Words by: Victoria Taylor
In a captivating interview, the talented Salma Sky takes us on a musical journey filled with cultural influences, empowering messages, and bold collaborations. From her early start as a young singer to her recent success as an award-winning artist, Salma shares the inspirations behind her music and the impact it has on her audience. With her album “Free” showcasing her creative evolution, she discusses the themes explored and the growth she experienced as an artist. Looking ahead, Salma reveals exciting projects and collaborations on the horizon, while also emphasising the importance of giving back and staying true to oneself in the competitive music industry. Prepare to be inspired by the passion and authenticity that define Salma Sky’s remarkable musical career.
Your biography mentions that you started singing at a young age. Can you tell us more about your musical background and how you got started in the industry?
Yes, I started singing at a very young age. I was always the child who wanted to entertain everyone and use my voice to help uplift the mood at parties. My parents used to encourage me to sing, and I’m grateful for that because even though they also challenged me to focus on academics, they were definitely supportive of my creative side. My first professional singing opportunity was with a well-renowned singer in Zambia at that time, named JK. Interestingly enough, I was introduced to him by the director of a music video that I had worked on a while prior. So that’s how the artist Salma Sky was born, and I haven’t looked back since.
Your music often incorporates elements of your Zambian heritage. How do you incorporate these cultural influences into your music, and what importance does it hold for you?
Even though I come from a very multicultural, multi-religious and multiracial background, I am very proud to be Zambian. I was born and bred in Zambia and it is part of my DNA so much that I can’t even imagine myself settling anywhere else full-time. Experiences and stints abroad are welcome but my life and heart are in my country. Zambia will always be my base and I love it very much, with everything that it comes with, I always say that there’s no place like home. I think my diverse background allows me to appreciate all the different cultural influences that Zambia has had to offer me whether they are mine or of my fellow countrymen. So, I have sung in many languages from Zambia and we have 72, so I have quite a lot to pick from. I think the influence of language and culture in my music has always been about making the music more relatable and telling stories that our society deals with. On a daily basis I know there’s a Zambian woman trying to tell her love story in a way that another one would understand or discussing social issues like the fight against child marriages. For me it’s moments like these, that as a creative, allow me to fully immerse myself into cultural expression even if it’s just lyrical.
Your music has been described as “empowering” and “inspiring.” Can you talk about the messages and themes that you aim to convey through your music?
I’m really glad that people enjoy my music, I’m glad that they seek inspiration and find it, and I’m glad that it empowers people, especially women, to see themselves and their circumstances as not unique but as something that reminds them that they have a community in their highs and lows. I make a conscious effort as a singer and songwriter to keep my music honest and relatable, to move with the times, to ensure that my daughters and sons can use my music to heal, grow, understand, encourage and build themselves and others into better, more well-rounded individuals. I like to make music for everyone and every moment, so my projects are governed by this thought process, where I want people to enjoy the music with their families, friends, and children on topics of love, life and learning. It’s always my hope that I never stray from this, because it’s truly who I am and I pour my heart into making my music so that these sentiments are sincerely conveyed through it.
In addition to singing, you are also a songwriter and a performer. Can you talk about your creative process and how you bring your music to life on stage?
After 10+ years of making music and having to perform it, I realise that every era has had its own process. Depending on where I am in my life, sometimes the recluse that needs to be left alone, riding solo and creates in a moment that only belongs to me will take over and then bring it to life with my team after much thought. In other moments I’ve had to have my community hold me up, collaborate and be with me through every step of the creative process to make the music that I’ve made. So, I feel like the different seasons in my life are very indicative of how I will go about making music that matters and how that will translate into a performance. I enjoy the music, the wardrobe, the planning, the set design, the musical arrangement, the rehearsals, no matter how tiring, and most importantly the other creatives that are involved in making my projects the best work that I can ever put out. To me the process is just as important as the product, so I take a great deal of pride and time to ensure that at the end I’m very proud of what we have all created together for Salma Sky.
You’ve won several awards and accolades for your music, Zambian Born & Bred Music Awards in RnB & Dancehall Categories. Can you talk about what these awards mean to you and how they have impacted your career?
I cherish all the awards I’ve ever won and never take anything for granted. There are so many amazing artists in our country that are deserving but I am grateful that I am recognised as someone hard-working and capable of creating art that can be awarded as such. My supporters mean a lot to me and their input in ensuring that I get recognised is something I am always grateful for. Without my fans I don’t see Salma Sky being completely fulfilled.
Your song “Side Chick” has been praised for its bold and unapologetic message. Can you talk about the inspiration behind this song, and the reactions that you’ve received from audiences?
Side Chick was an interesting song to create. When people first saw the title, they weren’t quite sure about what context I was going with. In a time where the concept of being a side chick is accepted and almost even glamorised, it was interesting to see the feedback before the release. When the song did come out, and women championed it for being bold, that they could never come second to anything in the man’s life other than God, they realised that I was a sister‘s keeper and the messenger of what and how a woman should value herself. I’m glad I collaborated with Klappa Heiz because he was the perfect rapper to speak on behalf of men that recognise that women should never come second in their lives and that they must prioritise their needs in the relationship and he is a lyrical genius at doing just that. So, in the end everyone was relieved that I was saying no to being a side chick.
You’ve collaborated with a number of other musicians and artists over the course of your career. Can you talk about some of your most memorable collaborations, and what you’ve learned from working with others?
