23 July 2015

Malaysia #1: Lovers of different sorts

Everyone who knows me knows that I obsess over East Asian music; Japanese, Korean, Chinese... That is pretty obvious from reading this blog too. But my love also expands beyond East Asia to Southeast Asia too. If Japan is number one and South Korea number two, then Thailand is the number three for me. I am that kind that once I fall in love with music from one country, then I like to move into another country nearby with somewhat similar kinds of music. So couple years ago I moved from Thailand to its neighbour: Malaysia.

Wikipedia: Malaysia

Did you know?: Many of Southeast Asian and East Asian countries have Buddhism as their main religion, or at least a religion that is similar to Buddhism; When most people think of religions in the Far East, they think of Buddhism and religion where nature is close and life style is harmonic (Taoism, Hinduism...). To most parts this is the case, but not with Malaysia. In Malaysia there is a freedom of religion, but the country's state religion is Islam. Who would have thought that in the middle of all the Buddhists, there is a country full of Muslims?

Buddhism is though the second largest religion in Malaysia, with 19,8% of the population being Buddhists. That is still small compared to Islam, which 61,3% of the population practices. (Stats are from 2010 and taken from Wikipedia.) There is of course a story behind the expansion of Islam into Malaysia; to put it into short, Arab traders brought the religion during Medieval times. To get more into this subject would go too much beyond the subject of this blog and it is about the time to move into the music anyway. But you can read more about Islam in Malaysia in example on Wikipedia.

But now to the music.

First up: Siti Nurhaliza. The Malay titles are a bit confusing to me, so I am entirely sure how her full name goes, but let's give it a shot: Datin Sri Siti Nurhaliza binti Tarudin + bunch of honours. She has been given multiple honours, including Order of Loyalty to the Crown of Malaysia. Datin Sri in front of her name is also an award given by the ruler of Malaysia, and to my understanding Datin Sri is highest one to be given out. And for additional information: Malaysian people use patronyms and binti means 'daughter of', so binti Tarudin means daughter of Tarudin. A bit confusing name to say the least. I have a weird obsession about names, so I just love opening up their meanings! Anyway, from the amount of honours Siti Nurhaliza has received, you can guess how popular she is in Malaysia.

This first song is called Falling In Love. This was actually the first Malaysian song that I heard, so it is a good starting point. Although by a Malaysian singer, the song is in English (on a side note, it is the only English song in this post). In 2011 Siti released her first, and so far only, English language studio album, All Your Love, and Falling In Love was the lead single from it. It is a fun dance-pop song where Siti sings about falling in love with someone. I must say, that this song has got me hooked and it is one of my most-listened songs in my iTunes; It is very catchy and happy, and I could listen to this on repeat. This song immediately made me 'fall in love' with Siti (pun intended).

We know Siti is highly famous and respected, but what about her background? Siti was born 1979 in Kuala Lipis, which is a town at the center of Peninsular Malaysia, in the state of Pahang. Siti's family actually still lives in Kuala Lipis and the expensive house Siti build for them has become a tourist attraction. She grew up in a musical family and two of her sisters and one brother have also become singers. She is Sunni Muslim. Siti started professionally performing in 1995 and very soon she signed her first record deal. Her self-titled debut album was released in 1996 and it became a huge hit. Since then Siti has released fifteen more studio albums and become highly successful in Malaysia and abroad. This quote from Wikipedia says a lot: "Currently, she has been listed as one of Malaysia's richest, most-influential, most award-winning, most single-produced artists."

The other song from Siti is called Galau. The title means 'Confused' and the song was released in early 2013. The lyrics tell about worries that lovers have to face. The music is very beautiful and somewhat classical. I find this song absolutely beautiful; Siti sings very lovely and the music is just stunning. The music video is simple, yet stunning, which fits the song perfectly. The stunning scenery is, by the way, from Moroccan Pavilion in Putrajaya's Botanical Garden. I am not usually fan of such ballady songs, but this totally got me and even after couple of years, I still find it as stunning each time I listen to it.

