Magazine AM:PM
Interviews Malaka. Malaka. Photo: Plethoric Study.

Malaka: "What I like is extravagance"

Several years separate Malaka from the girl who played in El Callejón, from the Miramar cast. She was first an actress, then a member of the musical group I Love, until her life changed when the Italian company Di Benedetto Production added her to its catalog. Today she is a woman who has strongly started her path through the urban music scene in Cuba.

A scene where she begins to gain visibility, despite being an environment dominated by men that increasingly needs the feminine to tell other stories. Malaka, for example, is an artist who sings about sex without prejudice or taboos. His musical discourse is a replay with contemporary codes of Cuban, Latin and North American urban music.

On Twitter you define yourself as a Cuban rap and reggaeton singer. How do these genres come together in your music?

Rap and reggaeton are genres that I am trying to merge in my life. I love both and enjoy making them. I am consuming enough freestyle Although I don't feel ready right now to do it, but I like it. That text on Twitter expresses my desire to take both things hand in hand, because they can be merged a lot and that is the process in which I find myself in this musical stage.

In the same Twitter description, you put four songs as credentials of what your music is: curious, Boot, rakatata and omelette. How do these themes identify Malaka?

They really are the ones that have given me the most visibility and that is why they are there. One of my favorite topics —Poison- I didn't put it on the list, but really those four are the most notable.

curious It is one of my most downloaded songs. The video is pretty kitsch. Boot it is a collaboration with my friend, A-Wing and Belisa; one of the few collaborations between women in urban music in Cuba. We fill Twitter with videos of girls dancing twerking.

omelette it is epic and controversial for what it says. Finally, rakatata it's a freestyle, your text is my personal speech and the public received it very well. That was something that surprised me, because it is a song that does not have choirs. I never thought that people would learn the text. For me it was very exciting to see girls singing fragments of the song and uploading them to their stories.

I remember that I saw a comment from a follower of yours who thought it was right that you released the trailer for omelette just the International Day Against Homophobia. How did it come about and what impact did and does this song have?

I spoke with my grandmother and part of my family to tell them that I was going to launch the song. It is true that there are already more freedoms, but prejudices still exist. The song grew out of my own personal experiences. I wanted to do it, above all, because I had always heard about this topic in urban music but from the perspective of a man. Another reason why I did omelette is that most of my friends, not to mention all, have had an experience with another girl. I even know that it has happened to many people or at least they are curious and do not say so.

Apparently it's a song to dance to, but in part I want as an artist to give my audience more freedom with this song; although neither is it to sit down and make a philosophical reflection.

I liked that even older people—who tend to be more conservative—didn't speak out against it. my followers did challenges with the song, some girls even participated by kissing each other. It is currently my most viewed video on YouTube, with tons of comments. I have received such beautiful messages of thanks, that for me this theme becomes one of my greatest prides for having thought of it and sung it.

Tell us a little about your beginnings in music. How did you start as a professional?

I had always loved writing and I had a hobby secret: learn the raps of Eminem or Nicky Minaj. Since I was a child I really enjoyed singing, I was in several choirs. I even sang in the choir of the Catholic church, where I was one of the soloists, because by decision of my family I did catechism and first communion.

Then I disassociated myself from music, until I started doing musical theater, at Mefisto Teatro, when I was approximately 17 years old. There are many genres that are performed in that company: jazz, blues... I played various characters, but the most important was Velma Kelly from the musical Chicago, a complicated experience. I also worked on works like Eggs, death in the woods, Strawberry and Chocolate…usually with very good characters.

In acting I have also been able to work alongside Osvaldo Doimeadiós. We share scenes in the soap opera Delivery, in the series fight against bandits. In my development as an actress I have been influenced by artists such as Hedy Villegas —who is the director of my theater group— and Ray Cruz, with whom I will do a play that I wrote and he directs. I can also talk about Alberto Luberta, thanks to him I have done very important work on television; Just like Roland Chiong.

