Maryolive Mungai is an award-winning classical turned contemporary music artiste and multi-instrumentalist. The songbird has just released her self-titled debut Extend Play (EP).
Briefly tell us about your background in music?
Growing up, I always loved music, especially rock and RnB. I developed an interest in classical music after finishing high school in 2007. My friend introduced me to the choir at the Nairobi Music Society. I was hesitant at first because the classical genre just didn’t sit right with me, but I signed up immediately I heard the choir sing. I started singing with the choir more frequently up until I met my voice teacher Nancy Day who helped me discover my voice, open up and explore the classical scene. Interestingly, the first two years of my vocal studies featured pop music. She asked me to try out classical music. Eventually, I started performing a lot through the Kenya Conservatoire of Music.
What happened next?
I received a full scholarship at the institution and this really fuelled my growth in music. I was able to sit the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music examinations and got exposed to more concerts.
In the meantime, I completed my degree in Actuarial Science and joined the corporate world. However, I quit after one year to pursue music full-time. A month later, I received a call asking me to audition as a singer in the opera “The Marriage of Figaro”. Here’s the thing — there are different styles of singing classical music. Opera is grand. I was used to the simpler classical pieces. It took a friend’s persuasion to try out the auditions. They loved my voice and cast me. That’s how I began my journey in classical music.
What influenced your shift into contemporary music?
I realised that singing my own songs left me feeling contented. The shift also challenged me as a musician and gave me an opportunity to explore music without limits. I also felt like it was the perfect time to introduce myself to the world. I made a name for myself in the classical music industry, but I always wanted to share my own music with the world. This EP represents that. I spent a lot of time in 2020 discovering myself and writing these songs then. I took a leap of faith and started writing and recording my own music, including releasing three music videos. One of the highlights of the journey was receiving a Sondeka award nomination in 2020 for the single ‘Waiting For You’. I also got to work with the amazing producers Nick Loder, Tawala Beats and Waithaka Ent, and even featured in Waithaka’s album ‘Odes by Queens’.
In 2021 and 2022, I took time out to focus on writing music for my EP and collaborating with other musicians to bring my ideas to life. This included releasing a music video for the song “With You”. It’s been a challenging but fulfilling and exciting experience.
What are you mostly looking forward from the EP?
Without a doubt, hearing and seeing people connect with my songs! And of course the priceless experience of performing in front of a live audience and connecting with my fans.
What’s the inspiration behind the EP?
It is inspired by the experiences in my life. Each song is written from a different chapter of my life covering all emotions — happiness, grief, love and infatuation.
Acknowledging that this is a new path I’m charting with its own challenges, the EP is also an introduction of myself to the contemporary scene.
What did you enjoy most about making this EP?
First, getting the music out of my mind and putting pen to paper. Secondly, working with producer Nick Loder of Amp studio was an awesome experience. He understood my vision for each song, which allowed me to focus on giving my best.
In addition, all the musicians I worked with added so much colour to my songs. I am so grateful for their creativity and time. Izzy brought the image for my album cover to life. All these creatives were a joy to work with.
Favourite song from the EP and why?
Well, I can’t pick one. I love them all! (Laughs). But the one that surprised me the most was ‘Nyamwathi’, which I wrote for my mum. I had been trying to find the words to express my grief since she passed on in 2020 until that one night when I sat by my piano and the words flowed after playing a few notes. It’s a song that moves me to tears. I miss her.
Who would you like to work with in the music industry?
Hendrick Sam, a Kenyan producer. I would also love to collaborate with Savara of Sauti Sol, Simi- the Nigerian artist, and Nyashinski.
In your own words, how would you describe the music that you typically create?
What projects are currently in the works?
More singles and music videos.
Any parting words to your fans?
I hope you connect with my music and feel seen and emancipated through my own personal experiences.
What is one of your quirks?
Apparently, my laugh sounds like I’m singing musical scales. (Laughs).
What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
What is your biggest addiction?
Which celebrity annoys you the most?
Hmm. I’ll have to get back to you on this one.