There are not many sound mix engineers in the country like Michael Udenna, popularly known as Marqai Mixx. He’s a sound engineer with several acclaimed hits under his belt. From music mixing and mastering to television and radio jingles, editing of radio shows, Marqai stands tall among his peers and has continued to stay relevant. In this interview with SEGUN ADEBAYO, he shares the joy he derives in bringing clarity and professionalism to his craft.
Marqai Mixx gives his best to every job each time he delivers. As a professional mixer whose name is on many hit songs ruling the airwave, he still feels the need to do more and wants more out of life. According to him, despite his success, he wants to keep getting better and gives God the glory for making his job acceptable.
Asked how life has been as one of the most sought after in the game, he says:“It’s been God’s grace, not by my strength; He makes it easier for me. Usually, most of my projects come through at different times but when my table gets full, I just prioritize and deliver.”
His job is rated as the most difficult part of production. He explains how he manages to bring his best out of every job.
“For me, it’s all about genuine interest and determination. It’s knowing what you want in life and going for it. At the beginning, the entire process wasn’t easy; I made a lot of mistakes. However, I had support and encouragement from a number of friends who are professionals in the field. It was rough, but I kept studying and pushing.”
Rising to this level where he now commands a reasonable number of jobs from both Nigerian and other African A list artistes excites him. indeed it brings him so much joy just as it keeps him under pressure, but he says he soaks the pressure and keeps getting better on it.
“Working with A-list artistes… these are artistes I never ever thought I would work with, so yes, it a big deal for me. And also working with big brands through Zero Degrees Media. Again, it’s been God and I honestly appreciate the journey,” he said.
His job is largely underrated but he keeps breaking new grounds with his imprints on some of the biggest songs rocking the airwaves. He says people underrate the job because they don’t understand the stress and hard work that goes into each production, especially “when one is one with a popular act. Most guys start small; it’s quite easy to be underappreciated in our industry. I just keep at it, hard work and excellence always shines through. However, I’ve been nominated ‘Mix Engineer of the Year’ once, and my work speaks for itself.”
Does he feel bad not getting the credit he deserves. Marqai says it is natural to feel somehow but it should not bring down the spirit. “It’s only natural. Everyone deserves credit for their hard work. How will you know I worked on a trending song? Credits brings you more jobs and translates to more money, but one has to keep moving.
“I’d say I’ve always had a good ear for music. I started by recording vocals at the early stage and I just felt like doing more. I eventually started messing around with sounds, frequencies and plugins. Did some more research and applied it.”
Since the beginning of the year Marqai has been busy working on a couple of projects that would soon see the light of the day. He has also been involved in quite a number of TV ads and radio jingles. These jobs mean so much to him and his career. “I work with Zero degrees, a production company, our team handles TV ads, radio jingles, documentaries and so on. These productions remind me of the need to keep working hard and giving my best to each project,” he reveals.
He was quick to dispel rumours doing the rounds that he switched into TV and radio jingles because of lack of patronages from the big guns in the music industry saying “ No it’s not true, I still get lots of jobs. I just don’t love to be boxed into a corner with one job. I am the type that likes to explore.”
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With recognitions from within and outside the country and awards also trickling in, Marqai is grateful to God for the beautiful life he has blessed him with.
He would recall how the journey started with hopes and dreams of how to make it big in the game, but today the story has finally changed.
Hear him “ I’m grateful for where I am, but I’m just getting started. It’s going to be a long ride.”
It is not a new thing for somebody to rise to the peak of his career but fizzle out in no time due to lack of discipline and focus. The talented mixer says “honestly, it’s just being focused. Avoid distractions, research on how to get better in your field, try out new techniques and with God by your side… you will surely remain relevant,” he reveals.
On how it feels working with some of the big names and the attendant challenges.
He cuts in swiftly and says “Lol… I can’t remember having serious issues with anyone. Music is a team sport. Everyone has their role. The producer makes the beats, the vocalist sings, the engineer mixes and masters. Everyone is important in the process.”
Does he charge as much as music producers do?
He says “this boils down to branding; for example MasterKraft charges more than some mix engineers, while some producers that are not as popular as MasterKraft may not make as much as some popular mix engineers,” he asserted.
He hardly runs into problems with his clients despite the many jobs at his disporals. He understands that everybody has one flaw or the other so this helps him to understand the philosophy that works with every clients’ job.
“I have always known that everyone has flaws, it’s all about understanding your clients needs and attending to them creatively and carefully.”
He also proffered solution to the face-off between record label owners and artistes on the labels, saying “ I feel both parties should play their parts. Follow the agreement signed. A label owner must be ready to spend resources as required and the artists should deliver and not leave before his contract expires. As simple as this sounds, if followed, there won’t be issues,” he said.
For Marqai, his biggest job of all time remains Falz’s Karishika as it was the turn around moment for him and his career.
“My biggest project? …. I’ll go with Karashika by falz. It changed the game for me,” he revealed.