Front woman of the music band, Maia and the BIG Sky, Maia Lekow is a firm believer in infusing one’s identity in music for an authentic experience.
The singer and songwriter’s musical star has risen over the years to a level of being recognised as one of the notable voices in the Kenyan live music scene, along with the group’s growing fan-base.
Lekow’s rhythmic philosophies, at the core of her music, can be traced back to the ancient roots of the Kenyan coast, which has an incredibly rich musical tradition that is thriving till today, she said.
She merges that historical background with Nairobi’s energetic live music vibe, and some influences coming from the best musicians in Kenya.
"Our sound is a blend of hypnotizing mixes of afro polyrhythms, with spacious, cinematic atmospheres. My vocals in Swahili and English are woven into the rhythmic force of her Big Sky Band to create a familiarity and warmth that transcends continents," she said.
The group is made up of Maestro Radanz on Bass, the Queen percussion-virtuoso Kasiva Mutua, George Nzuki on drums, then lastly Newman Owur who, according to Lekow, brings the hendrix flavours on guitar, including herself.
Although popular in their home turf Kenya, the group has traveled and performed in various places African countries and abroad such as performed at Cool Waters Jazz Festival (Kenya), Blankets & Wine (Kenya), Africa Utopia (UK), Harare International Festival of the Arts (Zimbabwe), Kigali UP (Rwanda), Sauti za Busara (Zanzibar), Woodford Folk Festival (Australia) and the Perth International Arts Festival (Australia).
As many music industries in many African countries have grown, Lekow describes Kenya’s music industry as a DIY industry, where no real infrastructure to give artists a leg up exist.
"This makes things difficult on the one hand," she said. "But on the other hand we have complete freedom to do what we want, and this is what makes the scene so alive and exciting. I have dedicated my life to music for the past 10 years, and as a self-managed artist, I write all my own music, produce and market my own albums, and book my own shows. It’s incredibly hard, but if it’s your passion, it’s no problem," she said.
Amidst this industry reality, she attributes the group’s success to its communal vision that creates a conducive environment that allows each member to express their differences.
"My philosophy is that you surround yourself with greatness, then it inspires one to be greater – and each musician in my band are famous artists in their own right.
"With this comes a tremendous responsibility for me to keep everyone’s respect and trust. We have been playing together for many years now, and the reason we gel is because we have each other’s backs like blood-relatives, and that all translates into our music," said Lekow.
Maia Lekow. Picture: Supplied
“There is nothing more important than being authentic to yourself. I am not answerable to anyone but myself and my band, and no power hungry gate keeper is going to make me compromise myself for ‘fame’ or ‘success’,” she added.
In light of Africa Month, the band has performed at various stages including their first ever Bushfire performance in Swaziland and at Joburg’s biggest Africa Day celebration Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill, the Bassline Fest that hosted headline acts Mr. Eazi and Asa this past weekend.
"For my and my band, we are all about exploring the power music, not only on us as individuals, but as a society. The creative energy that is boiling up across the continent has me so excited, I truly believe this is our time to make a positive mark on our communities, and the rest of the world," she said.