MUSIC INSIDER: Singer-Songwriter Bihzhu On Creating “Heart Music”
You have to love our local music scene — it’s thriving and buzzing with acts and talents who just love what they do and do it with full passion. There are the new kids on the block, as well as some veterans who have been doing it all, setting the scene and laying the groundwork for all the musicians and artistes who are making it today.
Bihzhu is a singer-songwriter who has been in the industry for 14 years, and would be considered one of Malaysia’s foremost musical insiders. She loves creating what she calls “heart music” — a “genre-crossing brand of music that comes authentically from the heart”, she says. Her influences are drawn from soul, jazz, reggae and RnB and she recently launched her new single, “Nowness”.
Here, she shares her journey, from play-singing at two years old to her songwriting process and what the industry is like right now in Malaysia.
Can you tell us how it was like for you — your journey from when you started out till now?
I’ve always been singing, since I was a kid, putting on pretend concerts for my grandma with object as a mic at two years old, and participated in a lot of music programs in primary and high school, but never considered it as a career. In college, I asked a friend to put some music to a poem of unrequited love (how cliched), and that kickstarted a partnership – our pop-jazz duo Rhapsody did the rounds of all the local open mics and venues like No Black Tie, Alexis all the way to Penang Island Jazz Fest. In between that I was in a reggae dub outfit called Layan Sound System, before turning to a solo career in 2011.
It has been 14 years since I embarked on this journey. I quit my full time job at the end of 2009 to pursue this wholeheartedly, and even now, I still feel this enthusiastic wonder at what I’m doing, and that exciting feeling that this is just the beginning.
What would you say is the current state of the industry in Malaysia right now?
I’d say we’ve grown leaps and bounds since I started 14 years ago, for one, the audience has matured and gained a much bigger appreciation for local talent and that in turn has spurred the quality of work coming from the musicians. but there is a lot more to do.
The ecosystem isn’t the most supportive at the moment, and government policies can be friendlier. But the people who came before us made it possible for us to do what we do now, and we just have to continue to push forward to make it that much easier for those who come after us.
Which would you say would be the best way for an artiste to stand out, musically?
Spotify has definitely changed the way music is consumed and it’s quite impactful, second would definitely be Instagram for me. But honestly, the most effective would still be for someone to come out and catch a gig, nothing quite compares to the energy that a live performance can give you and that feeling can linger for days!
What was your inspiration behind your new song “Nowness”?
Before my first date with this guy, I had a dream of our past lives together, and our love affair was very explosive, yet even from the start I had a feeling that it was going to be short-lived. So Nowness comes from my desire to let go of the past, and not be afraid of the future, to just focus on the now.
“We live in an era of instant gratification and hype but to get better at your craft takes time, lots of time, so be kind to yourself and just create.”
What would you say fuels your passion for music?
I believe that music allows me to be an instrument of love, and that is my life’s purpose, to be of service to others in doing what I love.
What’s your songwriting process like?
It depends, sometimes I’ll have a phrase running around my head, or a snatch of a melody, so I usually pick up on that and work on it until an entire song forms. Sometimes it doesn’t get completed for a long, long, long time!
How did you manage to find your “sound”?
I think I’m a very intuitive person, so I just do what feels right for me at any given moment. There was never a desire to craft a certain sound for any song that I write. I just go with the flow.
What are your thoughts on switching it up and going in a direction?
Personal growth is a big thing for me, and with that, it’s inevitable that you will also grow creatively. I would say that this is a very natural progression, people who know and love Bihzhu can be assured that I’m still me, but the slightly more grown up version.
If someone was considering getting into the music industry, what would be some of the things you’d advise them?
Be patient. We live in an era of instant gratification and hype but to get better at your craft takes time, lots of time, so be kind to yourself and just create. I’m always inspired by this motto that Dwayne Johnson hawks “Always be the humblest and hungriest person in the room”. And also learn to be grateful for everything you experience, even if it’s not what you want at the moment.
How do you think you’ve grown musically over the years?
I think I’ve become more self-assured and with that comes a maturity of sound, yet I’m still very willing to absorb new things and let it seep into what I’m doing.
What do you want people to take from your music?
For everyone to know that they matter, and they are loved, and be empowered to do chase after their heart’s desires.
What are your plans?
Three new singles are lined up for 2020, with possibly some tours. Things are looking fun and exciting!