When MA-KA and I were first introduced, she was on set filming a promotional video for her new Hip Hop event S.Ú.A.S. The event aims to raise money for Pieta House, a charity which helps people suffering with suicidal thoughts. Women UK talk with Irish sensation MA-KA, about mental health, the Irish music industry and where she got the inspiration to run this event.
According to the Irish Times, there were 352-recorded Irish suicides in 2018, 282 of which were male and 70 female. In 2017 it was 392. The HSE claims there are 12,000 suicide attempts made every year.
When I ask MA-KA how she got involved with running a night for suicide awareness, she informs me it was out of chance.
“I wasn’t setting out to create an event, I was actually looking for support slots in Dublin. When I contacted the venue The Workmans, they told me they have no slots available, but they do have a night.”
I wanted to know what drew her to organising an event for suicide awareness, why do a charity event?
“I always wanted to do something to raise awareness about mental health and suicide issues. The past couple of months have been really difficult for me in relation to suicidal thoughts. It’s been on my heart to do something about it and since the venue just fell into my lap I figured, why not now? We can come together, raise awareness and make as much money as possible to potentially save someone’s life.”
Why did you choose to do a Hip Hop night?
“I love hip-hop and listen to a lot of it myself, but I think hip-hop is going in a much better direction. It used to be braggadocious, ‘I have all this money, all these cars and girls’, but now it’s very like ‘these are the struggles I’m going through, this is what I deal with on a day-to-day basis’.
“A lot of rappers now are talking about suicide and mental health. It was this shift in the industry that inspired me to put on a hip-hop night, and to celebrate artists in Dublin”.
When Hip Hop first emerged as an underground genre in New York, it reflected the issues of racial unrest, poverty, debt and anger plaguing society at the time.
Although it has become a multi billion dollar industry, the music created still reflects the issues of the minds penning the lyrics. In Ireland, the lyrics capture a picture of what it’s like living with anxiety, suicidal thoughts and depression.
The Irish Music Industry
Was it was difficult starting out in the Irish music industry?
“I grew up singing in the choir but I never dreamed I could be doing music as a career, or that I could write”.
MA-KA met her producer in a nightclub in Galway, where she was studying French and psychology. After recognising her talent he pushed her to pursue music.
“I was actually going to move to France after college but he convinced me to stay and do music.”
Fast forward three years, the two are now working on her debut EP. “There’s been a lot of challenges making the EP, but we’re really going at it now.”
Two out of the five tracks have already been released. Listen here.
The music industry receives a lot of backlash for being male dominant and unsupportive of female artists, especially when it comes to booking female artists for events and festivals. A number of Irish initiatives have been set up to address this gender imbalance, but I wonder how much this has actually affected MA-KA?
“It hasn’t affected me in anyway. I tend to take things as they come and don’t allow myself to dwell on rejection. Instead I just move on. I don’t chop it down to whether I’m a woman. I know that happens though and I’m not saying women aren’t affected. I’ve heard about girls who are expected to give certain favours, but I’ve never come across that, thankfully!
“The way I see it, if you’re talented, have enough drive and a strong work ethic, then gender, sex, religion, race, etc. can’t be used against you because you know your potential”.
“If you work, you strive and you push, then there’s no way anything can dim your starlight”.
The Confidence Gap
I agree with MA-KA. Contrary to the messages preached in the media, no one is stopping you from being successful. There is no imaginary person holding you back from accomplishing your goals.
You have the choice between being successful or feeling sorry for yourself. Thanks to social media it is possible to inspire and impact people’s lives without media support. The artists leading the way are ones who believe in themselves.
Women in particular need to take responsibility for their dreams and believe in themselves. However, this can be extremely difficult as we are conditioned to put ourselves down. Women are far more likely to suffer with imposter syndrome than men, living their working lives riddled with self-doubt. The confidence gap between the sexes is one of today’s hottest topics.
Being Female In The Music Industry
Do you have any advice for females living with imposter syndrome?
“Believe in yourself. At the end of the day if you don’t have that confidence, or find a way to grow that confidence, you’ll never get anywhere. Then you’ll be working, not out of passion, but out of fear. It’s very hard to achieve anything in that kind of mindset”.
What advice would you give for females looking to start in the music industry?
“Surround yourself with the right people. those who care about you as a person, not just a singer. You’ll meet a lot of people who will try latch on to what you’re striving towards. But staying grounded with the people who love you, and the ones you love, will prevent you from going insane.
“Don’t do it for the wrong reasons, to get fame, fortune, or clout. Ask yourself, why do you want to be a singer? You’re way to stardom is going to be a rocky one; you’ve no idea what people have done to get to where they are. Chasing fame or fortune is not going to bring you happiness, so you need to make sure you are doing it for the right reasons, because the work is hard.
“It looks easy when you see people perform on stage, writing songs, but it’s a lot of work. There are countless nights and days of rehearsing, planning, organising, sleepless nights worrying about what’s next, and a serious amount of rejection.
“I’m learning as well. I haven’t figured out the keys of life but these are the things I stand by”.
What is the toughest thing you’ve faced in the music industry so far?
