We talk to the rising Kenyan artist about her new single "Foundry," finding love and her upcoming album.
Maya Amolo feels more confident than ever. With her debut album around the corner and having recently been named Spotify's Fresh Finds Africa inaugural artist, the 23-year-old Kenyan singer-songwriter has a lot to feel hopeful about.
“My brand was very much being a sad girl,” she shares, referring to her last project Leave Me At The Pregame. “I thought I was so edgy but I was comfortable with that being my brand. But once I willed myself out of that mindset, I realized that my music is way more wholesome. I make happy music and I enjoy singing about love.”
Following the success of her last single "Can’t Get Enough," Maya’s latest offering "Foundry" exemplifies her growth as an artist in full mastery of her emotions. To make the smooth-jam anthem, Maya collaborated with Kenyan producers Lukxrito and DJ IV along with upcoming Ugandan artist kalibwani who features on the track. With smoldering lyrics like “let me in the shadows of your mind tonight” and “killing me softly but it’s not a crime,” Maya’s honeyed vocals showcase the enchanting qualities of romantic love that sound sweet without feeling overly sugared.
Our conversation with Maya offers a glimpse at what’s inspired this new season of tenderness as we look forward to a project that’s posed to shape the sound Kenyan R&B for years to come.
Maya and kalibwani.
Photo courtesy of Maya Amolo.
How would you describe your sound?
My core sound is R&B but I try to play with a lot of genres like Alternative R&B, Afropop and Afro R&B. I basically make music for the pretty girls and bad bitches of the world.
How did you get into making music?
My family is super musical and singing came so naturally to me. It has always brought joy to my life and made the people around me feel happy. In high school, everyone wanted to be a “Soundcloud rapper.” It became a regular thing to record something in your bedroom with your earphones over free YouTube beats so I started doing the same.
The support I received from my small Soundcloud community is what broke the barrier from music being a hobby to me seriously considering it as a career. To this day, I’ll sing songs like You Wanna at gigs and people will sing the lyrics back at me which is super fulfilling. And then my first single and EP came out in 2020 and fast forward two years later, here we are, releasing my new single "Foundry" from my debut album.
What has inspired where you are mentally?
I was not in a good place when I recorded my last project Leave Me At The Pregame. So the “Pregame” is symbolic of a bubble that I’ve transformed into my safe space. It’s a place for me to share my thoughts with whoever is in the room to talk and cry with me, as I shy away from the “outside world.”
The music I’m making now is inspired by much happier thoughts. The first thing I did was graduate college, which is when I moved back to Nairobi. I met an amazing group of people in this city who I formed a community with and spent six months in a studio just making music. That’s where I met artists like kalibwani and my producer Lukxrito who produced this song. I’m also in a relationship now and I love how it feels. In this new era, we’re in the party, we’re in the festival, we’re in the club, we’re just out, period. I would not mind going to the pregame temporarily for a drink, but ultimately, I’m in a much better place.
What does "Foundry" mean?
My producer Lukxrito does this thing where he’ll pick random lyrics apart to create song titles. For this particular song, Lukxrito was really inspired by the lyrics “I will find you” so he settled on the word "Foundry." The direct translation of the word foundry is a place where you melt and cast metals and that coincidentally serves as an allegory for the song. Whenever I have a crush, my knee-jerk reaction is to reject those feelings and the beginning of the song reflects that because I talk about being resistant to infatuation. However as the song progresses, I say that “the corners of my mouth keep breaking into smiles” to visualise this hard metal exterior I’ve been wearing like a mask is melting away to reveal something beautiful. It goes to show that you can’t put up a front when it comes to love and you have to be honest with your emotions.
Visuals are an important part of your creative process. What can we expect from the "Foundry" music video?
All I have to say is it's directed by Mumbi Muturi once again so expectations are already very high. One of the lines of my last single "Can’t Get Enough" that’s defining my whole project is “the colours go HD when you come by,” so I want to reflect that with lots of colour to capture the intensity of emotion.
How are you feeling about this year and whatever’s left of it?
Because of 2020 and 2021 I did not have any expectations for this year at all. But it’s been going well, I released my first single, I was featured on the Burukulyn Boyz album, I was the Fresh Finds Inaugural artist and I just released "Foundry" so I feel pretty good. I used to think that a “good year” was defined by no obstacles or low points but now, if I have a significant amount of happy moments then I can confidently say that I’m having a good year. So here’s to love, and happiness.
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