Malaysia: Yuna Changes the Face of Indie Music

The independent music scene in Malaysia is blossoming. In recent years, more and more independent musicians and bands are gaining in popularity thanks to social networking websites such as YouTube and MySpace.

Meet Yuna. You might think Yuna as a typical Malaysian youth, but one check in her diary (or should it be her MySpace calendar?), she has a list full of upcoming performances and she has her debut EP to promote, which is produced under her own recording label, Yuna Room Records. She is the talk of the blogosphere for not only producing great music but also her wholesome image. She causes a stir, in a positive way, in the indie music scene for wearing the tudung, a scarf worn around the head by women in Malaysia. It conceals the hair but not the face. This is similar to the hijab, worn by Muslim women elsewhere, especially the Middle East.

Nat Nat gives the inside scoop on Yuna’s rise to stardom:

Fairly unknown by the rest of the population at first, she then gain widespread attention after her debut track from her demo, Dan Sebenarnya were played at one of the top radio stations in Malaysia. Soon after, majority of the radio stations began to play her song. She has officially become mainstream.

Lin Loves tries to give an objective view on Yuna’s music:

She’s really a great singer, even the guy over the counter said so, and I was really lucky to get like the last copy in the store. You know the first time I listened to her I was like, “Hey this girl is fantastic, I love her voice and her music.” Then I stepped back and wondered if I’m judging her based on the fact that she dons the hijab and I know that there is a great, great possibility that i am biased. So I tried being as objective as possible and I think she great.

Indra is surprised by Yuna’s image but loves Yuna’s Norah Jones-like voice:

I checked out her profile on Myspace and what surprised me was, she wears tudung! She is so unique, with a Norah Jones-like voice I know she can go far (like I know, I just can feel it). Pretty calming, the songs of Yuna's. Try and listen to her songs, her English accent during singing and talking was so different. If she speaks, she sounds so Malay-ish, but when she sings, well that's when she jumbles up her accent and it really make her sounds like an English woman.

The Baju Kurung Adventure salutes Yuna's image and can serve as an inspiration to all:

[Yuna] is an indie singer/songwriter who just launched an EP. Tell you the truth all her songs were really great. Never seen her ‘live’ neither, but I have downloaded her songs and watched her on YouTube and to make my grin bigger, she wears hijab, which is very rare for indie girls, an inspiration. Besides, hijab or not, she is very talented. That's what count most.

Yuna is also well-liked by other races in the country. Tragic. Fairy. Tales. is shocked to find out Yuna's ethnicity:

My sister recommended this new indie singer to me Yuna. I was shocked when I knew she was Malay. (It’s not that I'm racist) Well, I must admit that she did have a great voice even though she's not exactly the prettiest chick and she's not exactly what I expect her to look like. In my opinion, our local music scene need more singers like her.

Her song is so infectious that some bloggers decide to use it as a background music to keep their readers entertained. Boundless Promise writes:

You know the song you've listening here in my blog. It calls Deeper Conversation performed by Indie singer, YUNA. Seriously, she is so talented and all her songs and her voice were like SUPERB!!! And she wrote and composed them all by herself. She's 22 and wearing tudung and currently performing in London.

Will there be a time in the future where people will only be talking about Yuna's music, not her image?


  • angel

    nearly fell off my bed when i found out that the song i’ve been humming to ALL bloody week was sang by YUNA a malay girl with a tudung ! dont get me wrong coz i’m not against that or anything BUT she ROCKS !!! love her voice.. at first I tot my fav. band frente is back with a new song but who would have known !! soso happy :) and proud of a local girl who sings like THAT

    • I first read about her in a local daily. My first impression was, “What? A tudung girl in the indie scene?” Went to her MySpace website and quickly fell in love with her music! She ROCKS!!

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  • Welcome to Global Voices Syafique!

  • I love articles like this one. I think that Yuna and “indie music” in general show how sub-cultures around music, dance, sports, and hobbies, can transcend the traditional ways that humans have grouped: religion, nationality, language, and ethnicity. I just wish that more of these sub-cultures came from countries other than the west. But, then again, if you visit the coolest clubs in New York, it does start to feel like the cultural flow goes both ways.

  • The Research Turtles are the new Beatles. I have seen their docomentary on and have all their albums. Their music video on their website is great! . When are they coming here to play? I heard next June.

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  • […] how the language they use can actually reaffirm the stereotypes they’re so eager to “break”. This isn’t the first time that Yuna’s image is the topic of conversation. I think as Malaysians, writing columns in […]

  • […] how the language they use can actually reaffirm the stereotypes they’re so eager to “break”. This isn’t the first time that Yuna’s image is the topic of conversation. I think as Malaysians, writing columns in […]

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