Sounds x Interview: Maka // CTRL+M

Maka is one of the faces of contemporary jazz-soul music in Nigeria. The Lagos-based singer is known for her smooth vocals and versatility. Her latest project, CTRL+M, was released in October last year. This is Maka’s second EP after Truth, which was released in 2016. Unlike Truth, CTRL+M is mainly an acoustic project and was inspired by Sza’s Ctrl.

CTRL+M shows off Maka’s great voice and her skill as a songwriter. She breathes life into Sza’s tunes and redefines them. The songs on the EP talk about different subjects like love, heartbreak, and expectations. There is a certain intimacy and expressiveness in Maka’s music, and it shines through in CTRL+M. We recently had a chat with Maka to talk about her music.

I read somewhere that your early experience in music was singing with your mom in the choir. Can you tell me more about what that was like?

I come from a very musical family, and I would like to think that my voice is one of the many good things I inherited from my mama. She put my brothers and me in the choir when we were very little, so the training started really early.

At what point in law school did you decide that music is the thing you want to do? What inspired the move?

I had decided to do music as an undergraduate, but it wasn’t until after I had started working that I made the decision to focus solely on music. That’s when I left practicing law.

Was it difficult to establish yourself in the market? It seems like you hit the ground running with solo concerts for your first EP. That’s impressive!

The music industry isn’t easy at all. It was hard to find my place. I realized that my strength was performing, so I started doing a lotta those. Performing really helped me own my spot.

Briefly tell me about your two EPs; Truth and CTRL+M.

You are right. I have two EPs. The Truth EP was a little out of the blue. Teckzilla played a few beats for me which I loved, and I decided we should make it into a compilation project. With CTRL+M, it was inspired by Sza’s Ctrl. I wanted it to be my own way, so I looked for acoustic versions of her instrumentals, and I wrote and recorded the project.

Do you write all your songs? What is your music making process, from the idea to the finished track?

I write all my songs, for now at least. I don’t have a set process to the music making. Sometimes, I go to my keyboard as early as 6 AM, and I write, or producers send me beats, I let ’em speak to me, and then I write. A few times, I’d be on the street, and an idea pops into my head. I’d bring out my phone and record a voice note right there.

Tell me a bit about your musical influences.

I have a variety of influences. Most of them are old jazz singers, from Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday, to newer singers like Erykah Badu, Cecile Mclorin Salvant, and a little hip-hop from several rappers. I listen to a lotta classical pieces too.

What inspires your work?

Honestly, life in general.

I see you use your real name as your stage name. How important is it to you to maintain originality in your music and your public image?

Originality is everything to me. I no longer live two lives. Maka, the person, and Maka, the singer, are one person.

Was it difficult to find a band that can interpret your ideas and you sync with well?

Nope, not hard at all. I have my own band, and we work amazingly well together. The band is called One Band Like That (OBLT). They play my concert series, Maka: After Dark (M:ad) and they kill it every time. You should see how we carry everyone along. It is awesome to watch and experience. For real.

Do you have any projects in the pipeline for this year?

God willing, I want to put out my debut album this year. I have started the recording process. So, let’s see how that goes. Wish me luck.

Check out Maka’s CTRL+M below.