Malia: The Interview (S1E12)

Teaser Malia

How would you describe yourself?

I would say I am quite a contradiction of things. I am quite chaotic but deep down I I am quite stable and calm, like I always think of an ocean with the waves going crazy at the top but down below it’s always very strong and stable. I am kind of a spontaneous person and I like people a lot. I guess I am influenced a lot by my environment, the people around me and I like to engage and sort of travel with people’s feelings and emotions. That’s part of me, a big part of me I think.

What do you like about yourself?

I am quite easy going. I like that spontaneity about me and that I am quite a fluid person. So I am not very static and not very rigid. I don’t ask for a lot I think. I just take things as they are. I am quite tolerant and I don’t have big expectations about things, life, people in general. We all come from different kind of cultures and backgrounds so we have a certain standard of behavior I guess and we expect it from other people, I guess to identify yourself in people. I just take people, situations as they come, but maybe I suffer more (laughs). Why did I do that? Why did I let that person in? Or why did I make that decision because that person liked it?

Malia jazz singer

What are the things you don’t like about yourself?

I am quite impatient in a lot of ways I think. And the things that make me a very embracing person… I can get quite hurt because of that. I take quite a lot in at my own expense and too much that I can take on before thinking it through perhaps and just saying yes, yes, yes. That’s something I don’t like about myself. Not knowing how to navigate my boundaries in a way. I don’t think it through. I just get by with a smile and I am happy. And then later ‘oh shit, I have to make an album in three days’, I didn’t realize that (laughs). Its boundaries issues I think. So that’s why, that’s my worst thing and otherwise I am quite nice (laughs), I really am.


So does that bring a lot of conflicts with it?

The tenderness that women have in working relationships is really valuable and I like to express that. And sometimes you can be taken as somebody who is a pushover. I am not gonna shout, I am not gonna get angry, I am not gonna have a tantrum, so that can sometimes be taken as a weakness. And I am thinking I am being strong by being accommodating and understanding and trying to look at the other point of view. And other people think well, you are not ambitious enough, you are not being strong enough, you are not being firm enough. And sometimes I learn the hard way that people will take what they need to take and they are not thinking about you at night. I can get hurt by that.

Malia Jazz singer

What are you grateful for in life?

I am grateful for a lot of things. First of all I am grateful for my parents and bringing me into this world. And that I was brought up in this beautiful country, in Malawi in East Africa, which was full of nature. I’ve spent a lot days outside in the country riding my bike, swimming in the ponds, eating mangoes. My health is important more so lately. My music, my voice. The people that I love. My family. I’ve got a lot to be grateful for. That makes me happy. There is a lot of things that are just wonderful in life. I am happy to be a part of it. Because if you look at life it’s really kind of simple and the older I am getting, the more I realize how simple it is actually. And that what I’ve invested as a younger person was never gonna really make me happy. What was really gonna make me happy is that I am in good health and that I am surrounded by people that I really want to give my love to and that I can accept that love from. There is a dark side, too. But the dark side is always the greatest teacher. So I am always grateful for that as well.

Malia Jazz singer


Well, like you know, my diagnosis having breast cancer. How I never really understood who I was until I’ve got diagnosed with breast cancer and was faced with my mortality and how that really engaged me in what was really important about life. And just to be able to breathe is such a privilege. Just to be able to smell the air is such a privilege. Just to be able to have my husband next to me in the morning is such a privilege. My child is healthy. That is such a privilege. Just being grateful for being able to stand up straight and breathe and take the next breath and that’s really what we are here for, for surviving, you know. To live the best we can.

How old were you when you’ve got the diagnosis?

I was 44. The doctors did a biopsy and it turned out to be cancer and then, yeah, the whole thing begun, you know the whole process of taking it out, mastectomies, operations  treatments etc.

Malia Jazz singer

photo by Malia

How do you live with it?

You never know that you are really safe. I feel a bit more scared that it might come back but I also know there is nothing that I can do about that. I just can take care of my health. My body knows how to make cancer. It is here perhaps. Dormant, sleeping, it might never wake up. In my own  lifetime or it might wake up and take me out, I don’t know that. It’s forever present. And I always say it feels like I have a sniper who is just watching me the whole time and he is following me but I don’t know when he is gonna shoot and he might not shoot. Maybe he is just gonna get tired and he will put his gun down. When I first got diagnosed I couldn’t even say the word cancer. I couldn’t hear anybody speak about the word. So it was like a big punishment for me, like I’d been sentenced for a crime that I hadn’t committed. It’s completely changes how you perceive yourself. You look at life with a completely different lens now. Before all this you always think you’ve got forever, that you can change any time, thinking you have forever is sometimes not real, it’s just kind of an illusion.  When I got diagnosed I went into shock and fear. I lost a tremendous lot of weight through stress.  When you have chemotherapy you are very sick. I felt like a piece of cardboard, a nothing. I was just kinda dead at the worst points which came by day two and three after the chemotherapy. My hair fell out, then the eyebrows and the eyelashes. It was a very brutal experience but I really felt like I am just a soldier and I am just gonna keep going. That spirit of a warrior really. And face whatever is I have to face in the eye and I am not gonna be afraid. So I just kept falling and I got up, fall and got up, and then, that becomes your life.

