Bihzhu: On Serenading A Malay Classic

A 21st-century interpretation of a Malay classic ‘Chendering’ by Jimmy Boyle. Penang-born Malaysian singer-songwriter Bihzhu shares her latest music, being Malaysian and upcoming concert at Bobo KL.

Bihzhu release Chendering a Malay classic. Music Press Asia

[Bihzhu, a singer songwriter of 'heart songs'.]

Q1: Hello Bihzhu, welcome to Music Press Asia! First and foremost, we’d like to congratulate you for releasing the music video and also a documentary of the song titled Chendering, a Malay classic originally written by Jimmy Boyle. We’re in love with all the ‘heart songs’ you’ve been releasing especially with Tanah Pusaka and Balik Kampung. And as we see you revive a series of Malay classics, tell us how did you fall in love with these songs in the first place? And why did you choose to make a music video for Chendering?

Thank you Music Press Asia for always being so supportive of my work, you really make me feel seen. When you put them together like that it does seem like I have a thing for these Malay classics (haha!), but as I share in the mini-documentary, I first fell in love with Chendering when I performed it with Jimmy’s son, James Boyle for Penang House of Music’s virtual reality room, and later at the Penang Island Jazz Festival. I was so infatuated with Chendering that I took it to my band and got their help to rearrange it, and we’ve been performing our version since then. I’ve always felt very strongly about releasing Chendering with a music video, and in fact, I started work on it in 2017, but I guess the universe always has impeccable timing because it only came to fruition in 2022 and I am so pleased with how everything came together.

Q2: Which would be your favorite part during the production of the song and music video?

I first recorded the vocals for Chendering in 2017, then did it again in 2019, and then the final version you hear in the recording in 2021! I think it was interesting to watch myself grow and evolve, not just vocally and musically but also as a person and how I approached this project through the years. As for the music video, I gathered a wildly talented bunch of folks (Creative Director Chris Lim, set designer Daniel Adams, stylist Saerah Ridzuan, director of photography Ravin P, editor Dedy Andrianto and their team) and sort of watched them unleash their genius to create this love child that is the Chendering music video. I always say “It takes a kampung”, and that has never been more true than in this project.

Q3: Your songs are an incredible fusion of reggae, jazz, folk, and even classical. But ultimately, what inspires you to be a singer-songwriter of ‘heart songs’?

I’ve been very fortunate to be able to marry my personal love of music with my bigger life goal of being an instrument of love and to be of service to life. That, plus the richness of our experiences continue to serve as inspiration for me to create and express myself. And if my music resonates with a listener, I consider that a gift was given back to me, but my aim is to just create freely with no expectations and no attachments.

Q4: What does it mean to be a Malaysian and also singer-songwriter today? (What do you think is required of an artist in today’s music scene in able to get their music distributed and heard? And how has covid changed your approach to live music today?)

Wow, what a question! Haha. I can’t speak for anyone else but I aspire to live in a Malaysia where all languages are spoken in Malaysia (Malay, English, Mandarin, Tamil, Iban, Kelabit, Kadazan, Semoi, etc.) will be recognized as being Malaysian enough. And where my music will be considered Malaysian simply because a Malaysian created it. We don’t live in a Tourism Malaysia ad, and the reality is there is still a lot of gatekeeping and segregation that happens. But I would like to shout out to the good folks at Anugerah Lagu Indie for creating the one platform that really allows ALL Malaysians to exist and share their music.

I don’t have the answers for being successfully distributed and heard. I’ve built my career over 17 years and if you judge by numbers, I wouldn’t be considered successful. But I measure success by other metrics and I am very fulfilled at this stage of my career, while I work hard to do better.

Since we are transitioning to the endemic phase, I see a resurgence of live music returning. Would love it if the authorities were more supportive and dropped all the barriers for artists and the music ecosystem to succeed (read up on Merdekarya and their licensing fiasco), offer people and corporations larger tax breaks when they support the arts, and start to look at the arts as a viable, and strong creative economy. People would’ve died of boredom if not for music, movies, books, art during the pandemic and I think it’s about time we were taken seriously.

Q5: What are you listening to or reading, recently?

A friend recently got me into Terry Pratchett books, so I’m going through them slowly. As for listening bands like Fat Freddy’s Drop (NZ), The Soul (Sri Lanka), Charlie Lim (SG), Nai Palm (Aus), are heavily in rotation right now.

Q6: Where would you be performing next? Are there new releases coming up this year?

Please come watch my show at Bobo KL this month (Mar 24-26). It’s my first show for 2022, and my first full-length show since 2020. I am so excited to get back on stage. [Click here for tickets]

Q7: Thank you for sharing your answers with Music Press Asia. We’re excited for you and here wishing you the best in your musical endeavor. Do you have anything to add?

We are nothing without your support so please follow us on our social media, comment on our content, share them with your friends, and come watch our shows. I love what I do and I hope to be able to keep doing it for as long as I can with your help.

Click here to watch Chendering’s music video and mini-documentary.

Follow Bihzhu on Facebook and Instagram here.

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