Caught in the RADAR – MALI

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Mali is the alias of Maalavika Manoj, a Chennai born, Mumbai based indie-pop artist. In addition to being an independent songwriter and composer, she has also lent her voice to several films and ad campaigns, working with the likes of AR Rahman, Anirudh Ravichander Harris Jayaraj and several others. Soon after her releases, we caught up the talented and driven Mali to speak about........what you are about to discover. 

Age of Limbo Mali

You have recently released “Age of Limbo” ,what is the inspiration behind? What inspired the artwork?

Age of Limbo is the first single from my upcoming debut full length album, Caution To The Wind which will consist of eight tracks. This was released on 1st May, 2020 accompanied by a crowd-sourced music video of the lock-down from over 12 different countries. So for the artwork, I collaborated with Yan Yuhanyak. I gave him keywords to work with, like building, sunny skies. I wanted something over a red dark moon, that signifies how dark the times are and the fact that there is lurking danger. Also at the same time serene and sunny and blue skies and floating buildings. Floating buildings somewhat says all of us are on the same boat, but all of us are stuck in our home.

Most importantly, what inspires your productions?

So I worked with a new producer for this track, Arnav bahl. His sensibilities are more electronic and hip hop inspired. And mine are obviously more pop, alternative or rock at best. So when we worked together we sort of tried to meld both of our influences to create something unique. He brought a new dimension to my sound.

What was your non-financial investment in this track?

Al lot of time and commuting to meet my producer across the city. We were spending at least four five hours debating every minute detail, synth path, filter, tone and everything else. I think the sheer time and emotion that was invested is far greater than any amount of money spent.

If there is a musician out there who wants to pursue music education, what should be his/her deciding factor?

First of all it is important to understand that unlike any other degree, a music course does not guarantee you a successful career. Unless it is something you genuinely want to do because you want the knowledge, then you absolutely do it. Don't do it to prove a point to someone else. Most of the successful musicians never even went to school, yet make amazing songs. They are still professional prolific artists without theory of music. At the end of the day it is your strength and resilience to hold onto in this industry. And your ability to market yourself and make a name. Music school is extremely important only if you want to get better and hone your skills.

Age of Limbo - mali
Caution to the wind - mali

What are the various equipment and gear you have in your studio to facilitate production?

I don't have a lot of equipment at my house, I just have a keyboard, guitar soundcard, headphones and mic and a laptop. I just think I need to get my ideas down and then I go to a proper studio to record my final takes. And if I really need to use a piece of equipment I need to use, I call a friend who has it and borrow it. It's a lot of investment to get into when you're really not sure how much you're going to get out of it.

harmonetta - Mali

Tell us about your most valuable piece of equipment and why?

I released a song called “Play”, which I produced in collaboration with my grandfather. He is a collector, he collects musical instruments, cameras and audio equipment. He had an old harmonetta, he gifted that to me when I released Play. in the artwork for Play, it is my grandfather playing the very same harmonetta. I think it is from the 50s and went out of production in the 70s. It is an heirloom of sorts, it doesn't play any sounds, but definitely the most valuable piece of anything i have because it was passed down by my granddad.

Is the path ahead more struggling or does it get better from here?

I think the nature of the struggle is going to be different going forward, financially (hopefully not) and getting your music out there and getting people to buy what you're doing. That initial struggle is definitely out, but struggles ain't over yet. I do believe in a tipping point. There is a point, i believe is there, where you just see things through and rather to than pushing to make things happen.

How has the struggle been so far to your current standings?

At the risk of sounding cliche, I think struggles build character. I do want to mention that I have not struggled in this course as much as others I know have struggled. Struggle is more helpful than we can imagine. You need to have a lot of strength in your character, have your head over your shoulders if you're a freelancer.

How has the struggle been so far to your current standings?

At the risk of sounding cliche, I think struggles build character. I do want to mention that I have not struggled in this course as much as others I know have struggled. Struggle is more helpful than we can imagine. You need to have a lot of strength in your character, have your head over your shoulders if you're a freelancer.

From NIIT Silchar to VH1 Supersonic, how emotionally fulfilling and achieving it is to be on stage performing?

Yeah it's definitely amazing, and i miss it right now. There's something about performing to a live audience that no amount of instagram live or any type social media interactions can ever match up to. It's a beautiful experience. What it is when you're a stage is you are vibing off the audience, you're like a mirror to them.

How are the psychological rewards in this career you have chosen?

Yeah i’ve second guessed sometime, there is no rulebook in this career. There is no manual for the kind of career this is. I think people just have to try a bunch of things and see if they work until one works. Definitely trying and failing is a big part of this.

Mali on spotify Radar

You were chosen by Spotify for the RADAR program, what is it about? How were you chosen? What does it mean to you?

So I met the Spotify team for a masterclass on how to operate the back-end resources for an artist on Spotify, a free class for all Spotify artists. I played a demo for them of my upcoming projects, they wanted to hear some of my new projects. That's when they expressed interest to push this new music out to a larger audience. And a few weeks later they called and confirmed my selection as one of only three artists in india. So what they would do is for one year they tie up with you and push your music to new markets globally. I am excited to see where this takes me in the future.

Women in Music, opine.

Recently read a statistic that only women only represent 6% Indian independent music community is women. So to say that it is even a male dominated industry is an understatement. Lot of it has to do with how unpredictable this industry is as a career. It's something Indian families too aren't in complete terms with by virtue of the fact that there are so few of us there. So i think the more women get into music, the more women will be inspired to get into music. And make a statement, have a voice out there. That being said, i find a lot of women singers, songwriter and composer, rather than engineers or instrumentalists.

Mali - Mangoshowers

What’s coming up for You down the road?

I am working on the album called “Caution to the Wind”, an eight song album. I hope to release before the end of the year, and it's the main plan. Obviously everything else is kind of up in the air because of the lockdown and I will only have clarity in the coming months. So hopefully i am going to make some touring, shows, make some travelling happen.

How does India perform in this genre compared to European or American competition?

The market in Europe and the USA is more established for independent artists. In India we have Bollywood and soundtracks which gets largely consumed. India is an exception to this rule, independent music is in the rain shadow of a lot of other different styles of music. I believe that in future there will be a change. There might be a trend toward listening to more independent music rather than listening to giants.

How has the recent pandemic affected your life and all/some of your 2020 plans?

All gigs have either been cancelled or indefinitely postponed. I did have a plan of putting an album together this year, and fortunately it's not dependent on the lockdown. But definitely when it comes to gigs and making money, its much harder now and going to get worse in the next few months.

What is the one attribute of this industry that is a bane?

I think the best and worst thing about this industry is that it's small and that it's gonna grow. A lot of the problems we have is to do with fewer players in the programming and management circuits. And by virtue of there being fewer people, the standards are very different. Sometimes I wish there were more audience numbers and players in the industry. There's just a handful of venues in the community, besides that there is Bollywood and world music gets a bigger stage.


I always advise people to be genuine and be the most real version of themselves. Because I find that a lot of the time people make an identity of themselves or what others think of them. You should always try and aspire to do something unique and different. There is more gratification to that rather than being unoriginal.

Well, thank you once again for spending time with us, giving us valuable insight into your career. We wish you all the very best of luck in your endeavours.


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