by Mwayi Mak
Photographed by Ubwino
Malawian singer-songwriter, Hazel Mak opens up. In her own words she explains the effects of the pandemic on her life, motherhood and her rekindled love for Reggae.
"One of the words that defined my 2020 is pandemic. According to the dictionary it literally means "affecting everyone". Coronavirus pandemic changed all aspects of our lives, and led to surprising discoveries and a new found perspective on life".
She goes on further by saying: "Faced with a pending lockdown people even started to buy in bulk, with one of the most cherished items being toilet paper. I remember having to leave Malawi in such a rush because I mean if the world as you know it is coming to an end wouldn’t you not want to spend your possible last days with your family?
I couldn’t do anything and I couldn’t even earn money as a musician because everything was literally locked down! We, as in Alpha, my family and I had to discover what it meant to be stuck at home, with computer screens being our only way of contact - home office, working out and staying in touch with loved ones via zoom.
I remember reading articles in the newspaper, one of Boris Johnson accusing young people of killing their grandparents because we were the main carriers due to our youthful carelessness. Elderly people were particularly isolated here in the UK, however back home things did not seem so bad so we had comfort knowing that my Grandmother was doing just fine.
"A moment to come together was also the lockdown tradition to clap each evening for the medical staff, who worked relentlessly at the frontline of the healthcare crisis."
Masks used to be an attire reserved for medical staff. They were the only ones who needed it - that was the message from the World Health Organization at the beginning of 2020. But then the organization changed its tune, and now most of us don't leave the house without one world wide. As we found out more about how Coronavirus spreads through the air, we learned to keep a distance.
The pandemic has also changed our way of greeting, the french way of two or three kisses and the handshake are out, the new thing is the elbow bump or Wuhan-shake…I hated this because I’m a hugger I just can't help myself.
Oh and the protests can't forget about the world wide protest! Not everyone agreed with the new government-imposed Coronavirus measures. Protests erupted in several countries. The murder of George Floyd, Anti-vaxxers, Covid sceptics, far-right extremists, conspiracy theorists and concerned citizens took to the streets and calling for more freedom and justice! Let’s face it we all had a little more time on our hands than normal!
Due to the lockdowns and curfews, most places like cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, shops and other venues had to close for weeks at a time. Many feared for their survival. Every day during this ordeal I hoped that if everything goes to plan with COVID-19 vaccines, we hope normal life might return by the winter of 2021 and then we hope we might be able to celebrate properly once again.
With all the madness going on in the world we found out we were expecting! Finding out that I was pregnant was a scary realization, I mean life was already showing us flames as everything was up in the air of the unknown future due to the pandemic but knowing that we were about to become new parents was just the icing on top of the pandemic cake.
I saw this as an opportunity for growth and adulting to the fullest degree. I was scared for my music career as having a child has always been a mythical career doomsday for female musicians plus Alpha and I had only started dating; but we both agreed that there would be no better time to start a family than now. I had no show bookings I couldn’t record as all work had come to a halt.
We decided to keep our pregnancy a secret not because I was ashamed but because I really wanted to experience this blessing in peace and out of the eye of the media and gossip. I wanted to carry our bundle of joy in peace and tranquility; to finally have something to myself that I did not have to share with the world and my oh my was it the most beautiful experience I have ever had the honour to share with myself. I mean after previously having a miscarriage at 14 weeks I did not want history to repeat itself so keeping our baby news private was I guess a way of avoiding stress and anxiety.
The day we announced that we were expecting was on Christmas eve. I was 37 weeks and counting the days to our due date which was the 13th of January, funny enough that night my water broke. After 3 days of labour Shamiso, our son arrived on the 28th of December at exactly 5:09am. I remember thinking ‘wow’ I’m a mama now as you can guess it was a very joyful and emotional time due to the fact that we both nearly died. My body went through so many things when pregnant, being the first time as a mother I didn't expect so much stress that it would bring me. I needed time to heal and to recover, during this time I gave myself self-love and self-care, and I embraced being curvier. I accepted what my body wanted to be. I tried to be patient with myself and enjoyed my fuller curves. I mean our bodies are amazing especially if you think of all the changes your body goes through during pregnancy. If someone told me 15 years ago that my body would go through so many changes and fluctuations, and that I would feel more womanly and secure with my curves, I would not have believed them. But having our son and maturity have taught me to value myself beyond my physical appearance and really understand that I am more than enough no matter what size or stage I’m at in life.
Who said that you can’t be a mother and an artist at the same time? Why can’t I have it all? I just want people to recognize that female musicians can dominate charts and be awesome moms, too.
Having had conversations with Alpha about wanting to start recording again after child birth, he quickly got on to Amazon and purchased all the equipment we needed for a home recording set up.
After being locked down at home and also becoming a new mum I began listening back to music I was exposed to as a child; during this time I rediscovered my love for reggae music. You see, Reggae is an important form of music. It plays so many roles and throughout the years has been re-invented and defined by various artists. I was ready to reinvent myself as an artist and a creative. Having released my debut Album ‘Unorthodox’ a compilation of music I had recorded prior to the pandemic in November 2020 I had a clear vision for what my comeback records would be like.
By July we had traveled to Malawi only to have been met with another lockdown, but this time we were prepared and very well adjusted as we had set up our own studio in Malawi called Audio Garage. After the studio was completed I was back in the studio with our son in one arm recording music I’d never been inspired to make before.
Hearing the reggae melodies in my head I started humming the premature version of my current single ‘Night Time Fall’ and I remember telling my producer Cap10 let's make some reggae, so we did.
The same day after completing the record Sunny Tee popped by to the studio to use the rehearsal space - he heard the record and literally recorded his take in one take. The final touch for that record was Sunny Tee playing the sax, thus completing the record. One of the most rewarding parts of creating the record was realizing that I was emotional about the song because my late father's favourite instrument was the sax. I really felt that. Reggae made me fearless and helped me find myself.
"With that being said, go listen to my new record ‘Night Time Fall’ featuring the great Sunny Tee". - Hazel Mak