With her powerfully vulnerable lyrics and sincerely breathtaking voice, Malika Hamzaa is an artist whose music sounds emotionally-wise beyond her 22 years of age. As the London singer-songwriter – who goes, simply, by Hamzaa – says, “The most beautiful thing about humans is that we can speak; that we can say how we feel and voice our opinions”. This expressiveness that she sees in human nature is something that seems to resound innately and effortlessly in her soulful, R&B-pop, not least on her stunning EP, 2018’s First Signs Of Me.
Hamzaa has been rising steadily into the public consciousness this past year: there was her sold-out debut headline show at London’s St Pancras Old Church, followed at the start of 2019 by another sell-out performance, this time at Omeara – the show got a four star review in the Evening Standard, who compared her to a 19-era Adele. She has supported Ray BLK; been called “the real deal” by The Line Of Best Fit; received radio support across tastemaker platforms like Repezent, national stations like Radio 1Xtra, and Julie Adenuga’s Beats1 show; not to mention co-signs from Stormzy, Wretch32 and Ghetts, who both hopped on part two of her sublime track ‘Breathing’. On top of all this, last year when when she only had two songs out, the executive producer for BBC institution Later… with Jools Holland heard her on the radio – what followed, very quickly, was a sublime debut performance on the show.
Underpinning her rise to prominence is that Hamzaa had started writing songs when she was just nine years old while growing up in East London’s Hackney. It was around the same time she had started learning piano, and she began to put her poetry to music. An only child, creating her own place for self-expression was vital – “I had no one to talk to, really, but myself – obviously I could talk to my mum, but it’s a bit different when you’re younger! So any of the thoughts that I had, I was very good at putting it down on paper and then getting on the piano finding some chords.”
Hamzaa’s focus to this day remains on self-expression rather than on expectation; taking her time to evoke emotions that last, rather than riding the hype wave: “The way I want my path to go is longevity, I want to be remembered for my music and for what I was able to do with my music. And that longevity comes when you play your cards… not right, but you play them smart. You could play the wrong card, but if you’ve taken your time grinding and you’ve worked for it, it’s gonna connect somehow.”