Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: tor, jan 15th, 2015

Aicha Makeba is on a journey to make her dreams come true

Aicha Makeba is a Portuguese Mauritanian singer-songwriter aspiring to make her way into the Egyptian music scene. Cairo is, according to Aicha, an exceptional city to be in as an artist since Egyptian people possess a great musical talent and a willingness to share their musical expressions.

Music has always been as important as the air that Aicha breathes and she adores playing her music live; she cannot imagine life without it and today she is ready to take her career to the next level.

– Not long ago, I was in Paris where I recorded a single with African reggae and jazz musicians. One of the men involved is one of the most famous rappers in Senegal, Aicha says.

Ever since she was very young Aicha has had the desire to perform in front of a live audience, but it wasn’t until quite recently that she realized that she actually could dedicate her life to music.

– I started to play the violin when I was seven years old and the piano when I was ten. I attended music school where I sang and played classical music, but I didn’t enjoy it. I found it very limiting to be obliged to play a certain and very limited repertoire. That’s no fun when you’re a kid.

Aicha Makeba. Photographer: Arturs Jasinskis

Aicha Makeba: ” I believe that a musician is a natural healer through music, with the power to connect people with one another as well with themselves.” Photographer: Arturs Jasinskis

24-year old Aicha was born in Mali and moved to Portugal at the age of three. Her mother is Portuguese and her father is Mauritanian, and he used to bring Aicha with him to his homeland every other summer when she was a child.

– I really enjoyed it, because as a multiracial person I was very eager to know more about my African roots. I found through music a great way to know more about my father’s culture as many members of his family are musicians. Music connected us.

A life changing moment

When the singer relocated to Cairo in 2013 with the intention to improve her Arabic quickly, she discovered that the city has a thriving musical and cultural scene, a realm which she wanted to merge into.

Aicha received a guitar as a birthday present a few months after her arrival. She didn’t yet know how to play, but with her great musical ear it didn’t take her long to master her instrument, and she immediately started composing her own music.

Something life changing happened the following year when she received an invitation to play at an Egyptian music festival. The positive response Aicha received from her audience not only encouraged her, but made her truly believe it’s possible for her to pursue her passion – a career as a singer and guitarist.

– There were mostly musicians in the audience and when they later told me that my voice could take me anywhere, it felt so good to hear and it changed something inside of me.

Aicha says that Egypt is a country of great historical significance and a crossroad between three continents which makes it a great place to encounter many different cultures and music genres. Egyptian people are very musical and eager to learn more about other cultural expressions according to Aicha. She believes that she is in the perfect environment to mature as an artist.

Aicha Makeba. Photographer: Arturs Jasinskis

Aicha Makeba: ” I find my inspiration when I’m alone. During jam sessions I discover more about my music because I realize the difference between my own music and other peoples. ” Photographer: Arturs Jasinskis

– My favorite thing about Cairo is that I am able to play live music regularly with many amazing artists of different musical backgrounds. This year I want to record my original songs, deliver them to the public, and play more live music.

Freedom, spirituality and music

Aicha has an exquisitely eclectic taste in music, perhaps thanks to her father who also has a great interest in music and has been taking her to concerts regularly ever since she was a baby, exposing her to many different genres.

She describes her own music as a mixture of indie rock, folk-, reggae- and world music. Most of her favorite artists use their music as a tool for conveying a political message, like Fela Kuti; a late Nigerian singer and human rights activist.

What is the most important quality for an artist to have?

– To be passionate, hardworking and persistent. I think it’s important to be aware of social issues and the human condition. I believe that a musician is a natural healer through music, with the power to connect people with one another as well with themselves. I mostly sing about my emotional state and how I perceive love, beauty, freedom and art. Through realizing the amazing beauty that exists in diversity we can find real freedom, and through art you give people the chance to experience how you see the world.

What kind of people are drawn into arts, in your opinion?

– Sensitive and curious people who want to explore different ways of expression and communication.

Aicha, who is a Muslim, explains that her music connects her with her spirituality.

– I have a very open relationship with Islam. I stopped praying when I was 19 years old and started to separate the religious practice from the actual belief. I realized that praying doesn’t have to be related to spirituality. I experience my own inner life through my music, through meditating and through other people.

The greatest challenge she is facing when it comes to her career in music is to make money. So to make ends meet, Aicha works as a freelance translator and language teacher. She loves languages and says that she would probably devote her life to teaching if she didn’t have music. Besides her native tongue, Portuguese, she is also fluent in English, Spanish and French. She speaks Arabic fairly well and has also studied Hebrew, Farsi and Amharic.

Aicha Makeba. Photographer: Arturs Jasinskis

Aicha Makeba: ” I believe that if you really want to do something you should do it with all of your heart and don’t let other people tell you what to do.” Photographer: Arturs Jasinskis

Do you prefer to play music alone or with other musicians?

– I find my inspiration when I’m alone. During jam sessions I discover more about my music because I realize the difference between my own music and other peoples. By working with others I learn more about myself.

A desire to explore

Aicha will stay in Egypt ”for a while” but she doesn’t see herself living there forever. She says that the world is a big place and that she wants to travel more. She hopes to learn from other musical influences from around the world and continue to meet new and interesting artists. Her long term goal is to be able to support herself on her music, and to have published a poetry anthology.

– There are no universal truths and therefore you should try to find your own path in your own way. It’s difficult to pursue ones’ dreams and many people only offer discouragement. I believe that if you really want to do something you should do it with all of your heart and don’t let other people tell you what to do. There is no recipe for life. People have to find their own happiness.

 

 

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