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Malaysian singer Dayang Nurfaizah aims to reignite interest in traditional Malay music

ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES – In recent years, Malaysian singer Dayang Nurfaizah has reinvented herself from an R&B-pop singer to a champion of traditional Malay music.

It proved to be a winning move. Her 2021 album of reimagined traditional songs, Belagu (‘singing’ in the Sarawak dialect), won three prizes at Malaysian music awards show Anugerah Industri Muzik (AIM) in 2022, including best song arrangement for her rendition of classic song Tudung Periuk.

In January, she released Belagu II, another homage to traditional Malay music.

In an e-mail interview, the 41-year-old told The Straits Times that she wants to reignite interest in Malay music heritage among the youth.

“I want to highlight the beauty of classic Malay songs and reintroduce it to the younger generations who may have not been exposed to these kinds of songs,” said Dayang, who released her self-titled debut album in 1999.

“Compared with modern Malay songs, classic Malay songs must be sung in a soft and gentle tone to depict the gentle temperament of the Malays.

“The lyrics were written poetically and figuratively to symbolise the modesty of the Malays. Even the subjects behind these songs are still relevant to this day.”

Dayang Nurfaizah. PHOTO: THE STAR

The songs from Belagu were recorded the old-school way, with her singing live with a backing band. It left little room for error.

“It’s the same record-making process singers in the old days had to go through when making a phonograph record.

“I have a newfound respect for our music legends because I now know it’s a very challenging process.” In contrast, Dayang recorded her singing separately for Belagu II. The vocals and some instruments were recorded in Malaysia, and she and her musicians later travelled to Hungary to record the Budapest Scoring orchestra playing the traditional Malay songs.

“Both parties, my team and Budapest Scoring, benefitted from this cultural exchange and learnt something new from each other in this process.”

She said she was surprised that her Belagu album won three prizes at AIM, as it comprises covers and not originals. She does not intend to put out another sequel.

“For now, I have no plans yet for Belagu III. I am perfectly happy with my Belagu project. Perhaps I will revisit this in the future if I have new ideas for another album.”

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