We had the good fortune of connecting with Amirah and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amirah, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I did not plan to be a singer-songwriter. I only planned to be a songwriter for other artists and projects. However, one song I composed and sang as a call for unity was picked up by the Malaysian news and received attention from the public including some prominent bloggers, and social activists, as well as Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, the daughter of Malaysia’s former Prime Minister. At that time, the public and my producer encouraged me to sing my own songs. After thinking about it, I decided to take the plunge, so that I could promote unity through music. I am a passionate advocate for unity, so I would often write songs about unity and the challenges of interreligious/intercultural relationships, which I felt were not addressed enough. I was also passionate about fusing traditional instruments with pop music, so I decided to take the plunge and embark on this new path as a singer-songwriter. I have not looked back since.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Growing up as a biracial child, of Malay and Indian heritage in Malaysia, I was constantly exposed to different cultures. I grew up listening to my father’s old Hindustani songs and my mom’s keroncong music. I loved watching the Chinese Lion dances in my neighborhood. I was taught that they are all beautiful, none is better than the other, they were simply different. This did make me ponder my identity as well as the challenges in a multicultural society. How can I live my modern values and still embrace my cultural roots? Can I do both? Why do I have to choose? This made me think and wonder; Why do some people hurt others due to the color of their skin? Why would people hate others because they subscribed to a different religion? Why are people forced to convert to a different religion to be with they love? I started to explore and express my thoughts in these questions through my songwriting. I was also passionate about fusing traditional instruments and cinematic pop music, so I loved experimenting and combining these two worlds together – the traditional and modern, the old and new, the East and West. In my first two singles, ‘You Are My Land’ incorporated Hands Percussion on Chinese Drums and my custom make gamelan saron. ‘Tell Me’ incorporates two traditional Indian instruments, the tanpura and tabla, and my custom made chromatic gamelan saron. While creating my album, I also collaborated with various East meets West musicians such as Parv Kaur, the first female dohl player in the UK, and Jett Kwong, an Asian American singer-songwriter who plays GuZheng, just to name a few. I am really excited to share my songs as part of my debut album. I live my life with the mindset that “There is no box”. I am passionate about fusing traditional instruments with cinematic pop music, and I wanted to stay true to my vision. This is an inherent part of who I am as an artist.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love being in nature so I would either bring him/her up on a drive up to Big Sur and make plenty of stops to explore waterfalls, take short hikes and picnics and enjoy some beautiful sunsets. We could go to a National Park, for example, Iddylwild to do some hiking and enjoy a quiet evening by the fireplace. In terms of food, I would bring him/her to enjoy many amazing vegan restaurants and eateries that Los Angeles has to offer as well as do some café hopping and find the best matcha latté and hot chocolate.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My family and loved ones supported me with my musical endeavors – starting with piano and cello lessons, even when it was very difficult to afford them. Thank you for believing in me, encouraging and supporting me through thick and thin. I would not be here today without them. My very talented and humble producer, Jeff Bova. I am so honored to be working on my album with him. It’s been such an incredible journey. My fans and supporters were the ones who encouraged me to sing my own songs. I never would’ve thought to do this without their encouragement. Thank you for supporting me and encouraging me all this while.