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Jazz star rises from humble beginnings

Maia Von Lekow’s music career started at a  tender age. From humble beginnings, her journey to what she is now was not easy.

Having been raised by a single mother who was an air hostess, Maia spent her early years in Kenya before she left for Ireland at age 16 to study music on scholarship. She has also travelled widely.

“Life in the first world countries is not easy. There, (Ireland) I had just completed music school and did not have money to sustain me and so I started singing on the streets with a friend who used to play the drums to get pocket money and also hope that one of the passersby might be a record producer and offer me the deal of my life,”she said.

After years of living abroad, she returned to Kenya following advice from fellow musician Eric Wainaina  who told her that ‘one must first get acceptance at home before venturing elsewhere’.

She  joined a Jazz band called Solid Groove which introduce her to her fans.  She was with the band for a year before she decided to go solo.

The first song she recorded was for the movie From a Whisper that was done in memory of the 1998 US embassy bombing in Nairobi. The movie was released in 2007.

“It was not easy to penetrate the music industry in Kenya because I found out that most people like songs that have faster beats and are not ready to accept new artistes. You first have to prove yourself.  This gave me the determination to rise because this was my home. I first have to make it here before I make it elsewhere,” she said.

 Skeptical

Like any parent, her mother (of German-Italian descent) was skeptical when she first told her that she wanted to be a musician.

“Every parent wants the best for their child and when I told my mother that I wanted to be a musician, she asked if I had a plan B in case I did not make it in music. I therefore did a course in hotel management but was able to convince her after she saw the passion and talent that I had in singing,” she said.

Maia’s life as a child was a difficult one having been forced to live in different countries. At  most times she felt lonely and had to learn how to be independent at an early age.

She recalls how she used to see her father Sal Davis, a musician, who used to visit her before he stopped coming altogether.

“I respect my mother for letting me make the decision of whether I wanted a relationship with my dad or not. My father and I have a very good relationship and I am proud of that,” said Maia.

Her music is influenced by both jazz and acoustic music. With her mixed heritage, Maia’s album has 12 songs, in both English and Kiswahili, while her sound draws influence from Africa and overseas.

Her travelling around the world has helped her fuse different styles and adds to her skills that make her have a strong stage presence.