“They Don’t Sound Local”

Sometimes, when someone’s in my car for the first time, I like to take this opportunity to play one of my CDs varying from local artists/bands. Yes, usually local music. Not being biased. (OK, maybe a bit). Once, my cousins were in my car and I put on Liyana Fizi’s CD. “This is a local singer, you know”, I said proudly. “Wait, seriously? Wow, she’s quite good. I wouldn’t have guessed”, one of them replied.

I don’t speak for everybody, but I’ve noticed a pattern among a lot of Malaysians where they (a) don’t listen to local music, (b) treat it like it doesn’t exist, (c) don’t believe that the local music scene is alive and VERY well, or (d) all of the above, in which case, God bless them.

Where does the idea that “local music isn’t as good” come from? Simply click on any local singer or band’s YouTube video and visit the comment section. The common assumption is evident. For example, two comments on one of Paperplane Pursuit’s video on YouTube caught my attention and incidentally fired me up to write about this (more like pen my frustration).

comment 1

comment 2“Don’t sound local at all which is pretty cool?” Um, alright. First of all, the connotation that “not sounding local makes a song cool” basically implies that there is a negative idea that some Malaysians attach to local music. I have a friend who recently formed his own band with some college mates, but he doesn’t even consider listening to his own country’s music. Once, I invited my ex to come for a FREE gig with me and he passed because “it’s so hipster” hence, “it’s not his thing”. What does being hipster even mean, let alone have anything to do with going for a gig? Why do we put up a barrier to local music? Why do we automatically assume that it isn’t going to be as good as Western/Japanese/Korean music (let’s face it, we listen to a lot of international songs, it’s almost unavoidable)? Why do some of us refuse to give it a chance? If we don’t believe in our own talent, how do we expect to go far?

It’s possible that years and years of listening to music exclusively from other regions made us this way. Even our nursery rhymes stem from Western roots. This results in this automatic assumption that the music scene here doesn’t exist in any form nor does it deserve our precious time and attention. We should change that. Like my editor recently said in her letter, “There is so much potential in all of us that has yet to be explored.” If we Malaysians don’t even want to give our local music scene a chance, who will?

I wasn’t extremely familiar with the local scene myself but in recent years, I’ve gotten to know a lot more Malaysian artists/bands as compared to what my younger self knew. For the past few months, I’ve been interning at The Wknd Sessions, a music journalism company of sorts catered towards being an online platform for growing independent local and Southeast Asian music. Ever since then, the realization of how talented many of our country’s artists are really hit me and there’s definitely a lot more talent out here than I could ever imagine. It evokes a sense of pride in me as a Malaysian. I’ve found some new favorite artists/bands and I couldn’t be happier with my expanding iTunes library; albeit depleting iPhone storage space.

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Piring-piring #3, vinyl food market/acoustic gig @ Barlai, Pudu

Some may say that whichever local musician they’ve heard before was just mediocre. But there’s mediocre or terrible music everywhere, so that’s not an excuse. Others can say, “Oh I didn’t know we had a _____ singer/band”. If you look hard enough (it doesn’t take a lot of effort), there’s good local music out there. It’s only a matter of whether or not YOU actually want to. You’d be surprised at the diverse genre of music our local talent produces.

We can start by being more open to supporting local music. How? Go for gigs! Sometimes, they’re free, other times they’re not, but they don’t usually cost a lot (even musicians/artists need to make a living). If you’re too lazy/broke/cheap to go for a gig, their music is still available online (YouTube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, etc.) Give it a shot, you might find your potential favorite artist.

In light of not being ignorant, I know that there are people out there who do support/have been supporting the local music scene for a while now. Thank you, all of you keep doing you. Additionally, you can check out The Wknd Sessions on their website, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook & Instagram for a taste of Malaysian music. Plus, here are some recommendations to start off:

Kyoto Protocol, OJ Law, Liyana Fizi, The Fridays, The Impatient Sisters, Tres Empre, Venopian Solitude, Bambino Kiss, Dirgahayu, Yuna, Zee Avi, Reza Salleh, Razlan Shah, Shhh…Diam!, Bihzu, Azmyl Yunor, Khottal, Pitahati, Paperplane Pursuit, Darren Ashley, Bil Musa, MUCK, Pastel Lite, The Farrah, Dance! On Your Grave, Juno and Hanna, They Will Kill Us All, Arabyrd, Froya.

We’ll post a playlist of our favorite songs soon! Stay tuned.