Friday, August 3, 2012

Zee Avi, Sarawak Singer-Songwriter - Malaysia Youtube Star

Discovered on Youtube and now based in the US, young Malaysian singer-songwriter Zee Avi follows up her first namesake album with Ghostbird.

Malaysian singer Zee Avi live and in casual, medley mood

I'm pushing the limits of news you can use  by introducing Southeast Asian celebrities viewable on Youtube video. I see it as a simple means to strike up a conversation and form a bond with local people. In this case of singer Zee Avi, that would be with her fellow Malaysians, though she's  known to Singaporeans too.

After all, tourists and expats always profess to be interested in local "culture." Usually that translates as "food." But watching a video isn't as demanding as reading a book, right?

The second song on this medley, "Bitter Heart," is probably her best known. It was her first iTunes release as a single and then on her first studio album in 2009, Zee Avi. The medley also provides a good sampling of her sound. Even if the lyrics are about heartbreak or heroin addiction, the sound is light, sprightly, a little bit country-folk, a little bit Tin Pan Alley. Sometimes her voice almost swings. She usually sings in English but occasionally in Malay.

Don't expect tribal music or indigenous instruments or anything readily identifiable as world music, even though the singer-songwriter  was born in Miri, Sarawak (as Izyan Alirahman), grew up in Kuala Lumpur, and has appeared at the past few editions of Sarawak's big annual world music festival. She plays guitar and ukulele and her accompaniment is always spare and unplugged.

Starbucks, SXSW and Ghostbird

Zee Avi's rapid rise to international fame will fuel the dreams of every teenager singing along with a ukulele in her bedroom. Being gorgeous probably sped the process along. In 2007, when she was 22, Avi gave her first live performance in Kuala Lumpur and then posted an excerpt on Youtube for a friend that had missed it. 

The positive response encouraged her to post more clips. She was featured on Youtube's main page ... and, long story short, she was signed to Hawaii record label Brushfire, owned by singer Jack Johnson. She moved to the US,  toured clubs, appeared at SXSW and released Zee Avi. The album was reviewed in Billboard and the New York Times, and jumped to the top of charts in Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan. Her new album, released in 2012, is Ghostbird.

At times, Zee Avi almost sounds like Norah Jones, though even Jones has more range. (Neither is within shouting distance of Charice from the Philippines.)  And, yes, you may have heard Avi singing in Starbucks. She has also had songs featured on the soundtracks of US TV shows "Gossip Girl" and "Private Practice."

Avi is also known KokoKaina, which is the name of her Youtube channel. At the moment it hosts 38 videos.  Her website has news about her upcoming tour dates and the usual. Her Twitter feed is @ZeeAvi.

There are a couple of Malay-language videos on Youtube but the production isn't great. The language in the third song in the video above is in a Malay-English creole--"Manglish" or "Malglish." Here it is below with English subtitles. "Kantoi" means something like "got caught" or  "gotcha" or "busted."

All Airlines Flying to/from Myanmar (Burma) - International Routes

All Airlines Flying to/from Myanmar (Burma) - International Routes

Here are the 25 airlines that fly to Myanmar (Burma) and their air routes. These airlines fly directly on  regularly scheduled flig...