- 29 Jul 20
Following her brilliant Hot Press Instagram gig, the sensational Galway rapper, Celaviedmai, talks about creativity, collabs, virtual gigs – and leaving all the negativity behind.
Maimouna Salif, aka Celaviedmai, is a Galway-born rapper. Already, at the age of 26, she has established herself as one of Ireland’s most vibrant and dynamic emerging acts of 2020. She has brought a real freshness, innovation and enthusiasm to the Irish rap and hip-hop scene.
That said, it took her a while to coin the name Celaviedmai!
“My first chosen name was Mai,” she explains. “Then I looked that up on Instagram and realised that there’s a Korean artist with that name. So I changed it to ‘bok choy’, only to later find out that bok choy was actually the same as pak choi. So that was completely different to what I wanted.
“That’s when I went with Celaviedmai. Mai is obviously the name that my parents call me. ‘C’est la vie’ obviously means ‘That’s life’ in French, and the ‘d’ just means ‘of’. So Celaviedmai translates as ‘That’s the life of Mai’.”
So far, she has been one of the stand-out successes of the Hot Press Lockdown Sessions’ Y&E Series, supported by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – turning in a stunning, theatrical performance via the Hot Press Instagram TV page.
The Galwegian describes how she created the majestic backdrop for that livestream.
“My sister and I literally came up with that, like, 30 minutes before the set,” she smiles. “People asked if we had practised it. And we were like, ‘nope!’ But we actually used gift-wrap paper to make the backgrounds. We got a few plants from our living room, and then we used a light that we use for outside. So that’s how it came about.
“Honestly, I find virtual gigs more awkward. I just have this weird anxiety. I don’t know how to explain it. I can perform in front of 10,000 people and feel comfortable. If it’s five people, I feel it’s too intimate for me and I don’t know where to look.
“But, to be honest, the Hot Press one was probably the best virtual gig I’ve ever had in my life, because it was kind of like a story and it was almost as if I was acting while performing. So I really like that aspect.”
To date, Celaviedmai has collaborated with artists like Tomi Keni and Alicia Raye. She has also supported Hoodie Allen, Lil Wayne, Tinchy Stryder, Mac Miller and Jafarais. She explains how the collaboration with Nealo and Alan McKee came about, for her contemplative single, ‘Questions.’
“It was the most random thing ever,” she laughs. “I think it was during quarantine. I just started talking to Nealo a bit more. I said, ‘Oh my gosh bro we definitely need to collaborate’. ‘Questions’ was the next single I was going to drop anyway, but I was going to drop it on my own.
“Then I thought: Nealo could really execute this. He knows how to convey a message very clearly when he’s rapping. And I swear to you, this guy got it and within 30 minutes he sent it back. That’s the fastest thing I’ve seen in my whole life. I can’t explain how amazing this guy is. I’m such a fan it’s crazy.
“With Alan, it was random as well. I was like, ‘Hey, would you like to add harmonies to a song?’ And same thing, he had it back to me in like an hour. These are just two incredible musicians. I really believe in the law of attraction. They delivered better than my expectations.”
Was she engrossed in the creative process during lockdown?
“Yes and no. I feel like with the lockdown I had to take some time and reflect on myself as a person. When I was reflecting, it was difficult to create because there were a lot of things that I have probably internalised or hadn’t taken the time to address. So, at the start [of lockdown] it wasn’t easy to be creative. But towards the middle, and now, I feel like my creativity really came back.
“Lockdown is the first time I have really gotten to chill and focus on myself and what I want to do with my music. Also, to think about what the message is that I want to convey in my music.”
A recent gender disparity report showed an imbalance in the music by Irish male and female artists played on Irish radio.
“Can I say I am shocked? Nope,” Cestlaviedmai reflects. “Honestly, I’m never shocked when it comes to female issues. But that was the most refreshing thing that ever happened to me in my music career. Because it made me realise that that wasn’t even me that was a problem. This happens to all women.
“I don’t think anyone realises how demotivating it is as a female artist, and as an artist in general, to not get any radio play and to not get any type of support. You start asking, ‘What am I doing that’s not enough? Is my music not good enough? Am I not marketing myself the right way? What do I need to do to get up there?’
“Hopefully the report does inspire change and women start getting played a bit more and get the same chance as men.”
Politically, she was also active in Black Lives Matter, following the murder of George Floyd.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” she says, “as much as I am strong, it did get to me sometimes. Because of how much I contributed to the Black Lives Matter movement, like setting up the protests in Galway, organising a few Zoom meetings and stuff like that, I did feel a pressure at some points and honestly I got so lost in it because I thought, ‘Wait, I’m still an artist. I’m not a full-time activist.’
“Not everyone is mentally strong enough to speak about those things,” she adds. “But this is just my life and this is what I experience. So I wanted to share my thoughts. But I had to take a little step back then, because I started to get consumed by the negativity. Rather than seeing that we are just trying to make a positive change.”
With that thought in mind, there’s no doubt that we’ll be hearing a lot more from the hugely talented Galway rapper.
“I have a lot of stuff planned,” she confesses. ”But I think it’s just about strategising now. I have two EPs coming out soon. I don’t want to release singles without a message. I want to give people a body of work for them to digest. I feel like, with singles, you don’t really get to know who I am as a person overall. So hopefully you’ll get a body of work before the end of summer.”
Here at Hot Press, we’re looking forward to it already.
• ‘Questions’ feat. Nealo and Alan McKee is out now.