"I sing to awaken things inside of people, to bring the divine into these spaces and get everyone to feel that"
Singer Makeda is transforming spaces into spiritual landscapes through her own unique sound; a magical combination of Reggae, Soul, and RnB. We spoke to Makeda to learn more about the way her female identity is shaping her music, and what she hopes to inspire in others through her sound and image.
Brought up in South London, and encouraged by her Rastafarian upbringing, Makeda's approach to music is intrinsically in tune with her desire to spread messages of unity and balance, transformed through her own connection to the divine feminine. On watching Makeda perform, it is clear that her voice has the power to connect people from all walks of life, opening up space for joyful and heartfelt experiences to be shared atop soul shifting beats. With such a magnetic presence, it's easy to presume that Makeda's journey has been one of ease, however, on meeting the Empress of Roots Soul, we learnt that her path has been filled with challenges she has patiently overcome.
Makeda has been singing since she was a child. Brought up in a Rasta Christian household where music was a family affair, Makeda went on to win competitions and become part of a girl group yet, over time, her singing started to take a back seat. By 2016, Makeda found herself stuck in a job feeling unfulfilled and so decided to make a trip to Ethiopia where she reconnected with her passion for music. “While I was there I received these messages that ‘You are a singer, you must sing’, so I wrote loads of songs and made a decision that this is what I’m going to do. I came back and created my demo EP, next thing I know, I’m surrounded by all these creatively inspiring people”.
Since that point, Makeda has been building a name for herself as the Empress of Roots Soul, a genre that embodies all that she believes in and connects with. “Reggae’s been something I’ve always wanted to do, and I grew up listening to soul music, so I decided to combine them together”. Makeda explains how to start with she couldn’t see it working but slowly she developed her own voice, a sound that carries a rich and confident message.“My music is for people to connect with and understand themselves, to be in their purpose, and be the best person they can be. I try to remind people of the tools they can use to help them find their purpose.” This is something which rings out in her debut single OMG, with lyrics guiding listeners to ‘ground, meditate and pray’.“It's important to be at one with yourself, you need to know where you come from to share your journey. For me, roots is Africa, it's Rastafari, Mother Nature and the soul is living from your heart, and living your purpose”.
By talking with Makeda, it is clear that this journey has been a hardworking rollercoaster. From hosting her own weekly Reggae night to traveling around the world playing shows, Makeda explains how a moment of pause was necessary to help her reaffirm her direction. “I’ve been performing for three years now so I had to reel back and assess and reevaluate where I’m at, what I’ve achieved, and be specific on how to move forward. I’ve just returned from visiting Ethiopia again and going back to Mama Africa opened up that space once again to find clarity”. With this fresh frame of mind has come a newfound certainty in the dialogues Makeda hopes to encompass through her work, “I feel I have this responsibility now to use my voice to discuss things that I don't agree with as well as the things that unify us. People aren’t going to like everything I have to say but it's part of my duty, as a woman with a voice, to speak up.”
The more we become connected with ourselves and to each other, the more we can live lives that are less painful.
One of the areas which Makeda is wanting to focus on is the relationship she has built with her own female body and the pain it has caused her in the past. “I’ve experienced womb trauma, and it's been ancestral, passed down through a lot of women in my family. We suffer from endometriosis, severe period pain, and that's something that's really quite common for women who come from the Caribbean. Because of slavery, there’s a lot of shame against our femininity, we’re taught that our womb and being female is a curse.” Having been brought up in an environment where the word period would never be mentioned, Makeda decided she wanted to change this relationship and start loving her womb. “I’ve been learning about the sacredness of my body and being connected to that space and using those times when I feel emotional to write with that energy.”
An important part of Makeda’s process has been connecting with other women, such as the Global Sisterhood ‘Blood Love’ (a community formed on Facebook), and engaging with their suggestions for healing. “I’ve blocked my own voice so much because I was afraid of what would come out. Having these conversations, sharing experiences, and hearing how women have dealt with their pain has been so healing. Once a month I’ll bleed into the earth, letting her come out in a ritual as I realise and sing. It’s an offering, you're giving back to the earth”. At Sassy, we recognise and support the ways in which women honour their menstrual blood, yet it can still be seen as a taboo topic. However, as Makeda eloquently describes “It's about being aware, you can be conscious about your lifestyle and your choices and be holistic in everything that you do. This is a process that I’m trying to master.” Embodying and raising up her own feminine energy is something that Makeda talks about doing in complete harmony with her image and her sound.
“The way I look and express myself as a woman who wraps her hair means I can come across quite militant. And there's a power in that because there are times when you're defending humans, and life, and unity, and love, and you need to be militant. But there’s also time to be vulnerable and vulnerability is power.”
When seeing Makeda perform live, it is clear that she allows space for this duality to shine through, “I want my music to bring people together to have a human experience. I’m grateful to be in a position where I can connect with others, because as I go through my journey, I heal my scars, and shed the past.”
In a time when social media and visual appearance seems dangerously impactful, we ask Makeda about her own choices in how she hopes to appear to others. “I love everything and everybody but I'm not here to follow fashion, I'm not going to be twerking in the street, that's not my role.” Reflecting on her past, Makeda notes how, like many of us, she was a young, impressionable girl whose “biggest goal in life was to be pretty”. Today she sees life through a steady pair of mature eyes, “The pressure of things like social media leads to unrealistic beauty standards such as thinking you have to look like a Kardashian to be beautiful, that if you're a Black girl, you have to have a big bum. Which means, as a child, you suddenly become over-sexualised”. With this in mind, Makeda is genuine when noting how she hopes to inspire a new image of womanhood to the impressionable young minds of today. “As much as being sexy is great, (I enjoy sex, it's a great part of life), it’s also about being able to nurture youngsters and show them how you can conduct yourself and what feeds into your own energy. It’s important for me to connect with and be a positive role model for the younger generation because they are the future.”
There are women who are more sensual and there are women who carry more of a warrior vibration and that's all ok. There's a place for everyone.
The role model that we see appear in front of us today is one whose awareness and authenticity is truly uplifting. Each message that Makeda conveys in her music is thoughtfully considered and reflective of her profoundly rich personality, “My music is sacred and what we put out for others to hear is so important. There's always so much more to talk about.” We're certain that whatever it is that Makeda has to say, we will find ourselves encouraged to connect, ground, and surf the waves of her own Roots Soul world.