The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - OZASIA - WORDS PA­TRI CK MCDON­ALD


Malaysian born, Los An­ge­les-based singer­song­writer Yuna has a cou­ple of ex­tra rea­sons for be­ing ex­cited about mak­ing her Aus­tralian per­for­mance de­but at this year’s OzAsia Fes­ti­val. “I think the last time I was there I was prob­a­bly 12 years old,’’ Yuna says from a bustling cafe in the US mu­sic in­dus­try cap­i­tal.

“I ac­tu­ally went to Perth with my fam­ily for a hol­i­day, so I have a lot of good mem­o­ries from Aus­tralia, but it will be my first time in Ade­laide.’’

One of the songs on Yuna’s first in­ter­na­tional al­bum, Fad­ing Flower, was co-writ­ten with for­mer Aus­tralian Idol win­ner Guy Se­bas­tian.

“I un­der­stand that he’s from Ade­laide, too,’’ Yuna says. “When you’re in LA you just bump into each other. Some­one would know some­one else, and that’s how it all hap­pened.”

Yuna knew of Se­bas­tian’s work from hear­ing it played on air in Malaysia.

“I was re­ally fa­mil­iar with Guy Se­bas­tian, be­cause he was born in Malaysia, and he was based in LA at the time,’’ she says.

“My man­ager got in touch with his man­ager, and then we got into the stu­dio to­gether.

“It was re­ally, re­ally cool and he’s such a sweet guy and I was re­ally ex­cited to be work­ing with him.’’

The OzAsia Fes­ti­val will also mark a re­union for Yuna with fel­low Malaysian mu­si­cian Guba, who will play in the same venue on the same two nights.

They pre­vi­ously recorded a duet to­gether called You’re So Fine.

“He’s a re­ally tal­ented singer-song­writer and I’m re­ally ex­cited to share the stage with him. I can’t to see him again.’’

Yuna be­gan per­form­ing her own songs on gui­tar at 19 and gained a huge fol­low­ing on MyS­pace, singing in both English and Malay, re­leas­ing a num­ber of demos, an EP and two in­de­pen­dent al­bums.

She was dis­cov­ered by the In­die-Pop man­age­ment com­pany, who con­vinced her to move to the US and got her a deal with the Fader label, which re­leased her self-ti­tled al­bum last year. It in­cluded the sin­gle Live Your Life, pro­duced by Grammy Award-win­ner Phar­rell Wil­liams.

Now 26, she is work­ing on her sec­ond al­bum af­ter shift­ing to the pres­tige Verve label, on which she has just re­leased an­other EP called Sixth Street.

“It’s ob­vi­ously like a new be­gin­ning for me,” she says. “Verve is a re­ally leg­endary label,

“I’m so blessed and thank­ful that they were in­ter­ested in my mu­sic and in sign­ing me. Right now I’m just re­ally work­ing hard and writ­ing mu­sic.’’

Yuna trav­elled a lot as a child, and went to school in Italy when she was 16.

“I had a pe­riod of time when I was liv­ing in a re­ally small town in Malaysia, then I grew up in the city, so I’m re­ally used to adapt­ing to dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions, dif­fer­ent sur­round­ings and dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments.’’

Even so, mov­ing to the US as a “com­plete un­known” and liv­ing away from her par­ents was “a lit­tle bit scary’’.

“But I ad­justed re­ally well – I’m not re­ally a party girl, I’m re­ally fo­cused with my work.’’

To date, Yuna’s mu­sic bears more sem­blance to Western in­die pop than tra­di­tional Asian in­flu­ences. Her fa­ther plays gui­tar, pi­ano and drums, and her mother sings “a lit­tle bit’’, but none of her fam­ily has per­formed pro­fes­sion­ally be­fore.

“I lis­ten to a lot of dif­fer­ent kinds of mu­sic,” she says. “My dad used to lis­ten to a lot of rock mu­sic, I lis­ten to a lot of jazz mu­sic, my mum lis­tens to a lot of oldies – ’60s classics.

“Grow­ing up, I lis­tened to lot of bands like The Cardi­gans and No Doubt, and singer-song­writ­ers like Fiona Ap­ple and Tori Amos, Ala­nis Moris­sette … and also Lau­ryn Hill and R’n’B hip-hop artists. “You would hear all th­ese in­flu­ences in my mu­sic.’’ Af­ter three years in the US, Yuna says she is gain­ing con­fi­dence to put her ideas for­ward to pro­duc­ers and wants to in­tro­duce more Asian sounds.

“For this al­bum I was re­ally ex­cited to try some­thing new, which was more tra­di­tional Malaysian in­stru­ments,” she says.

“Th­ese are the things that I feel a lot of peo­ple don’t know about, so I re­ally wanted to ex­per­i­ment with them more.

“My goal was try­ing to find a tra­di­tional sound, but mak­ing it pop.

“For ex­am­ple, the Malaysian in­stru­ment the angk­lung, which is made from bam­boo. The sound is re­ally cool and ex­otic and dif­fer­ent, and you can in­ter­play that with ra­dio pop mu­sic.

“That was some­thing I al­ways wanted to do.’’

Yuna per­forms at the Space Theatre on Septem­ber 13 and 14 as part of the OzAsia Fes­ti­val. Book at BASS.

Yuna will make her Aus­tralian de­but in Ade­laide

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