Malia Jazz singer

So now you are much more aware of what your body wants?

Yeah. I didn’t take care of myself when I was stressed. I would not be eating properly, or not sleeping properly, losing weight and stuff like that, and not even realizing it. Now I feel my body much more present. And I know it when it’s not feeling good. And I listen to it. So I am really hyper aware of that now.

When do you feel lonely?

I feel lonely sometimes in the early morning, when my husband has gone to work and my daughter has gone to school. I like loneliness though. On tour sometimes, when in the hotel room, I am always missing my daughter, missing my husband I guess. When I go on long tours, you know, for a few weeks, I do miss female companionship. I’ve been on the road with guys all the time. So I get very lonely there. Like I just want to speak about things and guys are just like yeah alright. ‘I am missing my daughter’. ‘Yeah, ok’. You know, with a woman you talk about it, discuss those things.  I don’t go away for that long nowadays anyways. So those kinds of feelings don’t permeate as much.

Malia Jazz singer

What makes you sad?

Brutality against things that are helpless, whatever that might be, for me in particular it’s children. I just hate to see children suffering, through war, through neglect, how we dominate children and dictate to them and rob them of who they are sometimes. That really hurts me a lot, makes me very sad.


When was the last time you actually cried in front of somebody?

I do that a lot (laughs). I cry in front of my husband quite a lot. I love crying. I think it is a great thing to do. When you need to cry, just cry, whatever. If I am happy or if I am sad. When you feel it, do it. I am one of those people that goes on the floor and crawls around crying (laughs).

Malia Jazz singer

photo by Malia

What makes you happy?

My daughter, she makes me really happy (laughs). My husband, my sisters, my brothers. My music, I love singing. I absolutely love singing.

What is singing for you?

It’s an expression of a deeper universe that I probably wouldn’t be able to proclaim or materialize if I didn’t have my voice. It’s like a calling in a way. It really gives me a lot of power and strength it feels like I am involved with the middle of earth. I feel grounded.

Malia Jazz singer

Are there things that you regret in your life?

Yeah, I have regrets. Not like that song Robbie Williams sings ‘no regrets’. I sometimes wish I’d learned how to play the piano fluently. But the teacher told me I had to cut my nails and I’ve said no way (laughs). That was when I was about 12. Sometimes maybe the way I’ve treated people because of my own ignorance. I regret perhaps, not being more understanding but nothing major I think. Because everything has led me to who I am today. I don’t have major regrets.

Which fears influence your relationships?

In Malawi in the 60s and 70s we lived in a kind of apartheid where black people didn’t get the same kind of treatment than white people, so white people had many privileges and living in that environment and witnessing and being part of it as a black person had a very big influence on me in that I didn’t think I could ask for things in life. I would just get given what I was given. You don’t ask, you have no rights to ask. It took me years of therapy to extricate myself from that kind of colonial environment and what it does to the people that are oppressed. My life wasn’t important. My mother’s life wasn’t important. I remember once in Malawi when we were in the car, my mum was in the front, my father in the front, he is white, she is black, there is a lot us mixed race children in the back. And people just started to throw things at her and calling her a monkey. What is that monkey doing with a white man, you know. So those experiences have a very deep impact on how you feel about yourself. That took me years of therapists to work my way out of.

Malia Jazz singer

What sad memories come to your mind sometimes?

That one with my mother, I remember that like yesterday, when they were throwing things at the car and calling her a monkey and that she was ugly and because she was black. I’ve seen fights in England when I am singing. Things like that stay with me forever. They just leave a horrible taste. The other side of how people can be with each other. Yeah and then all of my bad memories that are around racism, I think, witnessing it, seeing it, being in it. Getting stones thrown at me called nigger and stuff like that.

Malia Jazz singer

My Dad died in 1989, a long time ago now. My sister had rang me up, I was in Malawi, actually going back to Malawi to find out about my dad and my mom, how they’ve met. I went to speak to people who knew them, what were they like.  In that six weeks he passed away. So that was just the first experience with death. It really is a physical feeling of being torn. And the hardest thing for me is ‘he is not coming back, ever again’. I was looking for him for months later, following people in the streets, ‘oh there’s my dad, I just saw him’, because I wanted him to come back so badly. He was somebody I wished I could have had more conversations with as an adult now because he was quite ill before he died as well. From the teenage years my father was like on the downward slope until he died. So I didn’t really get to know him and him me as an adult. So I sometimes have conversations with him like that. When I had breast cancer, when I was going to have my Mastectomy, I took a photograph of him with me to the surgery theatre and he had also come to me in a dream. We never got the opportunity to know each other, really, as separate entities other than a father and a child, but to know that person beyond him being my dad is something I miss.



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