Bringing gender balance with Zee Avi and Njwa

Zee Avi (seated) and Njwa are set to perform for an International Women’s Day concert on March 22. — All images by Yusof Mat Isa
Zee Avi (seated) and Njwa are set to perform for an International Women’s Day concert on March 22. — All images by Yusof Mat Isa

PETALING JAYA, Jan 28 — In their upcoming concert for International Women’s Day, local  singers Najwa Mahiaddin and Zee Avi want to use their voices to herald a better balance in the music industry.

The duo, who have known each other for 10 years, will be performing at the Putra World Trade Centre in March for a two-hour concert that is set to delight fans.

This year’s theme Balance for Better, aims to accelerate gender balance across all industries.

As successful artistes, Najwa, now known as Njwa and Zee spoke to Malay Mail about their experiences as female musicians in a male-dominated business.

“When you’re a woman in general, people are easily impressed or surprised when you do something a man also does and do it well.

“There’s this tendency for people to go ‘Wow you’re a woman but you can produce tunes too!’ , but why can’t we be producers? The industry is not as balanced as I would like it to be, but this is why we are raising this awareness,” said Njwa who was named Best New Artist at the 18th Music Industry Awards (AIM).

While studying music at Berklee College of Music, Boston, Njwa said stereotypes involving female talents still persisted.

“People tend to be like ‘Oh, you’re a girl so you must be a vocalist, right?’

“I don’t know why that is, but I found it so inspiring to meet people from all over the world, especially different women who pursue different things and they’re not all vocalists or pianists. That’s such a powerful thing.”

For Zee, whose career started in her early 20s, she described the music industry as a daunting place for women.

“You have to work extra hard – it’s scary that women have to go to such lengths to display what is a natural gift to them,” she said.

They had their own thoughts about the #MeToo movement, the global campaign against sexual harassment and sexual assault, and the women in show business who brought the topic to light.

“I’m glad that women are brave enough to talk about it. It happens everywhere, it’s a matter of whether you want to come forth and talk about it or not.”

When it comes to unwarranted attention, Zee shared how she dealt with awkward situations.

“In retrospect, you wonder if ‘Was that just to go for dinner to talk about things or was there something else?’

“I guess if you’re faced with that kind of situation, it’s a matter of how you handle it – steer it back to what it needs to be,” she said.

Njwa admitted that when she was younger, she lacked the awareness to understand what was considered sexual harassment.

“I was pretty naïve. There were a lot of things that when I look back on, I would think ‘Was that considered harassment?’

“At the time I didn’t have the awareness,” Najwa said.

International Women’s Day Zee Avi + NJWA Concert will take place on March 22 at PWTC, 8.45pm.

Tickets are priced at RM388 (including a meet and greet se ssion), RM228, RM188, RM128 and RM88, available for purchase at

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