Tamara Schlesinger is one of the increasing number of musicians who are embracing the political. Better known as MALKA – the Scottish musician getting the likes of Lauren Laverne pricking up their ears – Schlesinger is feeding her frustration into her music. Her latest release, ‘Fell For You’, is the result of her dismay at Donald Trump becoming US President, complete with an animated video that sees Trump appear in a Fake News broadcast.
“I am quite a political person,” Schlesinger says. “With regards to Trump, I found it impossible to sit back and ignore what he was doing and not feel disgusted and frustrated. I had written the melody and instrumentation of ‘Fell for You’ and every time I went to write the lyrics they ended up being about him, and so I ran with it and wrote the song.” With its gentle, breezy rhythm, ‘Fell For You’ is not a political song in the same way as, say, Sex Pistols’ ‘Anarchy In The UK’, but its disdain for modern politics is clear. Especially if you watch the video. “But I always tend to have lyrics which can mean many things,” Schlesinger clarifies, “so you could easily not see the video and think it is about a bad break-up.”
Such ambiguity might not be possible on MALKA’s upcoming tracks however. Currently in the process of recording her new album, the follow up to 2015’s Marching To A Different Beat, Schlesinger is enjoying exploring more political themes. “I guess my music always has been [political] in many ways, but this new album has references to the NHS, The Jungle and Trump.” As a Scot, I wonder whether something closer to home might be on the cards – a track about a possible second indy ref, perhaps? “Ha! who knows, there is one song still left to write for the album.” Fingers crossed, then.
As she puts the finishing touches to her album, Schlesinger is lucky not to have any label execs breathing down her neck. Having founded her own record label, Tantrum, Schlesinger is firmly in the driver’s seat. And that’s just how she likes it. “I can essentially do what I want,” she says, “which as a control freak suits me just fine.” Such creative control is a luxury not many artists are afforded, something Schlesinger is acutely aware of. “I would like to see more people taking a risk with music in general,” she says. “So much sounds the same and so many labels are afraid to take risks on acts that they sign.”
So can we expect some big risks on a new album? Whatever they might be, there’s little doubt Schlesinger is continuing to be inspired by world music, something that can be clearly heard running through the veins of Marching To A Different Beat. “I try and add a bit of myself to whatever I am doing, I don’t lift anything directly from anywhere – but find inspiration in all different types of things,” she says. And it’s not just the music that has been influenced by Schlesinger’s exploration of different cultures. “I am very much inspired by different cultures visually as well as socially,” she says in reference to MALKA’s extravagant stage outfits. “I love to dress up on stage and feel like a different person entirely. [But] I can’t walk around wearing MALKA clothes all day – they are pretty uncomfortable.”
With no release date on the horizon, MALKA’s new album remains, for now, a bit of a mystery. One thing’s for sure though, there won’t be anyone telling Schlesinger how it’s going to sound. Not only does she write and co-produce her music but Schlesinger is a multi-instrumentalist, having played every instrument on MALKA’s debut. But don’t expect more of the same. “It is a bit more alternative and perhaps more industrial sounding but still pretty catchy,” Schlesinger says. “And there are still a few hand claps in there for good measure.”