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Friday, 10 January 2014 | MYT 4:36 PM

Lots of talent in Malaysian music scene, says Yuna

PETALING JAYA: Local singer-songwriter Yuna Zarai hopes fellow Malaysian artistes will achieve greater international success, according to US-based weekly newspaper Village Voice.

In an interview with the publication, the Kedah-born and Los Angeles-based songstress had nothing but praise for Malaysia’s small but growing music industry.

“I'm telling you now, there's a lot of talent there, and they're not out there yet … a lot of kids are getting into producing and learning how to use Logic or Pro Tools on their own, and making beats and setting up bands. It's pretty cool,” said the 27-year-old to writer Brittany Sapanos. 

“I hope it'll grow and turn into something, like how there are a lot of songwriters and artistes like Lorde and Gotye and Kimbra from New Zealand and Australia (getting international recognition). I hope that's where we're going,” she added.

Asked to pinpoint artistes from the up-and-coming local scene, Yuna termed singer-songwriter and former Akademi Fantasia contestant Aizat Amdan as “super talented”. 

She also highlighted Sarawakian singer-songwriter Zee Avi, who was “the first Malaysian girl to come out here and make music”.

Like Yuna, who debuted as a Myspace artiste in 2006, Zee Avi first gained a following online in 2007. After a friend missed her first gig, Zee uploaded a video on Youtube performing Poppy, and the rest is (Internet) history. 

“She was signed to Brushfire Records, and she was out here before me. I hope to see her (become more successful) as well,” said Yuna.

When quizzed on the censorship of American songs and concerts here, Yuna clarified that Malaysia is a very conservative country with certain moral values to adhere to. 

“We don't want any negative influences coming into the country. I love how pop artistes, like from America, are able to kind of comply with the moral values in Malaysia. For example, you can't really wear anything revealing, so a lot of cancellations (are) from an inability of an artiste to comply with these rules,” she said.  

However, many artistes still come to Malaysia to perform and are willing to comply, she explained, having seen several performances such as Black Eyed Peas, Incubus, and Robin Thicke. 


“I guess it gets blown out of proportion to make it seem like Malaysia is not a cool country to perform in, but we love music and artistes like Lady Gaga and Beyonce,” she added.  


Yuna, who first started playing guitar after watching an inspiring video of Canadian singer-songwriter Feist performing in Paris, shared that she found music while in law school. 

“I was going through a rough time in college and music pulled me out of that routine. Like getting up, going to classes, coming back home and studying. For me, it was unfulfilling. I wanted to be creative, and I was so desperate to be creative and that's how I found music,” she shared.

After her success in the Malaysian music industry, Yuna abandoned the prospect of a career in law - though she does not discount it from future endeavours - and focused on music instead.

Happily, that decision paid off. She has now collaborated with talents including Pharrell Williams and Frank Ocean's producer Om'mas Keith, and showcased her talents on US talk shows such as Conan and Jimmy Kimmel Live.

And with new material in her stable, the Year of the Horse will see the songbird giddying up to perform for her fans.  

“I'm really happy with my first album, but Nocturnal is a different thing for me with different energy. I feel really good performing these songs for my fans, and I'm really excited to show them that. So I'm excited about touring, and I'm excited about making appearances,” she added.



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