Meet Celaviedmai (Maimouna Salif) a 25-year-old rapper from Galway. She spoke to Julia Monard about the music scene in Ireland, the importance of having friends as collaborators and how Galway 2020 can foster positive vibes.


Photos and Words: Julia Monard

How did you get into music?

I’ve been working on music seriously since I was 19; I’m 25 now. I’ve always liked writing poetry and I’ve always wanted to be a singer, but I can’t really sing, so I thought I could probably be a rapper and that’s what happened! I’m such an empath and I have a lot of emotion inside of me.  That’s what really drives me…as well as life experiences and heartbreak.


How would you describe the rap scene in Galway?

When I started initially, there was a big hip hop scene at the time. We had a group called Mic-A-Blaze, so we had gigs every month or every two weeks. It’s kind of died down now; I don’t think a lot of people do rap music like that in Galway anymore. There’s the odd rapper, but most people have moved to Dublin now. In terms of the rap scene in Ireland in general, it’s huge now. Some people are getting attention from international acts. I’ve appeared in articles on Irish rappers in the New York Times and Noisy recently, so that’s pretty good – it’s taking off now! I think this year and next, rap in Ireland will be on the up.

What is your process of creating music?

When it comes to writing music, for me, I think you need to find a beat first and then the lyrics just follow. You have to go into studio and depending on the person, it can take one to two hours, or it can take three days to record everything. Once it’s mixed and mastered, it’s all kind of strategic in terms of when you release things. Some songs do better depending on the season, which sounds very weird, but you can have summer songs which are upbeat and then you can have ‘cuddle’ music that feels more like winter time.


In terms of studio spaces, can you do all of your recording in Galway?

Yes, you can; there are a few studios in Galway you can go to. There’s the Forge Studios, but we usually work at home – I have a home studio. A home set-up is easy enough, and I think technology has progressed to the next level, where you don’t really need to go to professional studios to record anymore.


Can you tell us about the group of people you work with?

When I started music, I started with Mic-A-Blaze records and my best friend is my manager; she’s really into music as well, so it started from a friendship into a business scene. For some people, depending on who you are and who your friends are, it’s better to start your music with friends. You can trust them more and they’re more likely to give you good advice and constructive criticism, rather than people you don’t really know. Then again, it depends on the individual, but my music set-up was family-based.


What do you consider to be your daily struggle?

Being an artist is expensive; you have to pay for everything yourself in terms of promotion, music videos, even traveling to gigs sometimes. Then sometimes, you don’t even get paid for gigs, and a lot of people think you do. Financially, it is a struggle, but it’s all worth it in the end. Mondays to Wednesdays, I try to focus on music and then the other days I mostly focus on work. I feel like I have no life, but music is my passion, so I don’t care.


What is your Galway story?

I’ve been in Galway all my life, I can really say I am Galwegian. I went to primary school here, I went to secondary school here, I went to college here as well. Galway is all I know. I love Galway. Everyone is super friendly here, it feels like a family setting. It’s quiet, but the nightlife is good, and there are a lot of pubs here. It’s nice to raise kids here, I’d say. It’s just a friendly, loving place.


What do you think is missing in Galway with regards to culture?

I don’t think there’s anything missing in regards to culture; Galway is probably one of the most cultural places in Ireland. But in terms of advancement for music, there are a lot of things missing. There isn’t enough encouragement for people to create music in Galway. There isn’t a lot of access to open spaces for music, like in Dublin, where they have studios and where you can create music videos.

“I think this year and next, rap in Ireland will be on the up.”

Was there a defining moment in your life that has altered the way you look at things?

I feel like I have had so many experiences. A long-term relationship that ended really shaped my view on everything, but in a positive way, I think. I learned a lot about myself, and I also learned that when things end, there’s always a reason. I feel like I am more confident after it; I know what I want now, and I am more serious about going where I want to go.


Is there a quote that represents you right now?

I would say ‘Whatever God has planned for you, no one can ever take away from you.’ That would be a quote I live by right now. Whatever your destiny is, no matter how many turbulences come your way, no matter how many discouragements, whatever is for you, will always be for you regardless.


What is one thing that is guaranteed to make you emotional?

To be honest, anything. I am a very emotional person; I think a lot of people know that. If you follow me on social media, you know I am either really happy or really sad! I kind of pick up people’s energies, so anything can trigger me. But other than that, I am happy 95 per cent of the time!

How would you describe Generation 20 in your circles?

My group would be ‘positive vibes’. Abundance. Love. I think we’re just trying to make a change in a world where there is a lot of darkness.


What are some of your happiest moments?

I have a lot, but one of them was performing at Electric Picnic and the energy was amazing, the crowd was amazing and they were singing some of my words back to me, which was fantastic. Another one was being in a taxi with my mom and my new single came on RTE 2fm for the first time. My mom stopped the driver going, ‘Hey, hey, hey, that’s my daughter singing on the radio!’ That was one of my happiest moments.


What excites you the most about your future and what scares you?

What excites me the most is knowing that the way music is going now, I could really blow up. What freaks me out is that I don’t know what my life purpose would be if I didn’t have music or if music failed. I feel music is my purpose.


What do you think when you hear Galway 2020?

I feel like there is going to be a revolutionary change in 2020 and Galway is going to become this next big thing. In terms of music, there’s going to be so many events, so many new places, a lot of tourists. That’s just what I imagine. Galway is going to become the capital, where everyone is going to be at. I think Galway 2020 is going to amazing, it will be like a small New York!


What would you like to see happening in Galway 2020?

More events, just something special. For me, as an artist, I would like to see more studios, open spaces and live venues for people to do music. I’d like to see more events for local artists especially, like music festivals. I’d also like to see more international artists, because it would put more focus on Galway in general and more people would travel here. If you think about it, most people travel from the West to Dublin when it comes to music and it would be nice to get more people to Galway.


Are there any particular artists you would like to see?

Pushing it, but Beyoncé! When Ed Sheeran came, that was huge, the crowd was amazing. Things like that would be economically good for Galway, local businesses would have more customers. I think it would make sense to have something major going on here once in a while.

“I hope that the legacy will be that everyone gets to a place of good mental health, positivity, and mindfulness through art.”

Do you identify as European?

I kind of do, I’ve been in Europe all my life. Obviously, I am from an African heritage and I still do represent that, but I am pretty much European. I don’t know what that means. A regular millennial is what I identify myself as – social media and looks-obsessed!

What would you like the legacy of Galway 2020 to be?

I hope that the legacy will be that everyone gets to a place of good mental health, positivity, and mindfulness through art. Art allows us to express ourselves, allows us to be free.
If it could help people get to a place free of judgment, that would be unreal. We could have free art events, random concerts unannounced in Eyre Square, have people dancing about and brightening up people’s days. Everyone is friendly here, but I don’t think we focus on mental health enough. If we could mix mental health and art together, at random multiple times of the week, everyone would be super-duper happy.

Generation 20

Generation 20 is a photo and interview series focusing on the new wave of artists in Galway.  With each interview and portrait, we aim to uncover their motivations, aspirations and  frustrations. To get the full authentic picture and find their common link, bring them all together and into the light. How does their journey relate to Galway and where would they like to see it in 2020? We want to see the people in the budding stages of their expression, those that are quietly grafting and doing wonderful things.

Open, bold and colourful, this is #generation20.

Photos and interviews by Julia Monard.

More from Mai: