want to stop listening to him. I don’t condone the accusations or the acts but the music for me is different.
What’s a bad habit you’re trying to break?
I’m trying to take better care of myself. I’m trying to let go of drinking soda and junk food so I can live longer for you guys and keep making music. I also have a habit of messing with scars on my body, since I was a kid. My mom was always saying it, Maka leave your injuries alone but I didn’t listen. Now I’m covered in scars. It bothers me. I still have guys that are like oh but scars are sexy, puh-lease I’d rather not have them thank you.
What’s the future like for you?
I worry a lot. Am I going to have kids? Am I going to find love? Where is my music going to take me? Am I going to keep singing forever even though I really want to keep singing forever? My Mom is a single parent, my Dad died when I was six so I worry if she’s going to live to see my grow to my peak? I worry a lot about things I have no control over. I’m a Christian and my Bible says I shouldn’t worry, but I do.
What’s the difference between living and existing?
Living is facing all life has to offer. You’re falling, getting up, getting your heart broken, making mistakes, learning, moving forward. Existing is moving in a straught line, doing nothing special or out of the ordinary, refusing to take risks. I’m in my 20s and I see this as my learning time. I’m trying to live as best as I can!