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Creating in isolation: An interview with Magana

Covid-19 has impacted everyone's reality in some way or another. During this time, we have been forced to adapt to the new normal and discover how we can continue building for the future in times of uncertainty. With a view to exploring the experiences of young creatives during isolation, we spoke with 21 year old Magana, a Nairobi born singer/songwriter/actress/all-round entertainer currently based in New York.

Magana's sound is directly influenced by artists like Lauryn Hill and Jill Scott- a unique blend of neo-soul and R&B. During the pandemic, Magana has had to adapt to balancing a remote, full-time academic course while finding new ways to create and perform music. She, like many artists, has been performing virtually on IG live and Zoom and has adapted to the setting of her newly converted home studio, where she has been hard at work making her next hit.

Read on for our discussion of all things including inspiration in difficult circumstances, the barriers facing aspiring artists at this time and using this period as a time of transformative growth. In keeping with the theme of creating in isolation, our interview also includes a Facetime Photo Series shot by the talented Charlie Troulan (@thegoldencanon), capturing how beauty and talent can flourish even in in the most unconventional setting.

How would you describe your music?

I’d say the two songs I’ve released so far, Drifting and Keep It Going, have been a blend of R&B and Neo-Soul but the music I've been making since then definitely ranges. Lately, I’ve really just been in the process of experimenting with different sounds and just allowing my music to exist in whatever space it does without really trying to fit it into any specific category.

(Photography- @thegoldencanon)

Where do you find the inspiration for your work? (Eg: Others artists, topics, experiences?)

I find inspiration everywhere! Sometimes I'm inspired to write about a situation I've experienced, or that a friend has experienced. Other times it’s a lyric from another song that sparks an idea, or a line in a poem, or a movie, or a piece of art, or a book. I just stay inspired by constantly being open and receptive and allowing the world to guide me in whatever way it does.

What changed the most when it came to your creating during Coronavirus and how did you adapt?

Firstly, writer's block. Haha, that's definitely been my greatest challenge creatively during this time.

Being in quarantine has given me a lot more time to learn more about music and study different artists and producers, and understand different techniques that I want to employ in my own music. It’s kind of a double-edged sword though because all of this new knowledge has made me hyper-conscious and hyper-critical of my own stuff. I realized that there’s this gap between where I currently am and where I want to be as a musician, and everything I was creating just wasn’t meeting my new standards. I ended up just not creating for a while. Honestly I’ve just been getting through this by giving myself the space and freedom to write a lot of “bad” songs without judgement. Letting all of the bad ideas out to give room for the better ones and hone my songwriting skills in the process.

Another challenge has been trying to focus on all that's gone on with the global social justice movements and creatively acclimating; I didn't feel comfortable writing a love song while people are out on the streets protesting. It just didn’t feel honest or appropriate at the time even though that’s what I'm used to writing about. I just wasn’t even inspired to write about the things I was used to because it wasn’t true to the time or how I was feeling. So it’s pushed me to expand my content outside of my usual comfort zone- some of which I might share or just keep to myself.

Another thing that’s changed is not having access to a studio/ working with producers in person. So now my focus has shifted from lyricism to also learning more about producing and how I want to create different sonic worlds and elevate my sound. I rented some equipment at the beginning of quarantine but it wasn’t really what I was expecting. So I ordered some new equipment that just got here a few days ago, downloaded FL studio, and I'm in the process of figuring it all out. In the beginning it was kind of stressful but now I’ve just been having fun with it.

I think the key to adapting to this situation has just been flexibility. Being willing to learn and adjust. Embracing the new circumstances and finding the opportunity to create.

What is the biggest thing you learned during this time- either related to your work or just in general?

Honestly this entire quarantine experience has been really transformative and I don't think I can really distill it into one thing. What I can say though is that a lot of the best learning I've done during this time has been about myself and that’s come from dedicating more time to self work and confronting a lot of the areas of myself that needed it. Meditating and working on how to be fully present has been super big for me, but really I’ve just been experiencing all of this like everyone else.

What are your plans for your future music?

I definitely want to release some music before the end of the year, start collaborating with other artists and just keep having fun with it. I'm not putting too much pressure on myself, but watch this space...

You can find Magana's music here and stay tuned for her future releases!


Magana's Insta- @magana.n

Charlie's Insta (Photographer(: @thegoldencanon


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