Falling In Love is from Siti's 2011 studio album All Your Love, while Galau for my understanding has only been released as a single in 2013.

Moving onto Stacy. Stacy is the stage name of Stracie Angie Anam, who was born in 1990 in a city called Kota Kinabalu, the capital of state Sabah.

Did you know?: Malaysia is divided into two parts: Peninsular Malaysia on the Asian mainland and East Malaysia on the island of Borneo. Most people connect Borneo with Indonesia, but it is actually shared by three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, the latter being completely on the island. About half of Malaysia's land area is on Borneo, but approximately 80% of people live in the Peninsular side of the country. There is still big cities in Borneo, like the mentioned Kota Kinabalu, where lives almost half a million people and Kuching with its population of over 600,000 people.

But back to Stacy. Stacy grew up in a poor family and she dropped out of school at age of 16 to support her family by singing in clubs. She auditioned to many reality show contests, but was only successful in 2008, when she auditioned for the sixth season of Akademi Fantasia. Stacy ended up winning the contest as the youngest ever winner. Her first single release came with the show and the song, Aku Stacy (meaning 'I Am Stacy') hit number one in the Malay charts. Since then she has had multiple number ones and she has released two studio albums and one mini album. Besides for her singing, Stacy is also known for her dancing skills.

The first song from Stacy was called Kasanova, while this second one is called Bosan. Both are from her first full-length studio album Stay-C, released in 2011. I doubt I have to translate the title of Kasanova (hint: switch the K to C) and the lyrics tell the expected story: Stacy has been dating a 'casanova', who has of course been unfaithful to her. Bosan then means 'Bored'. From what I get of the lyrics, Stacy is dating this person, who bores her with his excuses and reasonings, and seems a bit arrogant on that matter. She does seem to come across bad boyfriends, doesn't she?

Both of these songs are what I like about Stacy: dramatic, catchy and dancy. Even I feel like dancing while listening to Stacy's music, and that is saying a lot since I hate dancing. Kasanova has a darker shade and is more dramatic, while Bosan sounds funnier and a bit more lighter. Both still very catchy and I have had each stuck on my head many times. I find Stacy's voice interesting and it fits these kind of songs. And the music gives Stacy a chance to show of her dancing and dancing also has a major part in her music videos. Young and dramatic, that is how I would call Stacy's style.

Kasanova and Bosan can be found on Stacy's 2011 album Stay-C.

Time for the last artist of this post. And she is Betty Banafe. Full name Betty Ibtisam Abu Bakar Banafe (try saying that five times fast!), Betty was born in 1979 in Johor Bahru. Johor Bahru is Malaysia's second largest city and it connects the island nation of Singapore into Malaysia via a causeway. Betty has a varying gene-pool with Malay, Arab and Javanese descent, which surely explains her complex name. Betty's father opposed when his daughter wanted to become an actress, but she did so anyway. Acting seems to be her main job, but she is also a singer (duh, this is a music blog after all).

What makes Betty's music interesting, is that she also sings in Arabic; There is only few Malaysian singers who does so. As for as I can understand the language (Arabic in this case, thanks to listening so much Arabic music lately), the song I featured from Betty, Tak Sengaja, is in Malaysian. At least it is written in Malaysian way and Google translates the title from Malay into 'Accidentally'.

Tak Sengaja was released in 2013. The song is very beautiful and harmonic. I do not know what she is singing about, but I get a feeling of longing, yet peacefulness. It has a bit mysterious feel to it. Betty has a bit rough voice, which adds a nice edge to the music. I really like the elements in the music, particularly during the chorus. Those make the song sound a bit Arabic to me and I find this kind a mixture of Malaysian and Arabic music styles. The song sounds positive and beautiful, and together with the music video they make me feel wistful, yet calm.

I can not be certain, but I believe Tak Sengaja is from Betty's only studio album Ibtisam.

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