Maleek Berry discusses the power of collaborations and the need for more infrastructures across the continent to support the growth of African music internationally
Ambassador of the Midem African Forum 2019, Maleek Berry is one of the leading figures of the Afrobeats movement, and he is taking the world by storm. Having produced for some of the most exciting artists today, from Davido to Wizkid, Jidenna and Ycee, he shares insight on his experience and international development. He also shares his vision on the growth of the African music industries and the opportunities and challenges faced by African artists in the continent and beyond.
Maleek Berry is a British-born Nigerian singer-songwriter and producer, internationally known for his original African inspired melodies and production. Born in the heart of South London, Maleek (real name Maleek Shoyebi) grew up listening to some of the biggest names in R&B from Tevin Campbell, Boyz II Men and Jodeci.
Berry started his career in the Church, forming a group with two close friends. Managing to source a little pre-production setup – Fruity Loops – the group began writing, producing and performing their own songs at the ages of 14 and 15.
Maleek continued to work on his craft around his education. Having achieved a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, he became solely focused on his music.
Having worked with prominent artists such as Wizkid, Davido, Chip, Rudimental, Not3s and Estelle, Maleek is bringing a fresh and unique sound to the world deriving its deep influence from the Motherland. His biggest hits thus far include, Kontrol, The Matter and Sit Back Down with Not3s, on which he features and produced.
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“Maleek Berry is a guy who cares about music so much, who cares about Africa, who cares about the culture and who just cares about art in general. I’m a producer, I’m a writer, I’m a musician as well and I’m also the founder of Berry’s Room.”
“I started working with Davido about 2010. I met him through a mutual friend that was his cousin. He was a lot younger than me but I felt like he was like me. So he was a producer, he was an artist, he engeneered and mixed his own music, so we jelled that way. I remmebr I used to teach him a few things as well, and we just built this brotherhood, this relationship. And in 2011, I went out to Nigeria and that was like the biggest culture shock, because I hadn’t been back since I came to the UK when I was six, so imagine that! That was a serious culture shock. So I connected with Davido there, stayed with him and his folks for about 2 weeks and through him I started to meet all of the other acts in the culture like Wizkid and the Wande Coal. And as soon as I met Wiz, we clicked straight away. The first day I met him he jumped on three of my beats, freestyled on the spot.”
“I was looking at people like Pharrell, I was looking at people like Timbaland, I was looking at people like Kanye, artists that had brands outside of just producing. So I took a leaf out of their page, at that time David Guetta was doing his thing. So why not do Maleek Berry featuring Wizkid, as a producer! So the Maleek name would be ringing and Wiz loved the idea and did like three more records like that.”
“The most influential [artist I’ve worked with], I’d probably say Kanye West. That was during his time in Uganda, I got asked to go out there and work on a Wendy project. I can’t say too much because I don’t know what’s going on. Shout out to Bakuli and Usher! That was just an amazing experience to me.