As Brexit remains in a political limbo marked by hesitation and endless equivocation, the British R&B scene is moving forward with certainty and conviction. Following Little Simz and Jorja Smith, it’s now Mahalia’s turn to show what she can do.
A few days before her twenty-first birthday, she spoke of the tribulations of the music industry with all the experience of an old veteran. “I feel like I’ve been doing this for my whole life,” she recently told the daily newspaper The Guardian. Mahalia Burkmar – the artist’s real name – wrote her first song when she was only eight years old.
The young girl from Syston, a small town in the heart of England, first appeared onstage in the nearest big city. “The first time, I was twelve and I did an open mic in Leicester. It was a little venue called The Musician,” she told the men’s magazine GQ. “There were around thirty people in the room and maybe ten were listening.”
Nonetheless, her performance did not go unnoticed. The following year, she signed a contract with Atlantic Records. But before recording an album, she finished school. After graduating, she recorded the track “We the Generation” with the band Rudimental, while also performing as a support act at Ed Sheeran concerts.
In 2016, Mahalia released her first album, entitled Diary of Me. Influenced by Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, she combined her gorgeous voice with R&B melodies strummed on an acoustic guitar. The public liked her songs and she landed a part in Brotherhood, a film by the director Noel Clarke.
A few months later, she gained attention online when she covered the song “Sober” for the YouTube music platform Colors that has now been viewed more than 28 million times. She followed that up by releasing a new video for the track “I Wish I Missed My Ex”. Once again, her video was a hit.
In “Proud of Me”, her most recent collaboration with her friend Little Simz, Mahalia explains that “this business is all about survival of the fittest. If you don’t go viral you should quit it.” In which case, Mahalia is definitely going to be around for a while.
MAHALIA 18/4, 20.00, Ancienne Belgique