Raising The Piano Bar

Raising The Piano Bar

Dubai-based Malika Omar talks about how the music in her life has helped her come into her own



By Aarti Jhurani (MUSIC-MAKER)

Published: Fri 19 Oct 2012, 8:46 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 3:02 PM

When they coined the phrase ‘good things come in small packages’, they probably had 
Malika Omar in mind. At barely 5 ft, she is a petite powerhouse of talent. And at 26, she has two successful music albums in her name, a bunch of exciting projects lined up, has performed in South Africa and UAE, is the face of a 10-year-old fashion line, and regularly volunteers at an international NGO.

Born and brought up in Cape Town, and moved to Dubai five years ago, she is the oldest of the three sisters; her 
father is a medical professional, and 
her mother, a nuclear medicine radiographer. Which makes us wonder, where does the music angle come from? 
“Every weekend would begin with 
me waking up either to the sound of Richard Clayderman — whose piano-playing inspired my love for the instrument; Sufi devotional songs; Bollywood music or baroque and classical pieces,” Malika says.

When she started school, she started playing with the recorder at seven, and finally fell in love with the piano at nine. “As soon as I began my piano tuition, 
I found myself applying my creativity to the ivory keys by composing original tunes inspired by a story I’d made up 
in my mind,” she adds. Her style is 
essentially classic fusion, and she loves to blend contemporary and classic tunes together.

Being discovered in a music store at age 19 by an industry professional in South Africa gave her the much-needed break in showbiz. He led her to the 
national division and production director of Universal in South Africa, and the sound engineer whom she worked with on her first album — Monsoon Dew. It had mostly fusion pieces, and two of her original tunes. It released in South 
Africa and UAE, and she moved to the latter weeks after the release.

She has always been extra involved in her music and album, and handles the creative and the business side of things herself. “I’ve done all the funding for the production, the PR, admin and marketing for both my albums — Monsoon Dew and Sand Star,” Malika informs us. But don’t mistake her for a rich kid who made it through her daddy’s money. Starting age 18, she started giving piano lessons and performed on the weekends to raise the money.

Her second album, Sand Star, which came out last year, was recorded by two Dubai-based producers — originally from the US and Holland — who have worked with international stars like Snoop Dogg. All the tracks in the album are her own compositions, and even though it was released only in the UAE, it was picked up by iTunes International and Amazon. She has also tied up with Times Music to release the album in India. Both Monsoon Dew and Sand Star are available for download on mobile networks all across the Middle East.

Apart from her regular performances in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah, there are some that are particularly noteworthy, one of them being her 
performance for Carolina Herrera at 
the launch of her boutique in Abu 
Dhabi. “One of my most memorable performances was at the South African Freedom Day Gala organised by the South African Embassy. I got the 
opportunity because His Excellency Yacoob Abba Omar — the South African ambassador to the UAE — had heard about my career journey and my charity single New Hope, and wanted to meet me. It was such a humbling experience,” Malika gushes.

Speaking of her charity single, it is for the NGO she supports — Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF). She initially got to know about the work they do from her producer who attended a presentation held by PCRF’s CEO. “The organisation’s goal is to provide medical care to young patientsin the Palestinian region.They send the children to the US, Europe and Middle Eastfor free care that is not available to them in their homeland. I was so moved by the cause that I wanted to do something in support, so I wrote lyrics and sang for the first time on a charity single called New Hope. 60 per cent of all download proceeds will go to PCRF,” she explains.

How does one know where the 
money is all going? Malika tells us that PCRF makes it a point to always update the followers and donors with the news on the patients. She is also planning on reissuing the single New Hope with her second album Sand Star, and 5 per cent of the personal album royalties will go to PCRF.

Music and PCRF aside, fashion is 
one of her passions as well, and she’s the first brand ambassador of Meher 
& Riddhima, and loves their fun, feminine fashion.

Currently, she is working on some exciting collaborations with Dubai-based DJ Chris Rayner (Burj Khalifa’s At.mosphere’s resident DJ), and we can’t wait to hear her new sound!

(If you want to catch Malika at play, she performs regularly at the Al Fayrooz Lounge at Al Qasr Hotel, 
Madinat Jumeirah.)

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

“Surround yourself with honest and supportive family and friends; focus on your own sucess; believe in your abilities, but know there is always more to learn; be dignified in business, don’t take shortcuts that lead you to forego your values; and have fun!”

CAUGHT ON CAMERA

Malika was one of the artists that was chosen to be featured in a documentary film — Nokia Inside Music: Arabic Fusion. It was screened at the Gulf Film Festival, as well as film festivals in London, Berlin, Miami, Hawaii and New Zealand

aarti@khaleejtimes.com


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