Maya Kamaty in the world of maloya: A story of struggle, grit and belief
Maya Kamaty does not mince words when she says that she does not believe in the concept of genres. “I think for me, the term world music itself does not make sense, considering that we are in 2018 and there are so many different styles of music that we have access to,” says the maloya singer from Réunion Island, who is also known as the daughter of Gilbert Pounia, the lead singer of Ziskakan, one of the most famous maloya bands from Réunion Island. Recognised for singing in the creole language, Maya is popular for her energetic persona on stage and performs around the world with her band. In her upcoming tour of India, Maya will start with a comeback performance in Chennai (she was last seen at the IndiEarth Xchange) and will continue with gigs in Kolkata, Gurgaon, Pondicherry and Pune. We caught up with the 33-year-old ahead of her tour and found out more about her new album and why ‘new maloya’ is her way to go for the future.
What was the impact that your upbringing had on your initiation into music?
In those days, when I was very young, I accompanied my parents both on stage and in the studio, so I enjoyed that time. But as I grew up into a teen, I found it more difficult to accept the fact that my father was touring a lot all over the world and was not there with us all the time. It was hard for me, so I didn’t want to do music at that time. I quit music and I started playing sport and other stuff. Later, when I went to the south of France for higher studies, I was inspired to write music again, and after coming back to Réunion Island in 2009, I started working on multiple music projects. And, after around three years, I decided to pursue music as a profession for real, with an aim to stay there for as long as I can. But I still work with my mum, who is a storyteller, and I still sing with my dad. I am glad to have a lot of chance to work on what I absolutely love.
While your music evolved over the years, did you face any challenges in your career?
I started doing covers of songs by Eric Clapton and Cranberries, an approach that was a lot different from that of my father. But later, when I joined a band with my school friends, I was looking to go really far with them, and had our first performance in Réunion Island in 2008. One of the major challenges that I faced was criticism from some quarters, with a section of people saying that I was being opportunistic and using my father’s status and name to pursue music. They didn’t believe I could do things on my own. I am still trying to erase this way of thinking, because it is not true!
Another hurdle is being a woman in the music industry. When I started out, I didn’t really think it was difficult, but now at 33 years of age, I can really see the difficulties of it. For me, it is not the success that matters, but working hard. I am not doing music just so that people can love it. They do have a right to not like everything that I do. But because of the internet and social media, there are people who are really mean. As they say, haters gonna hate. So the best answer I can give to them is through my music.
How different will your new album be when compared to your earlier work?
The first album was acoustic and more in line with the traditional aspect of Réunion Island music, called maloya. It was launched in October 2014. The second album, called Pandiye, which will be exclusively presented in our upcoming tour, is more electronic and pop in nature. The lyrics of the songs are more about asking questions and trying to propose a new way of approaching maloya, combined with an experimental style of using the creole language that I sing in. We call it ‘numaloya’ or new maloya. The purpose is to try and find a good balance between organic music like maloya and the sound of electronic music. And I think it works very well.
How has been the experience of working with Indian musicians?
I was the lucky one to do the opening act for Anoushka Shankar last week in Réunion Island. It was an incredible experience to meet this beautiful and talented woman. I have been listening to her music for a quite some time now and that of her father (Pandit Ravi Shankar) as well. These people are really important for my work, and for who I am today. There’s also Mahesh Vinayakram, who is a good friend of mine. He is a beautiful human being with a wonderful voice and talent.
As a part of the October Fusion Festival. October 6. At Phoenix MarketCity. 5 pm onwards. Tickets available online.