NewTracks New Artist: Mukukā

NewTracks New Artist: Mukukā

Time & Space seems an ideal introduction to the artist we are all going to get to know as Mukukā. The (currently) Auckland-based singer has a voice of timeless qualities, and already knows plenty about the challenges of making a home in new spaces. First time lucky, she was included on NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation this September.

What’s your given name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My full name is Mukuka Hope Musowa, I am a singer and songwriter. I was born in Luanshya, Zambia, moved to New Zealand with my family when I was 8 years old. I play piano, guitar and I used to play the drums, but it’s been a while!  

What high school or other music training was important to you?

I went to Waitakere College. My high school is close to my heart because its where I found my creative stride, it was my genesis, my ground zero. Mr Nightingale, my music teacher, always encouraged me to try anything, that’s how I started singing. I also started performing there. 
Around the same time, I was taking classical piano lessons. I spent lunchtimes practising and after school, I played the piano in the garage till my dad said it was too late and too loud!

What other projects might we know you from?

I was on TV3’s Both Worlds season 5, episode 7, exploring my cultural identity and infusing it into my music. I was also featured on Neighbourhood season 6, episode 12, representing Hamilton east. I now live in Auckland.

What’s the background story of how this project came to be?

I wanted to make an EP for a long time. I wanted to make something about being happy and strong, to empower someone to feel better about themselves. After months of searching for producers, my boyfriend and I decided to produce the EP together. We built a playlist of songs we were inspired by, he made the beats and I wrote the lyrics.
I knew I wanted to write a song dedicated to my friends and one love song, the rest just came to be in the moment. The first song I recorded was GIRL, and that set the mood around which the rest of the EP was created.

Why just Mukukā?

I love my name! It’s who I am. It means ‘queen’ and it says where I’m from. It has three syllables. I like words with three syllables, it sounds like a music triplet note.

How did your music evolve from your beginnings in songwriting to what it is right now?

It’s still evolving. But more recently I’ve been writing about things that are important to me and that we all go through. Like friends, family, love, just the human experience really.

What makes Time & Space stand out for you as a single?

After a long stressful day, it’s the song I’d listen to when I want to de-stress. It encompasses the mood of the EP, it’s peaceful, you can even hear the ocean in the song. Plus it sounds like nothing else on the radio.

What is the story behind Time & Space?

I wrote it when I was stressing over my future, I just finished studying and started working but didn’t really have a plan. I got home one day and realised I just need to relax, I don’t have to know everything. That’s the day I wrote Time & Space, to reassure myself that I just need to make music, do what I have to do and not worry too much.  

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

It’s the line that says, “I need time and space to work on my mind, sticks and stones will build my throne, now watch as the mountains move,” because it’s a badass empowering line.

Who did you write/record/produce the single with and where? 

I did it all with my producer Alinafe [Kalengamaliro], who is my best friend and partner in crime. He produced the beat and mixed it, I wrote the lyrics. Fun fact: Time & Space was recorded in my bedroom, in the closet – that’s the closest I had to a recording booth!

In one sentence, what do you want listeners to take away from this song?

Take time to take care of yourself and keep going after whatever drives you.

In general, how do you work out what song would make a good single?

It has to be something that I will remember hours and days after listening to it, the song that sticks in my mind.
And it has to be different from anything else that’s out there. 

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

I will be releasing a new single every month from October onward, fine-tuning my process before working on my first album. I am featured on a number of tracks yet to be released. Look out for Blacq Alex. He is releasing his new album this month, I’m on a song called Piece Of Me.
Shout out to Big Nash/Iconic Sound and Fungai, you will hear my voice on some of their projects too.

Can you please tell us three other local tunes that should be on a playlist alongside your song.

  • Vibes by Six60
  • So Low by Jess B featuring Paige
  • Pista La Pista by D. Matthews

Have any of your previous applications not been funded or included on NewTracks? Got any advice for people out there? 

I’ve haven’t applied for funding yet and I was fortunate enough to make the NewTracks playlist on my first try. My advice is to just be you, create a sound that is uniquely yours.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

Yes! Colors and NPR Tiny desk concerts on Youtube. Afropunk, it’s not a musical blog but they feature cool artists. 

How can we find you on social media? mukukamusic

Who did you make the video with?

Creative direction: Makanaka Tuwe (@nubiianphenomenon)
Videography:  Shackie Muliro (@shackie Cinematography)
Photographer: Synthia Bahati (@synthiabBahati)
Styling: Siphosethu Duncan (@ssundaysapparel)
Makeup: Renee Alumasa (@renee_alumasa)
Time & Space was written by Mukuka Hope Musowa, produced and mixed by Alinafe Kalengamaliro and mastered by Troy (Tko) Kelly at The Armoury.

Any last words?

Thank you to for having me, NZ Musician is an iconic magazine, this has been a great pleasure. 
Thank you to Jane Deezy for her verse on Dear Ebony, that beat was meant for her and she killed it.
Thanks to all the other great artists who have inspired my producer and I on this project, Unchained XL, Mo Muse, Chika, D. Matthews etc etc etc

With love, Mukukā