The African Leadership Academy (ALA) student body consists of multi-talented future leaders who come together to exchange ideas and creativity through various cultural and arts events regularly taking place on campus. The story of Malkia The Band’s formation is no different. Made up of ALA graduates Chemutai Ruto ’18 and Gayle Were’18 from Kenya, and Osaruwa Nwokah ‘18 from Nigeria. The band was formed in 2018 at ALA and sings mainly Afrobeat and RnB, mostly covering songs by black female artists who inspire them.
Recently, the group performed at the United Nations (UN) Women’s International Youth Day 2020 event. The theme, “Youth Engagement for Global Action”, highlighted all the ways that young people are enriching institutions, contributing solutions and shaping decisions in their communities, countries and globally.
The virtual event was hosted by current Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi and featured a notable list of global leaders, including UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and African Union Envoy on Youth, Aya Chebbi.
The evening included video messages from youth from across the globe pledging their commitment to efforts aimed at realizing a more equal society. The event showcased various artistic performances including a powerful poem recited The 25 May Movement, a Pan-African arts project founded by Tanatsei Gambura ’17. In the closing moments of the event, enter Malkia The Band with a soulful acapella medley.
We caught up with the group to get to know more about their journey, their UN Women event experience and future plans.
What does “Malkia” mean?
“Malkia” is a Kiswahili word directly translated to “Queen” in English.
How was the band formed?
Shortly after starting our ALA journey in September 2018, we were individual singers who came together to audition for performing at the 2018 Anzisha Prize Gala. After being selected and preparing for a few weeks, we delivered our own rendition of Yemi Alade’s “Africa” featuring Sauti Sol, which was our first stage performance together.
How did you fit music in between ALA’s rigorous academic schedule?
We had to decide times to meet during the week that were consistent and that gave us enough time to perfect any post or event that we were preparing for. What we found to be most important was making sure that we spent time together outside of singing, which strengthened our bond and allowed us to enjoy singing together even more. With that solidified, the hard work felt less like a burden, but more of a priority and part of a goal we were, and still are, all working towards.
How has ALA supported the band?
The ALA students, teachers, and community at large have been our biggest supporters. They have been there for us since we first started and have continued to show so much support with every recognition, event, and even video that we post. On top of that, the Anzisha team gave us a platform to be two-time performers in front of many C-level executives. We have been commended by many individuals in the ALA community including Mr. Chris Bradford, who has helped us by sharing our music and social media to those we otherwise would not have access to.
How was the experience of participating in the UN Women event?
Participating in the International Youth Day celebration felt surreal from the first meeting, seeing names like Zozibini Tunzi, Vanessa Nakate and many more added to that feeling. Furthermore, the sound technicians were Grammy winning producers, I mean, come on! This opportunity has been among a recent influx of opportunities that has affirmed why Malkia The Band should stay together.
What do you hope your band’s music will achieve and how does it unite people, particularly Africans?
Considering we are from different countries, we would love to fuse music from East Africa and West Africa, all while incorporating influence from R&B and NeoSoul. Music is a universal language and what better way to unite different regions than by fusing a multitude of familiar sounds. We would also like to be a voice for young female creatives on the continent, seeing as we are passionate about radical progressive change on the continent in our sectors of interest.
What are your hopes for your music career and Africa’s future?
Our hopes for our music career are endless but we are living in the present and focusing on how we can create good quality content for our audience even though we are not physically together anymore. This act will be the first step towards Malkia’s defined musical journey. Operating to the continent’s future, we would like to see more support for the creative industry by governments as well as Africans supporting their local talents and not waiting for them to be recognised by the West to see them as worthy.
Follow the ladies on Instagram @malkiatheband to keep up with their journey.