Malaika's Story Page

Malaika is a four-woman vocal group that sings music from around the world. Based in Ottawa, Canada, Malaika consists of Neema Mugala (soprano), Lee Hayes (mezzo-soprano), Christine Graves (alto), and Stella Haybukhai (bass). These women blend their diverse musical and cultural influences to create fascinating collaborations of traditional and original material. Malaika's captivating rhythms and harmonies create an overwhelming audience response wherever they perform.

Malaika's repertoire includes songs of social struggle, African music, folk, gospel and pop songs, with some blues, jazz, country and even a Japanese love song thrown in! Most of Malaika’s songs are in English and Swahili, and the group’s repertoire includes French, Gaelic, Spanish, Xhosa, Swedish, Japanese, and Hillbilly. The group works democratically, with everyone contributing to the songwriting, the arranging, and the lead vocals.

Christine and Lee bring their experience as singer-songwriters to the group. They are strong solo performers; Lee is an award-winning songwriter, with a gift for creating wistful, passionate and humorous compositions. In 1999, she released a raw collection of songs on a CD titled ‘The CBC Sessions’. She grew up in the group’s hometown, Ottawa, Canada. Christine hails from Halifax, Nova Scotia. A prolific and edgy songwriter, Christine has two solo CDs; Piece By Piece, and Facing Me. She has toured extensively as a solo artist. Both Lee and Christine teach voice and the art of songwriting.

Stella and her younger sister Neema, as daughters of Tanzanian diplomats, have lived in a variety of countries throughout the world. Music was an important part of family life, and the sisters joke about being ‘the black Von Trapps’! Stella and Neema are the lead singers in Cheza, a world beat band with a strong following. Cheza has two CD releases to date. In addition, Neema performs in the Voices of Praise gospel choir, and is the director and lead singer in the Sifa Choir, a 15-person group that performs African songs. Sifa also has a CD, released in 1998.

Malaika has appeared everywhere from New York City to Vancouver, from Santa Fe to Dawson City, at festivals, clubs, and concert halls. Malaika has made main stage appearances at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, Toronto’s Harbourfront series and the Summerfolk Festival, and the group was featured at the Philadelphia Folk Festival in August 1997. The group has opened for The Nylons, and has been featured on ABC TV's Good Morning America. In June 1996, with a performance at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Malaika celebrated the release of their first album, "Malaika Live", produced by Ian Tamblyn and Ross Murray. A music video of the Lee Hayes composition "What Is Love?" was shot in Vancouver in July 1996.

Malaika was selected as an official showcase act at the North American Folk Alliance in Toronto in February 1997. During the conference, two of their songs were recorded by the BBC for broadcast in the UK on the popular program "Folk On 2". As a result, Malaika toured England in November 1997 and recorded a full show for the BBC. Malaika returned for a full UK tour in the summer of 1998, and after a long hiatus, the group is now preparing for their second recording, to be released in the fall of 2000.

Malaika fans can now e-mail their favourite Malaikan directly! When you visit a members profile page (by clicking on her caricature below) , just click on her photo to launch your own mail program, type your e-mail and send it. Your e-mail will go straight to Christine, Lee, Neema or Stella! They may not answer you directly, but look for answers to many of your questions in the new Malaika Journal section!


















© 2000 Malaika