Today, Irish hip-hop artist Celaviedmai becomes the third of four acts to be spotlighted by Breakthrough, GAY TIMES and Coke Studio’s campaign to find the very best unsigned LGBTQ+ music talent in the UK and Ireland. As part of the campaign, Breakthrough will offer all four acts a range of exciting paid opportunities comprising a photoshoot with a leading queer photographer, valuable live experience and lasting support propelling them, beyond the summer Pride months, in an industry so few manage to break into. This support will include prestigious festival slots at the likes of Luno presents All Points East, Boardmasters and Longitude, as well as performances at Pride in London and Brighton Pride as part of Coca-Cola’s Parade Float. The four acts were chosen following an online callout that attracted submissions from more than 200 talented artists.
Celaviedmai’s stage name is essentially a self-made portmanteau. It combines her nickname – born Maimouna Salif, she became “Mai” for short – with “c’est la vie”, the French expression meaning “that’s life”. And this portmanteau tells us, in a cleverly inventive way, that the music she puts out will always reflect the life of Mai. “One thing about me is that I have so many sides to who I am,” she says. “I’m confident and outspoken, but at the same time I really do be in my feelings a lot and of course I do care about what people think of me. It’s hard not to in this line of work.”
Celaviedmai says her multifaceted personality has “majorly influenced my musical direction in terms of working out my sound [and] hopping between genres and rap styles”. But at this point in her career, she has pinpointed the energy she wants to bring to the world – and it’s fundamentally uplifting. “The songs I enjoy making the most are uptempo, energetic, explicit and fun,” she says. “So while I’d love to be profound or use my voice to tackle big topics – like many of the rappers that I admire – it’s more my style to create music that I’d want to dance to in the club or that will translate into an incredible live show.” You can definitely hear this energy in her latest single Pay the Piper, a collaboration with fellow Dublin-based artist Zapho that throbs with a club-ready electronic pulse.
Celaviedmai’s advice to fellow LGBTQ+ musicians is also quintessentially positive. “Your sexuality and your identity doesn’t need to be part of your art if you don’t want it to be,” she says. “It’s so tiring being the spokesperson for a ‘minority’ when all you’re tryna do is make banging tunes.” For Celaviedmai, being authentic about her sexuality doesn’t mean letting it define her as an artist. “I speak so openly about the fact I fancy both men and women, I embrace sexual thoughts and desires when writing, but I don’t let it take over,” she says. When it comes to Pride season, Celaviedmai is equally upbeat, albeit in a realistic and deeply empathetic way. “It’s great to havea dedicated time of year to celebrate all types of loves and life, but I see that all year round in Dublin, so really I think it’s just the perfect excuse to party,” she says. “That’s what it means to me personally as I am comfortable with who I am and which ways I swing. But I do recognise that for some people, this is one of the only times they feel like they can be themselves. So that makes me emotional, to be honest.”
Though she dislikes “when the conversation turns to problems all the time”, Celaviedmai will say it has been “hard” for her to “find my community in Ireland”. She grew up in Galway on the country’s west coast, where “there were only a handful of small groups rapping and exploring hip-hop”, and decided to move to Dublin in 2020 to “get serious about music”. In the process, Celaviedmai says she “left behind a sense of security and essentially started from scratch when it came to making friends, let alone finding a music tribe”. But in time, once she found her manager and collaborators, the move proved incredibly enriching. “Things started to get easier when I felt a support system around me,” she says. “I’m now part of an organisation called Mo Cultivation who celebrate urban culture from Ireland and around the world. They’ve been creating events and opportunities that are more inclusive for people who still want to find their tribe. It’s great to be part of a safe space like that.”
Celaviedmai says she has been “majorly influenced” by hip-hop visionaries including Chance the Rapper, J Cole and Azealia Banks, but describes the great Missy Elliott as her “very first music idol”. “It was about how she looked, how she sounded, how she carried herself with such confidence and swagger despite not looking like the rest of the women in music at the time,” she recalls. This confidence has proved particularly inspiring for Celaviedmai because one of her “biggest challenges” as a performer has been overcoming her own “self-inflicted pressures about body image”. At the same time, Celaviedmai says she has always been “drawn to dance music” and is now bringing this influence to the fore. “Half of my sets used to be my own verses over songs like Modjo’s Lady (Hear Me Tonight), Janet Jackson remixes and Kaytranada instrumentals,” she says. “Once I realised that it’s absolutely possible to pair rap with dance music, I was able to revisit a lot of my older demos and rework them.”
To this end, her new era of music is “heavily inspired by dance music”, but with elements of “afro, garage and bounce” weaved in. With a new project dropping later this summer, Celaviedmai is absolutely clear about her ambitions, especially after smashing a “bucket list” set at Ireland’s Other Voices festival last December. “I want to appeal to a community of people who want to dance, who can take some sexiness and who will let me be myself while also keeping my crown as a top-tier live performer,” she says. “I already know that people outside of my home country are ready. But there’s no one in Ireland doing this right now, so the right audience are just waiting to discover me, just like they have been at festivals over the past year or so.” The only possible response to this mission statement is ‘bring it on’ – Celaviedmai’s new era already sounds iconic.
Creative Director: Julia Salotti
Senior Producer: Sophie Christophersen
Account Director: Pav Grewal
Executive Creative Director: Josh Fletcher
Sales Director: Tiffany Gumbrell
Art Director / Designer: Jack Rowe
Designer: Yosef Phelan
Photography: Jordan Rossi
Photography Assistants: Doma Dovgialo, Ally Cook, Marcus Lister
Fashion Director: Umar Sarwar
Styling Assistants: Lily Hobson, Bradley Turner
Hair: Louis Byrne, Marc Ramos
Makeup: Byron London, Matilde Ribau
Videographer / Editor: Joe Wood
Sound Recordist: Smiley Sound, Ben Williams
Grade: Studio RM