Once you are exposed to Kiele Cabrera A.K.A Madame Ki’s music, you will forever be able to recognize her sound. Her afrocuban roots guide, not only her music, but her entire process. “Before performing there is a ritual I always do to get rid of the nerves. I go to a private place and I close my eyes and pray to my ancestors, in particular the women of my family that I know protect and guide me on a daily basis. Once I finish my prayer I feel a rush through my body and any fear I had diminishes.”
This is not your average hype sh*t, it is a deep ancestral memoir that aims to revive the culture and raise these tribal beats from the past. To get the full scoop and learn more about Madame Ki, read the full Creator Spotlight below.
1. What is the earliest memory you have of yourself doing something creative?
I had a Tia named Ileana that I saw every Noche Buena. One year when I was around 6 or 7 years old, she sat with me at the piano and showed me how to play a song. After that I was hooked on wanting to learn how to play piano. She was so expressive and excited about entertaining the whole party. Her energy made that moment so memorable that I’ve never forgotten it over the years. When I was twelve, she passed away from breast cancer. Tia Ileana essentially planted the first recognizable seed of musicianship within me and it has carried on in spite of the fact that she was in my life for such a short period of time.
2. What kind of creative work do you do?
I am a singer/songwriter first and foremost, though I have been involved in the film/television industry for over two years on both the production and talent side of the spectrum. For me telling the story to the best of one’s ability is of the highest priority.
3. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
My full name is Kiele Alessandra Cabrera and I was born to Cuban parents in Miami, FL. I grew up in Dade County’s Westchester and Hialeah neighborhood, absorbing every aspect of my family’s culture along the way. I started playing piano at eight years old and training in classical voice since thirteen. I was president of the choir department in high school and a Freshman when I started singing and playing piano in a band (Artisan Soul) with my older brother. We performed at rock clubs and dive bars during the evening, while I took AP Classes and heading choir rehearsal during the day. A Miami style Hannah Montana experience. Having finished my AA in high school I went to FSU for college. I wanted to study classical voice but got an allergy condition in Tallahassee and couldn’t keep training. I left the conservatory program but stayed actively singing with the FSU Gospel Choir, the Tallahassee Community Chorus, and the “Acaphiliacs” an acapella group. As for academics I fast tracked a degree in International Relations with a specialty in Social Entrepreneurship; accumulating month(s) long internships in Ghana, Nepal, London, and the Czech Republic. I graduated a year early as an honors scholar.
In 2018, I found myself for the first time without the academic structure which had driven me for so many years I took this vacuum and turned it into a catalyst to return to Miami and fully dedicate myself to my art. I found myself accidentally and quite suddenly immersed in Miami’s budding film industry by coordinating festivals and events for the Non-Profit organization Filmgate Miami. I got signed to Green Agency and started acting in commercials for Ford, Nissan, Xfinity, Postmates, Telemundo, and Univision, among others. I also helped produce and was cast in several Borscht Co. short films: a non-profit film production company endorsed by the Knight Foundation and highly recognized by the Sundance Institute. My work with Borscht has been featured in the Sun Sentinel and Miami New Times. “Fairchild”, one of the films I helped both produce and starred in was selected to premiere in the 2020 Miami Film Festival.
During this time I never stopped working on my music career. The band I had with my brother split due to new priorities for some members. I continued producing songs with my brother Kristan using Ableton and Protools softwares as I slowly gained leverage with my new artist name “Madame Ki”. My first single “Afiladora” was released July 2019 and since then I’ve performed and collaborated with the Strange Bass DJ collective, OG Yung Simmie, Otto Von Schirach and the Bermuda Triangle Family, Afro Beta to name a few.
4. How would you describe your specific style? What makes you unique?
My style is a very eclectic mix and really just depends on my mood or the occasion. I enjoy seeming somewhat covert when it comes to exuding my creative wardrobe. On most casual occasions I don’t typically wear makeup or style my hair and just like to dress comfortably (crop tops and harem pants tend to be the go to). But when I’m getting dressed for an event or the stage, I have no qualms with making a statement. Many times I find myself channeling an alternate persona, be it the Latina punk rocker or the 70s glam queen. Overall I’d say 80% of my clothing is vintage with 50% coming from my mom and Abuela’s closets Lol.
5. What has been some of the biggest influences and sources of inspiration in your work?
You can find influences of my Community and the Cuban diaspora experience throughout my creative works. For instance the first single “Afiladora”, samples the whistle of my local Afilador truck here in Westchester, Miami
Musically I resonate heavily with empowered female RB/Soul singers and rappers like Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Etta James, Billie Holiday, Celia Cruz, La Lupe, Amy Winehouse, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, SZA, Princess Nokia, Leikeli47, IAMDDB, Young Ma, M.I.A., etc.
6. Do you have any rituals to help you get the creative juices flowing?
When I’m writing new lyrics I’m usually in an isolated place like my room or car or shower. If I can’t write or type things out at the time I get inspired, I’ll just record a voice memo and sing whatever words or melodies come to my mind. Then I’ll transfer that voice memo with the instrumental mp3/ wav file to my notes app where I will write the lyrics out later. Some people also like to play their accompanying track over and over again while they are writing, I find that to be too overwhelming; I prefer listening to the song section by section and pausing for long moments in between to focus on the melodies I’m hearing in my head that I’m trying to write out.
Also, before performing there is a ritual I always do to get rid of the nerves. I go to a private place (though sometimes I have done it in front of people b/c priorities lol) and I close my eyes and pray to my ancestors, in particular the women of my family that I know protect and guide me on a daily basis. Once I finish my prayer I feel a rush through my body and any fear I had diminishes. I guess I find a sense of comfort in knowing that what is going to happen on that stage is bigger than me.
7. What have been some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on? Any current projects you’d like to mention?
Honestly my favorite project thus far has been working on the Despojo music video shoot with so many of my childhood female friends involved. 99% of the people on site were close family and friends. In particular one of my models, Stacy Melendez, I hadn’t seen since middle school. I saw her mom at Palacio de los Jugos like three days before the shoot and then I happened to bump into Stacy the next day at Wawas. I ended up inviting her to the shoot for that weekend. Overall, the history, learned communication and genuine support made the environment on set for this shoot absolutely magical.
I have a few other unreleased singles I’m developing media content for. I’m also doing a collaboration disco mix. I’ll be performing during WMC (Winter Music Conference) at Churchills on March 20, 2020
8. What are some of the best lessons you’ve learned while developing your craft? What valuable advice could you offer to other Creators like you?
I have learned that you have to give yourself value because other people aren’t going to give it to you. Be proud and transparent about where you come from and who you are from the jump because lying or hiding only gives people a bogus reason to deny or underestimate you. Also, know that everything is lined up through hard work and consistency overtime, it’s just a matter of letting things fall into place and not holding back.
9. Where can we find more of your work and follow your journey?
Instagram is the best place to be updated with my work. There I have a linktree to all my projects, music streaming links, and interviews. @madameki__