Maleh – getting the foundations right
09 April 2015
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Welcome to Old Mutual Live Radio, my name is Aphiwe Manono and, as usual, we bring you some of South Africa’s most, brightest, and shining stars. Today we bring you Lesotho born but South African based songstress Maleh. Whose real name is Malehloka Hlalele. Whose debut album, ‘Step Chid’ won a 2013 South African Music Award in the best adult album category. Maleh, thank you so much for joining us and welcome to Old Mutual Radio.
Malehloka Hlalele: Thank you so much, Aphiwe, for having me. I’m very excited to be talking with you right now.
AU: Maleh, let’s start from the beginning. I want to know who Malehloka is. When you grew up in Lesotho what kind of family, does she come from? Who is Maleh, the little girl?
Who is Maleh
MH: Yes, I was born in Maseru, Lesotho. I’m the second of three sisters. A very loving home, I think. I was raised to respect other people, by very humble people, so I think I could say I had a very, good upbringing. Maseru is one of those places where everybody kind of knows everybody, so it’s a very close-knit community. People are always willing to help and they are always very interested in what’s happening around you, so yeah, I think I had a great upbringing.
AU: Yes, so Maleh, you say you are the second of three girls. Parents or, actually fathers tend to be very protective of their little girls. How did you manage to break away from the nest and find yourself in South Africa and what year was this, how old were you?
South Africa has always been my second home
MH: Yes, definitely my dad is definitely one of those very strict fathers, and very protective over his daughters. We’ve been in Lesotho but we’ve also been in South Africa. We’ve been travelling a lot. My mother worked in Ladybrand, she worked in Bloemfontein, and so South Africa has also been a second home for me.
I moved away from home when I was coming to study in Johannesburg, and I know my parents were quite concerned that, you know, me being a young teenager moving up to the big city would be a challenge for me. But I think they’ve always tried to instil the right kind of values in us. They definitely gave me the level of trust that I would need to spread my wings a little bit. So that was when I was 18, and coming to study film production in Johannesburg.
AU: It’s funny you should say that. I was speaking to Ayanda Jiya earlier and she mentioned that she studied graphic design, so I said to her how do you jump from graphic design to music? Same thing, same question to you, Maleh. How do the two even meet?
My film degree has really helped me
MH: You know, to be honest with you, making my decision to study film production I think I was still really wanting to discover other sides of me, as a creative person. I’ve always known that I love to sing and I love music but I wanted to expand myself creatively, as an artist. For me the intention was to kind of go into the visual aspect of music. I wanted to be a music video director.
I think that was the plan, so to study something like cinematography would enable me to get the skills that I would need to realise whatever I would want to, one day when I make my music videos and that kind of thing. That was the intention behind studying film production. It was to, eventually become a music video director, and today I’m lucky and I’m very blessed to have studied such a craft. I’m able to now apply it as a singer. I’m able to really tell my story visually, much better than I would have done.
AU: Sorry to cut you short. You were saying?
MH: No, I’m just saying that if I had not been able to get the know-how behind the camera, I may not have been able to just have the information and be able to creatively, put together the ideas that I would have in my mind, if I hadn’t studied film production, yeah.
AU: So you studied film production. Anyone whose heard you sing would swear that you’ve had training musically as well, is this true?
I had very little musical training
MH: You know, very little training unfortunately, I must be honest. Obviously, in primary school and in high school I did study piano. I was in the choir, so I think a very kind of limited education on music, unfortunately. But I think what I have been able to study, in as far as, on a secondary schooling level, has been helpful but, yeah, unfortunately I didn’t pursue music after school.
It’s a pity though. I think it’s important when you have more of a sense and an education around just progressions in music and that kind of thing. So I definitely hope to explore that in the future.
AU: Well, Maleh, you know you are extremely talented and even if you hadn’t said that you don’t have formal vocal or musical training it does not show, so a big-up to you. Let’s move onto the music now, so you studied your film production and cinematography, and you decide ‘okay I want to get into music’. What did you think needed to happen, at that stage, for you to get to your dream?
Worked behind the scenes as a foundation
MH: Right, sure after graduating I kind of was in a space where I still felt that I wanted to explore other avenues before really pursuing the music career. I thought that what would be smart for me to do is just get a sense of how the music industry works from behind the scenes, and that’s where I started to work in production events.
My first event that I got the opportunity to be a part of was the Standard Bank – Joy of Jazz, which is obviously one of the major festivals in the country. For me, gaining experience in the hospitality sector, in the production elements of putting together a festival – it really, kind of opened up just a different world, on how the music industry works.
Yeah, I’m very grateful for that time because, as much as I was able to engage with artists, from behind the scenes, I got to really get good connections, within the industry. So it was a few years, three or four hours of doing production work at different festivals. That has really been just a good foundation, in terms of my understanding of the music business.