Get to Know Acoustic & Electric Violinist Mapy

Author: Navinder Birad / Photos: Valine Brana
08.22 / MB Series

We recently caught up with Mapy, a Parisian who has been playing the violin since she was a child. Known as #ViolinQueen, Mapy has performed with several different artists, including Pharrell Williams. Find out more about the fierce female changing the classical instrument game, one hip-hop track at a time...

You started playing the violin at a young age, what made you want to continue this journey?
I was 6 years old when I started to play the violin, and to be honest, at the beginning it wasn’t my biggest passion. At this young age, I wanted to play and have fun, more than practicing my instrument every day. My mother is one of the reasons why I didn’t give up, and I’m very grateful. A few weeks after starting my violin lessons, I already wanted to give up; the violin was requiring too much work on a daily basis. My mother told me that it would be a big mistake. This is how life is, nothing is easy but it is not a reason to give up. Seeing each difficulty and obstacle as a challenge to undertake would make me stronger and excellent. So I kept practicing, working hard every day, I became the best violin student of the Conservatory in Paris by the time I graduated. I literally fell in love with the violin a few years before passing my diploma. I remember this day, I was listening to the radio in my bedroom. I heard some hip-hop and tried to play it on my violin. I realized that I was actually able to play every song I loved by ear and at this very moment, I knew that I would continue this journey because I found my path.

In what ways did growing up in Paris influence the artist you are today?
I grew up in the Parisian suburb, which is not the most beautiful area in Paris. My area was qualified by media as a no-go zone.” In my borough, most of us were first-generation immigrant children, so I grew up with people from different countries and cultures. The majority of us were from Africa and the Caribbean. And because we were all going to the same school and went through a lot of difficulties of life together, not only we were neighbors, we were a big family. While the media was talking about us a negative way, we grew up in these buildings learning principles and values like solidarity, tolerance, and respect. Hip-hop was our music, street art was decorating our walls, sneakers on our feet, dancers in the streets, boys and girls playing soccer in the parking lot… This is the wonderful multicultural cocktail that influenced me to be the artist I am today.

Who are some of your musical influences and who would you like to collaborate with?
Some of my musical influences are legends like 2Pac, Notorious BIG, and Bob Marley. They have inspired me to play hip-hop and reggae ever since I was a young violin student. Most of all, they inspired me to believe in my dreams. Today I have a long list of artists I would love to collaborate with: Drake, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, and Sizzla (but to name a few).

When you’re not doing music, what are you doing? How do you balance your personal life with your musical career?
I must admit that my musical career occupies the largest part of my time. Because I really love what I do, my job and my personal life cannot be dissociated and it makes me happy. It’s necessary to feel good on the inside first, so in my free time, I love taking care of myself by meditating, working out, reading books, and going out with my friends. I love art in every form so every month I make sure I visit a gallery, or go to a concert. Travelling is also my passion and thanks to my violin, I have the opportunity to visit different cities and countries every few months or weeks, which makes me enjoy my journey as an artist even more. Despite the distance, my family is very present in my personal life. Even though my mother and four sisters live in France, Reunion Island, and the Caribbean, we call each other almost every day and they support me. My mom is particularly very proud of me pursuing my career as a violinist.

How do you decide which songs you want to cover and what is that process like?
Every time I listen to a song for the first time and immediately vibe with it, I take my violin and play it. I also love playing some old classic hip-hop and reggae songs. So when I want to cover a song, I choose my favorite of the moment and I make sure I add some island vibe to it! If the result makes me smile and dance, I share it on my social media to spread the love and happiness.

You’ve performed with several artists, which has been your favorite thus far?
Every time I perform with an artist, it’s very exciting because it is always a new experience, a different way to work and I know that I’m going to learn and evolve as a musician from this experience. I absolutely love every artist I’ve been performing with, but my favorite thus far has been Pharrell Williams, with no hesitation. I’ve always been a huge fan of him, from his work with the Neptunes to N.E.R.D., and of course as a solo artist. I truly love and admire his vision, whether it is music or fashion. Not only is he a genius, but he’s also a generous human being who is investing a lot to help creative young people all around the world. He’s one of my greatest inspirations.

What is your greatest achievement to date?
Artistically, my greatest achievement to date is probably my performance with Pharrell Williams on the Ellen Show. The fact that it happened on the Ellen Show made this moment magical. I admire this woman so much. I’ve always dreamed to meet both of them, but as an artist living in Europe, a lot of dreams look impossible. However, only a few weeks after moving to New York, this miracle happened and I still can’t believe it! Nevertheless, I have to admit that my greatest achievement is something more personal. A few years ago I was still a shy and introverted girl, suffering from a huge lack of confidence. Performing in front of a crowd made me very anxious. I couldn’t even play in front of my friends. Knowing that people would judge me was too hard to endure. I had to stop playing the violin for a few years and one day, I woke up and realized that I was not walking my path. So I decided to take my violin back, work on myself to overcome all of those fears, and from this moment, a lot of musical opportunities came my way. I created my first hip-hop/pop string quartet with girls only and we performed all around Europe. Then I started my career as a solo artist and performed all over the world. All of that was unexpected. Today the stage is my favorite place to be, it’s my home. During my show, the crowd and me, we are one. We are partying and celebrating life together. And I would never imagine something like that possible before the day I decided to step out of my comfort zone to pursue my dreams, happiness, and freedom.

You released your debut album last year, what can we expect to see from you this year?
I’m very excited about what’s going to happen this year. I’m working on new original music, new creative content, new videos, and we are also working on a new tour. I can’t wait to share all of that with my fans.

Who is your MISSBISH? What does MISSBISH mean to you?
To me, MISSBISH is a confident woman who achieves anything she wants and empowers other women. She is truly authentic and that is her biggest power. My MISSBISH is Rihanna. As a young woman who came from a little Caribbean Island, she showed the world that she can be a boss and be successful at everything she does!