8 Malaysian and Singaporean musicians you should listen to


By Ronn Tan

8 Malaysian and Singaporean musicians you should listen to

To say that music is a powerful medium is perhaps an understatement. An art form that can lift your spirits during trying timesmusic holds an innate ability to connect, transform and inspire.

Who are your favourite musicians? What genre do you prefer? If you’re on the lookout for new acts and sounds, look no further than artistes hailing from the Southeast Asian region, specifically—Malaysia and Singapore. Take a look at the roundup below to get yourself started on this local and regional musical journey—and you’ll be amazed.

1. SonaOne

This singer-songwriter and rapper is no stranger to the Malaysian music scene. The Pahang-born musician—born Mikael Adam Lozach—has had an illustrious career. In 2014, his song No More took home the Best Song Award at the Anugerah Industri Muzik (AIM); the first English track to do so. Other career-defining songs include Firefly, Apa Khabar with Joe Flizzow, and Hakeleh.

SonaOne has also collaborated with Singapore’s Alif on a joint album. The 15-track album is called Detail and features hits such as Obvious, Pun Boleh, and Look Around. On 26 March 2020, the French-Malay rapper—currently signed to Def Jam South East Asia—dropped his newest track, Bomba; his first ever trilingual record (Malay, French, and English). The Adriana Tunku-directed music video was released the next day.

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2. Narelle Kheng

Narelle Kheng is no stranger in the Singaporean music scene—but musical artistry isn’t just part of her repertoire. She was part of Singapore’s national swimming team with her brother Benjamin Kheng; and has acted in shows such as Lifespam, Do It Yourself, and Zero Calling. The Singaporean starlet is also part of the popular The Sam Willows—a band that consists of Narelle, Benjamin Kheng, Jonathan Chua, and Sandra Riley Tang.

Her 2019 solo single, Outta My Head, is a meaningful piece about a two-year-long toxic relationship that Kheng had experienced during her time in university. Other songs to check out include Some They LieTears, Let Me Be, and Blue.


3. NYK

The Penang-born R&B and pop singer is another rising star in the Malaysian music scene. Back in 2017, NYK (a.k.a. Nick Yungkit) released the popular track FWB (with 1.5 million streams on Spotify so far) and has been on the rise since, dropping hit after hit. Signed to Sony Music, NYK once opened for The Sam Willows and James Arthur.

In addition to songs such as Make It On Me with Airliftz, Faded, Pretty Burn, My Baby (Loves Me), and Anymore, NYK’s latest release is AAA with Shelhiel. The fun and boppy English-Mandarin record (teemed with a music video by Nelson Chong) is composed and produced by Shelhiel and Isaac Miranda. One thing’s for sure—you can expect more Spotify chart-toppers from the artiste in the future.

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4. Charlie Lim

This singer-songwriter, musician, and producer has made a name for himself since his debut in 2011 when he released his first EP, Charlie Lim. After signing with House of Riot! in 2012, Charlie toured the region—playing in Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, and Brisbane among others. He has even supported acts such as Lenka, Kimbra, and Sigur Ros. After releasing double EP Time/Space in 2015, he then signed on to Universal Music in 2016.

Lim is a musician that traverses between genres. You can find acoustic melancholia, post-rock, neo-soul, R&B, folk, pop, and electronica from his songs—a beautiful combination of sounds. He dropped Check-Hook in 2018, featuring songs such as Better Dead Than A Damsel, Least Of You, and Circles. Other songs to check out from Charlie Lim include Hummingbird with Linying, Knots, Choices, Bitter, and Blah Blah Blues.

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5. Kayda

This Malaysian rapper—the daughter of Sheila Majid and Roslan Aziz—has charted her own path in the music industry. She begun singing professionally at the age of 21, building her career without riding on the reputation of her renowned celebrity parents. Kayda’s debut album, Love For No Reason, was released in 2018 and produced by Emir Hermono, B.E.M., and Puffietop.

Kayda has come a long way since. Now known as one of the leading Hip Hop and R&B musicians in the country, the Kuala Lumpur-born artiste’s hits include the likes of Only U, Your CallBeg 4 Me, Sugar, Go Hard or Gostan with Hunny Madu, and Down With Me. One of her newest tracks is Macam-Macam—produced by both Kayda and Luca Sickta. The song comprises of three languages: Malay, Mandarin, and English.

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6. Sezairi

After winning the third season of Singapore Idol in 2009, the Singaporean musician was catapulted into the limelight. In 2010, he released debut album, Take Two—featuring the single Broken. Before releasing his self-titled EP, Sezairi, the singer was signed to Sony Music. Songs to check out from this EP include Fire to The Floor, It Will Never Mend, and Empty.

In January 2020, Sezairi dropped his comeback album, Undertones. The four-track record consists of songs such as Mirage, It’s You, She Moves, and In Secret. In addition to music, Sezairi has also starred in 1965, a Singaporean historical thriller film.

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7. Talitha Tan

Born and bred in Kuala Lumpur, this singer-songwriter is known for her captivating vocals (on top of being a popular social media influencer). The highly sought-after artiste recently opened for Jeremy Zucker and has collaborated with numerous acts such as Ali Aiman, Darren Ashley, SonaOne, Tatsuro Miller, and NYK.

Songs you should definitely listen to include Okay with Darren Ashley, ineedsomeone, would you, Maple, Please Stay, and on you. In 2020, she also released dontyouseeme and sweetlove. In addition to music, Talitha Tan is also a fitness enthusiast—with parkour being one of her favourite things to do.

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8. Jasmine Sokko

As the first Singaporean artiste to win an MTV European Music Award for Best Southeast Asia Act in 2019, Jasmine Sokko has cemented her status music industry as a rising star to watch. After her debut (1057), she hasn’t stopped churning hits out since, with hits including 600D, F5, and Hurt. She was also the only female act and the only Singaporean contestant to compete at the finale of China’s Rave Now—an electronic music reality show in 2019.

Soon after Rave Now, Jasmine Sokko dropped Tired and Shh (her first fully-Mandarin single). Her latest track—released on 20 March 2020—is the Mandarin single, Fever, written in collaboration with Svea Kågemark, Melanie Wehbe, and Elias Näslin.

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Are any of these Malaysian and Singaporean musicians in your current playlist? The local and regional music scene is filled with talent, regardless of genre. Start by checking out the singers above and soon after, you will find yourself browsing a catalogue of impressive records.

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