In the same theater company, together with two actors, I decided to start making my own music and experiment. One of them had a study in his house; that's where we started composing and how the I Love project came about. We sing pop house, electronica, R&B. we did it in spanglish. That's how I started professionally in music. We sang in many places, we went to television, we were nominated several times for the Lucas, we even won an award with the song Dog From Hell. I gained a lot of experience.

Just over a year ago I released my first single as a soloist, hot. That's how I started my solo career.

Is it at that moment that you decide to call yourself Malaka? How and why did you choose that name?

When I decided to start my solo career, I met Dayana, a music producer. She told me that I had to find a stage name that would attract attention. I had some thoughts, and one night she writes to me and says: What do you think of the name Malaka? I told him to let me think about it and investigate. Although I had several options, I suddenly connected with the name for a personal matter that I have never declared, nor do I intend to. The fact is that I decided it would be Malaka.

My real name is Jennifer, there are even two: Jennifer Heidy. When the actor Osvaldo Doimeadiós discovered that, he gave me a lot of fun. But no one calls me that, for everyone I am Malaka, Malakosa, La Malaka; some call me Mala and my favorite: Mali.

An idea that is repeated in this interview is that of your presence on social networks. How do you handle them? What importance do you give to the content you share in them?

When I started as Malaka one of the things I wanted was to take social media seriously because I know how important it is. I did a lot of research, talked to several community managers and they all instructed me; but I "melted" because I can't handle those things that are so planned. I decided, then, to wear the nets as I feel them.

upload content and stories when I think it's right. I want to flow with it. All my followers know that I am a singer, they listen to my music, but they also know that they are going to find videos of me doing anything silly on my networks, being who I am and speaking naturally.

Sometimes I can go out very pretty and others on fire because I'm just like that at home. I haven't outlined a strategy or anything, and at this point I can say that this decision has worked for me a lot. I have also saved myself the laziness of planning what I am going to upload or not.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed because they [his followers] are adapted to answering and every day you don't feel the same. Sometimes I'm busy and I don't have the time, but whenever I can I try, and when I can't, I let you know.

In social networks it is common to find people who combine being influencer with your profession. Do the two roles coexist in you: influencer and singer?

It has happened to me that several girls have shared in their stories that I am your influencer favourite. I'm afraid that they consider me influencer, because sometimes my content is well sexualized. Although in the end it is not a bad thing either.

I think I'm considered influencer because I am very motivational with my followers, or because challenges of my songs become fashionable, or things like that. In a general sense, I advocate that people pursue their goals. I don't understand how that happened, I suppose that my conversations with them are taken seriously and that causes me to exert some influence over people.

How important is fashion in your artistic career?

I have my own fashion. In our country it is very difficult as an artist to be able to dress exactly as you would like; but I have been lucky that every time I make a video clip I have a designer who has done very nice things for me, related to my style and personality.

The image is important, but not in the sense that it generally has in urban music, which is reflected in profit. What I like is the extravagance. Right now I have blonde hair and some dreadlocks very long, so I'm quite extravagant. For me fashion is vital. That does not imply that in other types of work that perhaps have a different sensibility, fashion takes a back seat. It has happened to me and I have done so.


Malaka. Photo: Plethoric Study.

What does it feel like to be a reggaeton woman in the urban music scene in Cuba?

It is quite complicated because all the time you are surrounded by men and their criteria. In fact, the other day I was talking to some of my colleagues who are rappers and they listened to some songs and they liked it a lot, but at the same time they said that if it were them they might do it differently. So I came to a conclusion and told them: “in the end my music is mainly aimed at women and, what do you know what a woman wants to hear in urban music said by another woman?”.

On the other hand, men like to flirt (well, women too), but you have to set certain limits so that everything is under the greatest professionalism. It also happens that most of the references we have are men. That is why you have to reinvent yourself.

What you say about “what does he know about what a woman wants to hear said by another woman in urban music?” catches my attention. How do you project that in your career?

