Indian music has influenced Malay folk genre’

Indian music has influenced Malay folk genre’

Malaysian singer/songwriter Zee Avi is on her maiden visit to India

Malaysian singer/songwriter, guitarist, ukulele player and visual artiste Zee Avi has toured the world extensively, headlining shows and several prestigious festivals along the way. The winner of The International Youth Icon Award in 2011 and a host of other global awards, Avi’s initial breakthrough came from putting her videos out on YouTube. 

She has released albums such as ‘Zee Avi’, ‘Ghostbird’ and ‘Nightlight’ and is currently working on a studio album titled ‘Ellipses’, named after her favourite punctuation.

In the city to perform at Windmills Craftworks, she chatted with Metrolife about her musical journey and more.

Not many here are aware of the nuances of Malaysian music. How would you describe to a layman?

In layman’s terms, Malaysian music is one big bowl of ‘masala’ with spices from all over the world.

Malaysia consists of many races that live as one. Just like how we live together and combine our cultures, we also combine our music. It has influences from Malay, Indian, Chinese and western music. Malaysian music cannot be explained to be honest; it has to be experienced.

How similar/different is it from Indian music?

The influence of Indian music is very evident in Malay folk music. Ghazals, Indian scales and even instruments can be found in this.

How did you develop an interest in the field of music?

I think music chose me. I developed an interest in it through karaoke when I was just a toddler. However, I never thought of it as a career option at that time. Now, it’s my longest relationship, both romantically and figuratively.

What were the challenges you faced?

Perhaps working up the courage to tell my family about wanting to explore music. The entire process of being discovered and signed to a record label was also not easy — it caused me to grow up rather quickly and rush to know myself. But now, my family members are my biggest fans and I am taking my time with my journey.

Have you heard any Indian artistes? 

Of course! Bollywood movies are a cultural phenomenon in Malaysia — I grew up watching movies like ‘Sangam’, ‘Bobby’ and anything that Shahrukh Khan has been in. Malaysia loves him so much that he’s even knighted here!

And as a musician, you have to know Ravi Shankar and Mohd Rafi; though my personal favourites are Shankar Jaikishan and Satyajit Ray. Even though Ray is more known for his films, I also enjoy his compositions. Yes, my taste is quite nostalgic (laughs).

Thoughts about India?

This is my first time in India, though I have always wanted to come here. My traveller friends tell me that India is very special and is the most original place they’ve ever been to. India’s heritage is one of the oldest, the people are beautiful and the cuisine is divine.

Catch the event

Zee Avi will perform at Windmills Craftworks on February 14 and 15, 9.30 pm onwards. Entry prices are Rs 1000 + GST (for sitting) and Rs 500 + GST (for standing).  

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