5 Questions With Mulay

Words by Josh Abraham.
Photography // Mulay by Ali Kanaan.

The German songstress known as Mulay provides the R&B feels the majority of the time in her music, but it’s the interchanging mixes of Trip-Hop and Electronica that keep any listener hooked.

Singer/Songwriter/Producer/Artist, whatever you want to call her, Mulay is sweeping the music world with her self-reflection music that allows the ear-candy music to be adored by the masses.

With a new music video released and an E.P on the way, it was important to sit down in this interview and ask about that music, her inspirations and more.

You’re based in Berlin, what’s the music scene like there?

I feel like Berlin has a vibrant music scene. Since I moved here three years ago, I was lucky enough to meet and work with amazing artists. I feel like especially the more international R&B/ HipHop Scene here is small, which makes it easy to connect with people and really creates a community vibe, instead of a toxic, competitive atmosphere like in other creative capitals. I really appreciate and consider that as important and necessary to be able to prosper as a newcomer. If we support one another by creating opportunities through platforms, events, collaborations etc we can enrich each other, rise to another level as a scene, and all benefit in the end. There is so much talent in Berlin and so much potential to grow as a scene.

Your music blends R&B, Pop, Trip-Hop and Electronica, what’s the inspiration behind that?

When I began to take singing lessons with 15 years old, I was looking up to big R&B/ Soul Singers like Nina Simone, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige… Furthermore, I was lucky to be taught by Gail Gilmore, an incredible opera- and jazz- singer with gospel background, who as well had a profound and lasting influence on me as a vocalist. 

I always listened to a lot of HipHop and admired the lyricism found in rap, the many layers of meaning, use of references and metaphors. It still inspires me as a writer to challenge myself and reminds me of the power of music and words to transport messages of value.

Later, during my music studies at art university, I became more intrigued and interested in electronic sounds. Inspired by artists such as James Blake, Son Lux, Sevdaliza and FKA Twigs, I started experimenting with vocal effects, dived into music production and connected with fellow students that also worked with electronic effects, like Jascha Wonerow, who I’m still working closely with and who’s distinct way of using effects to shape and manipulate the sound of his guitar to an extent that it’s no longer recognizable as a guitar, keeps on inspiring me and has an impact on my sound aesthetic and songwriting.

The new track ‘Shame’ is beautiful and all about reflection, would you say it’s empowering to open that conversation within yourself?

It’s definitely a song that I needed to write to myself and that as many songs of mine, comes right from my subconsciousness. A lesson on being yourself a better friend, on selflove, that I’m still in the process of truly manifesting. A lesson that can last a lifetime.

I am very perfectionistic and I have very high expectations for myself, that I can’t always live up to, which can be very frustrating and leaves me feeling paralyzed, trapped in a negative spiral at times, but deep within I know that there is no gain in being too hard on yourself and that I should be more accepting of my own humanity and all the flaws and inner wars that often come with it.

The music video is dark, yet beautiful, how did you come up with the concept for it?

It’s a conceptual EP, therefore the songs and videos are connected. I wanted them to stand for themselves, while telling a story as a whole. To change the viewers angle and perception when put into context.

Although the EP tells a very personal story of mine, it can also be seen as the story of a women.

When I wrote the visual concept accompanying the EP, I had a very clear vision for each video, but when it came to the song SHAME, it was still quite open. It was important to me to communicate the core message of the track, which is self-empowerment and self-acceptance, but I also wanted to visually translate the self-reflection expressed through the lyrics. I sat together with my director Felix Aaron and we brainstormed on how to visually express those ideas. Reflective surfaces came to mind, first mirrors, then more abstract, water and the idea for the location was born.

Women often face high pressure from society to be, look and act a certain way and higher standards to live up to, therefore I wanted to portray strong women, representing diversity, female self-determination and sexual liberation. 6 Women embracing and owning their strength and power. I cast them myself in my friends circle, my creative circle, on Instagram and was blessed to gather a group of amazing, inspiring females that really embodied the message of the song and made the video and the cover as powerful as it is now.

Mulay by Ali Kanaan.
Mulay by Ali Kanaan.

Finally, what can we expect from Mulay in the future?

Well, my debut single ‘SHAME’ is only a very first glimpse into what’s to come. The second single drops beginning of december and highlights the dark periods and places within we often have to face before gaining the clarity and reaching the state of mind addressed in the song “SHAME”.

Therefore the story behind the EP as a whole is basically told backwards in reverse chronology and will be completed in January 2021 with it’s very beginning. 

Everything comes full circle and just like the story of the EP will end with its beginning, so will the closure of this first chapter be just the beginning of my journey as an artist. I’ve been writing a lot of new songs this year during lockdown and there are a few exciting collaborations with amazing artists in the works. I can’t wait to keep on creating and sharing my vision with you. There’s a lot more to come, so stay tuned.