Abu Dhabi: Music is a constant presence in her home. The different kinds of music records that were played throughout her childhood both echo and complement the music that emerges when she sits at the piano, composing or simply playing for the joy of doing so.
"My dad and mom are big music lovers. They used to play all types of music [records]. I took a liking to listening to piano music and grew quite a fondness for the instrument, for its sound and versatility," Malika Omar, an instrumentalist, said.
"I'm a huge fan of Richard Clayderman. I was listening to his records when I first began pretending to play [the piano] so I think he probably sparked my love for the style I play today," she added nostalgically.
Born and raised in Capetown, Malika and her family moved to Johannesburg when she was in Grade 11. When her father was transferred to Dubai six years later, the family found themselves moving house once again.
"We moved here just before my album was released in South Africa, over a year ago. A month after we settled in, I went to Virgin Megastores to see if they would agree to distribute my album here. I spoke to a salesman at one of the stores who referred me to another person who referred me to someone else and the rest, as they say, is history," she smiled.
But the road to where she is today has not been easy. When Malika decided to put out an album, she decided not to sign up with a record company.
"I wanted to have a hold on the entire production process so I started teaching piano to children at home in South Africa and every weekend I would play at a restaurant or coffee bar. The money I earned from that would go into funding production [of the album].". Malika said the process of working with the production team to come up with a final product was a long one, which took time and patience.
"In the music industry, you have to wait for this one and that one... it took about two years to assemble everything," Malika explained. She added that the experience also allowed her to become more confident playing in front of audiences, as she is naturally shy. She said she became more independent because she had to fund everything and make quick decisions.
All of this would not be possible with the two people Malika calls 'my guardian angels', a music store owner who discovered her and is now her distributor back home and the National Division and Production Director of Universal Music in South Africa. The two of them guided and taught her what to do throughout the entire process, something which she is very grateful for.
While Malika acknowledges that it is more difficult for instrumentalists to break into the global music market, she is hopeful that she would be successful in doing so like artists such as Chris Martin of Coldplay, Alicia Keys and Vanessa Mae are some of the current artists who have made instrumental music much more accessible and popular.
"I hope one day to be able to use Dubai as a launching pad to Europe. My biggest dream is to one day play at the Royal Albert Hall in the UK," Malika said.
"But I'm not the type of person who has set a goal for tomorrow or the next day, I have a long term goal that I am working towards. Anything can happen ... to face it with a smile. I'm relatively small (152 centimetres) but I've got a mean punch," she added laughing.