It's a conclusion I came to a short time ago. Generally, in reggaeton there are very few female singers — now there are more, but few are really known. So what reference do we have? Well, the men themselves. What do the men sing? There is always a bit of "malianteo", and other things but from his perspective.

I think many female singers have made the mistake of imitating them or, at the other extreme, singing a more demure or romantic reggaeton because women are supposed to sing that way. So, especially in my latest works that I'm about to release, I think a lot about what a woman wants to hear from me. For example, when making bars in rap, I try to incorporate the female perspective, which is not often.

In social networks I am very open, I talk a lot with my followers. I call them “malakosas”, and I know that, in general, they follow me a lot because of my personality, the way I address myself and the things I communicate. So I've tried to incorporate that into my music. Some of the songs that I'm doing are a bit grotesque, but at the end of that we talk between women. I only have one speaker.

I don't think that men understand those codes, some do because they have their sensitivity and a developed feminine side; but, in a general sense, it is very difficult for them to understand these types of codes and concerns.

So, do you think that your musical discourse defends and empowers women?

I think so, although I don't do it in a totally conscious way either. I consider myself an empowered woman because I work and earn my salary, and I try to support myself regardless of the fact that my family helps me; and not because I show my body on social networks, although that may have an influence.

I think we are in a difficult moment in which it is confused what it is to be an empowered woman and, in fact, a lot of the music that I am doing now is a little criticizing that. You have to be clear, because you cannot want to be an empowered woman and continue depending on a man to pay your bills or your outings. I do have a very clear opinion on that.

the story of my song Poison It is one of those in which we normally see a man as the protagonist, with the typical action of inadvertently hurting other people emotionally. Telling that, in another way, empowers women.

In the same rakatata -a freestyle who has a lot of feminine strength—I say: “I cry for life and you cry for your fucking nail". With that I point out that not everything in women can be paying attention to being beautiful when dressing, there has to be more in the very fact of being a woman. You have to be aware, consistent, have your own convictions and be an active part of society.

Right now I'm making a record, I feel very proud of the things I do. I am in love with this process. I'll get several first singles that I already have ready, precisely because I want to focus on everything I want to say in this phonogram. There if the empowerment is going to be quite noticeable, in fact the intro it's about that. I think almost all my songs can make women feel empowered.

Malaka. Photo: Plethoric Study.

Malaka. Photo: Plethoric Study.

what artists are your referents in urban music?

I wouldn't call them referents, because I simply like what they do and I consume their music, but well… I have a weakness for Post Malone's musical work, and I love Bad Bunny's self-confidence and personality.

Since I was a child I have been influenced by pop artists like Madonna or Lady Gaga, they have been transgressive and that is one of my goals. It's a difficult thing to do, but it doesn't keep me up at night because I'm enjoying my process and, besides, I have a lot to learn.

I like C. Tangana, lately I don't like him very much but I admit that his music has influenced me a bit.

Which artist do you dream of doing a featuring? Why?

I want a featuring with any of the three that I mentioned to you, I would pass out. With Post Malone it could be coolI enjoy singing in English. The collaboration with Bad Bunny or C. Tangana would be very fun.

Well, nobody knows, maybe in a while I'll send you an audio saying that I'm going to do a featuring with those people [laughs].

Surely yes. I'll be waiting for that audio.

Lalau Yllarramendiz Alfonso Musicologist and specialist in topics such as Cuban reggaeton. Graduated from the University of the Arts (Isa). Member of the Latin American Branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music and of MyGLA Musics and gender. Latin American Studies Group. New technologies are the home of their research projects. More posts

Leave a comment

View published comments
  1. Malaka says:

    Thank you so much for such a nice interview ❤️😍😍!

  2. Judit Díaz Henquén says:

    This interview is very honest. I witnessed that beginning of Malaka; I remember one day when he shared a fragment of something he was preparing in a group of WhatsApp friends and it seemed like a hit, I liked the “raw” theme much more than what was left over afterwards. I think that I already had everything like that, now I know that this song is called Veneno. I wish you success.

View published comments

We also suggest