When Malaysian musicians choose to go where the grass is greener

Yuna and Adam Sinclair are married in a ceremony held at Puncak Rimba, Bentong. — Picture courtesy of Instagram/YunaMusic
Yuna and Adam Sinclair are married in a ceremony held at Puncak Rimba, Bentong. — Picture courtesy of Instagram/YunaMusic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 — Successful Malaysian songbird Yuna who found her fame in the United States has confirmed that she will make Los Angeles her home despite tying the knot with filmmaker fiancé Adam Sinclair on Friday.

The 30-year-old singer who made her move to the United States in 2009 was told a press conference yesterday that she will maintain her long-distance relationship with Adam who will be based here.

While based in the US, Yuna had soared to greater heights since her debut as an indie singer, including collaborating with R&B star Usher on the hit single “Crush” from her international album “Chapters”.

The Malaysia’s Book of Records most successful singer has also worked with other big names in the market such as Pharrell Williams, TOKiMONSTA, Jhene Aiko, and David Foster.

However, Yuna is not the only Malaysian musician who have made a name for themselves — and sometimes even treated better by fans and the industry — overseas.

These are some of the other artistes who have successfully found fame and fortune away from Malaysian shores:

1. Shila Amzah

Shila made history as the first Malay singer to break into China’s music market. The 27 year old’s success story began when she won the “Asian Wave” Chinese reality singing competition in China in 2012.

Later in 2014 she took third place during the “I Am a Singer” competition. She has continued to pursue her music career in China releasing her first Mandarin album titled “My Journey” last year.

Shila has gained recognition in Malaysia, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, winning numerous awards such as Chinese Golden Melody Awards, Hong Kong Guoyuli Awards, Global Chinese Music Awards, Music Pioneer Awards and more.

2. Namewee

Namewee first tasted fame when he came up with the highly controversial and notorious song titled — “I Love My Country Negarakuku (Visit Malaysia 2007 Theme Song)” while still studying in Taiwan.

The song which he said was a remake of Malaysia’s national anthem “Negaraku”, invited controversy as the Malaysian government and segments of the Malay community found some of the lyrics offensive.

Namewee explained that the song was satirical from a Malaysian Chinese perspective.

However, due to his run in with the law he has since moved to Taipei City, Taiwan.

Since then, he has proven his worth and talent by earning international recognitions like three Taiwan’s Golden Melody Awards nominations for 2014, 2016, and 2017, three nominations at the Berlin’s International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema in 2016, winner of Most Promising Talent Award at the Osaka Asian Film Festival in 2012, and others.

His most successful music video thus far is “Stranger in the North” featuring Taiwanese pop king Wang Leehom, which has garnered more than 97 million views.

3. Datuk Shake

In some ways Sheikh Abdullah Ahmad, better known by his stage name Datuk Shake, could very well be the first Malaysian musician to have made it big overseas, paving the way for others to follow suit.

In 1973, under the encouragement of his European musician friends in Malaysia, the Johor boy embarked on a journey to Paris, France. Three years later he had secured a label and his first single was released, entitled, “Tu sais je t’aime” (French for “You know I love you”).

His debut single climbed the charts, followed by half a dozen other gold and platinum singles and albums in France making him the first notable Asian singer to perform in French.

Concert appearances and TV specials led him to become a well-known personality in French speaking countries. He then toured France and Belgium for five consecutive summers and was even invited for royal performances before the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong and the Sultan of Brunei.

He was conferred a Datukship when he returned in the early 80s and now lives in Beverly Hills, California.

Watch the video here.

4. Fish Leong

Fish Leong is one of the most successful Malaysian singers abroad, having sold more than 18 million records.

Immensely popular in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore besides her home country Malaysia, Leong made her debut in Taiwan after signing with Rock Records in October 1997.

The 38-year-old Negri Sembilan girl’s success soared with her second album titled “Yong Qi” in 2000 which propelled her to the top of Chinese music charts.

Leong has 12 studio albums and was once crowned as the crowned Top Female Vocalist at the Global Chinese Music Awards.

In 2016, Leong became the first Malaysian Chinese singer to perform at Lincoln Center in New York City. She performed to a sold-out crowd as part of her “Tu T’appelles L’amour 2016” concert.

5. Aizdean

The name Aizdean may not be a household name here but he is the first Malaysian to make a mark in the J-pop scene.

The Selayang boy went to Japan in 2002 to study engineering. As he mastered the language, Aizdean began performing at gigs and managed to capture the attention of Japanese record labels.

Born as Muhammad Aizuddin Anwar, Aizdean’s first single “I Need You Baby” released in 2009 not only propelled him to stardom, he also became an instant and exotic heart throb in Japan.

His song also won the Best New Artiste Award from Nippon Broadcasting System in 2010.

The Master’s in Electronic Engineering holder has also won the endorsement of both Japanese Malaysia Association and Tourism Malaysia.

6. Zee Avi

Born in Miri, Sarawak Zee Avi (born Izyan Alirahman) made her breakthrough in 2007 when she posted her first song “Poppy” on YouTube for one of her friends who had missed her first performance in Kuala Lumpur.

The positive feedback she received convinced her to upload more videos on the content sharing channel under the name KokoKaina.

On the eve of her 22nd birthday, Avi posted what was supposed to be her final video “No Christmas For Me”.

However, fate had other plans for her when YouTube put the spotlight on her video. This led to Avi’s mailbox being bombarded with more than 3,000 emails and offers from record labels.

Currently residing in America, her latest offering is Nightlight, a 9-track album consisting of covers for children that was released on 22 April 2014.

7. Heymun

In 2013, this relatively unknown Malaysian attracted the attention of the independent music scene when she beat 9,000 other musicians and emerged as the winner in the Folk/Singer-Songwriter category at the US-based 2013 Unsigned Only Music Competition.

Sydney-based Heymun’s winning song titled “By Sea” was chosen by a panel of judges consisting of music icons such as Iggy Pop, 3 Doors Down, Of Monsters and Men and more.

This led to her performing the song at New York’s CBGB Festival and it being aired on Australian radio stations.

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