We all struggle in one way or another in our lives.
Some of us believe in some form of higher power. Others, in a school of thought of their choice. For Malaysian singer-songwriter, Bihzhu, it goes deeper than that.
The Penang born is well known in the Malaysian music scene for her rich, soulful vocals that have the magical prowess to uplift people’s spirit. Due to this, the award-winning musician has traveled the world to bring her brand of “heart music” to countries such as Australia, South Korea, China, Indonesia, and India.
We recently spoke to Bihzhu on what inspires her music, what keeps her going and what’s so special about her latest single, Am I Enough.
Hey Bihzhu! Let’s start right at the beginning. How did you first stumble into music? And what led you to stay?
Singing came as naturally to me as breathing. Growing up I inhaled my dad’s cassette tapes of bands like Peter Paul & Mary, The Brothers Four etc. When I started my first pop-jazz band Rhapsody in college, it was for fun, but it slowly grew into a calling, and 15 years later, here I am. Still. 🙂
You’ve performed for hundreds of people already. Do you remember your first performance?
My very first? I was in kindergarten in a singing competition. I remember stopping halfway to pick up my numbered badge that had dropped off. I didn’t win haha!
But the most first significant show was with Rhapsody at No Black Tie’s reopening in 2005? They had an open mic at the end. My bandmate and I nervously went on stage, I clutched at the mic stand like a life raft, shaking, and couldn’t believe it when people started cheering and clapping and asked for more.
What inspires you to produce your music?
Oh I’m so high on life! And am 300% inspired by it.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the local music scene and how do you think the Malaysian music scene can better itself?
Biggest challenge is lack of financial support and the lack of a healthy ecosystem (would you believe me when I say some local radio stations DO NOT play local songs?); a belief that Malaysian-made is not up to par; lack of a touring circuit. But there are also so many lovely things in the Malaysian scene – the genuine sense of community and support amongst musicians, an audience that is increasingly appreciative and a growing pride in our homegrown talent.
In your website, the type of music you’ve been doing is defined as “Heart Music”. Why is this so?
At the risk at sounding totally cliche, it’s because it comes from the heart without being confined to a singular genre.
Nightingale Tales is your debut EP. Do you have anymore EPs or albums on the way? When would they be out?
No albums or EPs in the plan, but a string of singles coming your way. After I Am Enough, there will be at least one more this year and one more early next year.
You mentioned in your press release that I Am Enough was inspired by real life events. Could you share with us the story behind this track?
When I was much younger I struggled a lot with low self-esteem and insecurities, which resulted in me lashing out by bullying. I didn’t like myself at all. But I decided to change, and fortunately I was able to seek out and receive forgiveness by those I had wounded, and in the process learn to also forgive myself.
Then I began to repeat the affirmations you hear in the chorus “I am Soul, I am beautiful, I am loved, I am enough”, to myself in the mirror. I didn’t believe them at first, but they were powerful and over time, completely transformed my relationship with myself and in turn my relationship with others. I hope to share that with anyone who needs it.
In your opinion, why are phrases and affirmations powerful?
Because our words, thoughts, and actions are things. They vibrate with energy and power. You become what you believe, and you are what you speak.
You also mentioned that you’ve grown spiritually. How important is this to you as an artist?
I can’t untangle my spirituality with my every-day life, they are one and the same. If I grow spiritually, I also grow creatively, and more so, I grow as a person. And how can one stay the same? It’s impossible, just like how you can’t step into the same river twice, life flows, unendingly, it’s up to us to see how far we go with it.
*** Header image credit Robin Wong.