“Getting inspired. If I haven’t sat down to structure a song in a while, I get very anxious. I’ll try to sit down and force myself to write, just to get rid of the anxiety. But if the inspiration is not there, it’s really difficult for me to reconcile that anxiety of ‘I haven’t written in so long’ vs. ‘I don’t have anything to write about’.
“I’m starting to learn that sometimes you just have to take it as it comes and don’t try to force yourself to write if you don’t feel like writing. It’s ok not to write when you don’t feel like it. It might be your job to write songs but if you force yourself to do it and it’s uninspired then what’s the point?”
As someone who overcame your own suicidal thoughts, do you have any advice for anyone suffering from mental health issues?
“Disclaimer I am not a professional.” I joke, “Well you did study psychology.” “I did, I did – but did I go in as much as I should have? That’s the question.” *Laughs*
Despite her questionable attendance, MA-KA still managed to provide very insightful advice.
“It’s been said so many times but I’ll say it again, talk to someone – don’t suffer in silence, don’t suffer alone. A lot of my issues stemmed from being abused growing up. There were a lot of deep issues I had to work through. No way, in any universe, would I have been able to pull myself out of the depression or suicidal thoughts by myself. I had to talk to someone.
“Before I reached out to a professional, I called my Mother. She actually lives in Nigeria so she wasn’t in the country at the time. My Dad was living in Carlow, so I think I was lacking that parental influence.
“When I told her what was happening she helped me realise, the only person that can actually change the situation you’re in, is yourself. People can be there for you, give you advice, comfort you, send you all the love but at the end of the day – It’s your brain, your mind, your heart, thoughts and feelings, so you’re the only person who can ultimately change and influence what’s happening internally.
“But speaking to someone you love, someone who cares about you or even a stranger can help so much because you’re releasing that energy that’s pent up inside of you.
“If you think you have no one to talk to, I can guarantee there’s someone who cares if you die”.
“And that’s exactly it, it is a matter of life and death in these situations – not a lot of people get that.
The Power Of Thought
“Having gone through it myself I think, you need to realise the brevity of the situation. Before it all came to a head I would have these thoughts, little tiny thoughts that I didn’t think anything of at the time, but as soon as you have those thoughts – go talk to someone. Catch them when they come.
“Sometimes we think it’s normal to have those thoughts, like ‘you’re worth nothing’ or ‘you look ugly today’. We say these things to ourselves constantly and they are just building up. If you have the propensity to go to really dark places, and then you get these thoughts that you think might be harmless – don’t waste anytime.
Don’t Suffer Alone
“Go talk to someone. It doesn’t need to be your sister, brother, family member, friend, there are supports out there, just like pieta house who offer free support 24/7. They have a helpline. There are other free supports that offer help as well but just talk to someone about what you’re going through and they’ll be able to help point you in the right direction or just console you.
“A lot of people feel like they can’t talk to people because they feel ashamed. There’s a stigma around mental health and suicide, which I really don’t understand.”
“Well”, I interrupt, “it’s a vulnerable place so it can be hard, sometimes you can’t even put words to it.”
“Ye they’ll think people won’t understand, which shouldn’t be the way. But if you really feel like you can’t talk to anyone, write it down on a piece of paper. Or record yourself saying how you feel and listen to it back, hear how you’re thinking. But just get it out of you, don’t internalise it. When you internalise these thoughts they manifest and that’s when it all comes to a head and explodes. Then you make a rash decision that will change your life forever.”
Read More: My partner has a mental health problem.
“I’m a Christian and I read the bible a lot. At the moment I’m really meditating on this passage that says, ‘The Power of Life and Death Lies on the Tongue”. So everything we say has the ability to change our lives. Whatever negative thoughts you accept and don’t talk about, find a way to get them out of you. They will change your life.”
The Next Steps For MA-KA
What’s next for you music wise?
“Still working on my debut EP. We’re working on 5 songs; I’ve released two and I’m still working on the last three. It’s taking time because I still work part time and I’ve had a lot going on. I’m trying to get as many shows as I can under my belt.
“I’m going to get out of Ireland soon and hopefully move to London. Ireland’s hip-hop urban scene is very niche. There aren’t a lot of promoters, managers or industry people catered to that kind of sound in Ireland. There is a few that are doing really well with the artists that they work with. But I think I need to be in an environment that supports that kind of sound. Where people will come to the shows basically”.
I ask MA-KA about SÚAS – what should people expect?
“There’s 7 acts performing, two of which are live bands so that’s going to be amazing, really good atmosphere. It’s also sponsored by Four Star Pizza, so there will be free pizza on the night. They were really happy to support the cause.
“100% of the proceeds are going to pieta house. It takes about €1000 for one person to get full support – it’s very costly. It’s not just one call. Even myself when I was seeing a therapist, it cost a lot and sometimes your health insurance won’t cover it. Through the government you might get six sessions but six sessions might not be enough. It will only just scratch the surface.
“€1000 will make sure one person gets all the support they need. We’re hoping to make €1000 on the night – I think we can do that. There’s going to be a raffle as well, with 4 prizes.”
SUAS – Stand Up Against Suicide will be on in Workmans, Monday 14th October. Pre buy your tickets here.
Pieta House is an Irish charity that provides free therapy to people in suicidal stress. Find out more here.
Follow MA-KA here.
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Article written by features editor Ciara Glover. Check out her page here.