Underrated? Over it
Singer, producer and multi- instrumental musician Malik has often been described as underrated.
When he was an up-and-coming artist, being told he was underrated was a compliment. Fans and critics believed he deserved more credit.
But now he has been in the music industry for more than seven years. He has released three solo albums and collaborated with some of the best in the industry, such as Ringo Madlingozi, RJ Benjamin, Zola, Ishmael, Kyllex, Thaso and Tuks.
"For a long time people would say: 'You're one of the most underrated artists in the country'," says Malik, whose real name is Sabelo Zwane.
"At first I'd take it as them telling me I'm creating good music and I need to keep pushing. After a while it got to me. It made me wonder why I was still being called underrated. Why is my music not being pushed? What needs to change?"
After releasing his 2010 album, Mthulise, the record that earned him a Metro FM Award for best Afro-pop artist, Malik made an unconventional decision. He left the record label Ghetto Ruff to become unsigned.
"I needed to step away from the industry and focus on defining and perfecting my style. As a vocalist you can sing anything, but finding your style takes trial and error.
"I've experimented with different styles. I tried out for Pop Stars in 2005, but I made it to only the top 60 because I couldn't dance. Then my first recording as a vocalist was on a house album, I'm Free. I found my style only on my third album, Mthulise," Malik says.
During this hiatus from commercial music, he revisited material he had never published.
Through analysing and tweaking old songs and writing new ones, he feels he has forged a style that not only complements his voice but is an authentic representation of who he is. "It's neo-soul that's influenced by other genres, such as gospel and Afro-pop," says Malik.
After years of experience, Malik has been signed up by Universal Music. His fourth album, Music in Love, is produced by Thomas "Thaso" Tsotetsi, Bongani Fassie, Thomas Mohlapi and Thebe Lekhonkhobe. Malik says the 14-track album is an ode to the marriage between music and love.
"The songs are about how music affects the heart in many different ways. But the songs don't just speak about a romantic love. They speak about the love one has for children, family, friends and the struggles, sacrifices and joys that come with love," explains Malik.
Unlike his previous albums, the production on Music in Love is simple and unfussy and his voice is stripped of synthesisers. "I just want people to know what I'm about on this album."
'Music in Love' will be released today. Malik will perform a single from it on SABC1 tonight at 9pm