To be honest, I have worked with so many people, and it would be remiss for me to leave out anyone because they are all so wonderful and impactful in my career. I’ve been blessed to work with amazing artists that are fluid, extremely talented, cooperative and just all-around professionals. Both my studio albums made me realise that the complexity of working with different people refines you as an artist and I’ve learned a great deal on how to be more malleable and accepting of other people’s opinions, creative processes and how that openness to create in a moment can help turn a good project into a great one.
Your most recent singles, “Mr DJ” and “Hold Up” have been described as “party anthems.” Can you talk about the inspiration behind this song, and what you hope listeners will take away from it?
I’m so excited about these two records as I believe they have the power to unite people. “Mr. DJ” captures those magical moments in clubs or at parties where you realise sparks can fly with someone special, and uplifting music can create unique moments for people falling in love in unexpected places. “Hold Up” is an anthem for everyone—it’s the song you want to sing along to with your friends, the people who have supported you throughout your journey, no matter how challenging it may have been. It also honestly acknowledges the difficulties faced by individuals who feel marginalised in certain spaces. As always, my hope is that people not only find joy in the music but also appreciate the underlying message it conveys.
How would you describe the creative evolution of Salma Sky as showcased in your album, “Free”? What distinct elements or artistic growth do you perceive compared to your previous works?
I think the FREE album was exactly that: very liberating. It was a time for me to rediscover who I am and express myself in the way I desired. FREE provided me with an opportunity to create music sonically in ways I had never been able to before, but always wanted to. It also gave me the courage to pursue collaborations that I had only dreamed of. Working with artists whom I had previously collaborated with and had strong bonds with, as well as those who welcomed me with open arms, allowed us to effortlessly create great music together. I am humbled that, after 19 songs, I have made a studio album that truly represents all my musical strengths and my tribe, at least in this era.
Can you elaborate on the themes and inspirations explored in this album? How do you think these themes resonate with your audience and contribute to the overall impact of the album?
I feel that everything I expressed on the FREE album remains relevant to my life in the last two years, but it is also relatable to many people, making it timeless. I chose to embrace and own my truth, my art, and the music that I believe I am destined to create. While I was certainly influenced by the sounds of my R&B inspirations, producers, and fellow songwriters, I aimed to write lyrics and melodies that would matter both now and in the future. As a result, themes such as love, uplifting vibes, and anthems of resilience and faith are all interwoven into the fabric of this album, providing a glimpse into Salma’s journey and experiences during the two years it took to create it.
What’s next for you in your musical career? Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations that you’re particularly excited about?
I’m extremely excited about the year ahead. Our deluxe version of the album FREE is scheduled to be released later this year, and it has opened up numerous opportunities for the Salma Sky Brand and everyone associated with it. I can’t wait to perform on stages I’ve never experienced before and gain new supporters in regions I haven’t explored yet. I’m also thrilled about entering different musical markets and expanding my reach, so that my music can be enjoyed across the globe.
I’m actively making efforts to collaborate and work with people from all over the world, seeking out fellow creators who share the same mindset as me regarding music’s borderless nature and its universal appeal. The rise of Afrobeat has demonstrated that African music has a rightful place in the world, and its artists deserve recognition regardless of their genre. Now that we are being acknowledged, I eagerly await what the world has to offer next while it remains open-armed and receptive.
In addition to your music career, you’ve also worked as an ambassador for various brands and organisations. Can you talk about these experiences, and what you’ve learned about branding and marketing from these collaborations?
The music industry is a fascinating one. It has required many artists to become entrepreneurs, influencers, and ambassadors for various brands and products. This transition has been particularly interesting for creatives, as they are challenged to utilise their creative abilities while collaborating with brands that align with their own.
I genuinely appreciate my current ambassador and influencer opportunities. I’ve been fortunate to work with brands that not only respect me as an artist but also uphold my values and have helped me refine how I present my brand as a whole. From the early stages of my career, I was clear about the kind of brand I wanted to establish, and that clarity has immensely benefited me. How one presents themselves often determines the opportunities they receive. I highly value my relationships with all the brands I collaborate with, as they greatly support my musical endeavours. It’s a community that I believe creatives should strive to build and cherish because together, we can accomplish so much more than we can alone.
Can you discuss any philanthropic work that you’re involved in, and why giving back to the community is important to you?
I haven’t specifically aligned myself with any particular cause for the year just yet. However, I am actively involved in supporting causes with immediate needs, such as the Zambia Cancer Society. Additionally, I am currently engaged in supporting youth in sports, particularly youth in football. Recently, I’ve been involved with a fantastic learn-to-swim program called Swim Zambia Academy here in Lusaka, Zambia. This program focuses on teaching swimming not only as a recreational activity but also as a vital life skill.
I feel a strong connection to vulnerable women and children, recognising that as a mother, this is an area where support is always needed. Therefore, I am actively seeking opportunities to give back in this regard. Furthermore, I am mentoring young artists, especially females, in an industry that is predominantly male-dominated. I aim to assist them in honing their craft and developing their business acumen so that the next generation of female artists is better equipped than ours was. I hope that they, in turn, will pass on their knowledge and support to those who come after them.
Finally, what advice do you have for aspiring musicians who are looking to break into the industry and make a name for themselves?
My advice is always the same for aspiring musicians, it has and always will be that in the industry you intend to step in to, knowing and owning who you are is the greatest gift, applause, standing ovation, award or accolade you can ever give yourself. It is the grandest performance you can ever put on stage. It is the most rewarding way to own your path and to enjoy your musical journey. It is the only way the world should see you for who you are; be yourself.