Inter-Asia Popular Music Studies (IAPMS) Online Workshop vol.06
Date: Thursday, February 4th, 2021
Time: 8PM (UTC+9)
7PM (Malaysia/China/Hong Kong/ Taiwan /Singapore/Perth)
KL Sing Song: alternative voices in the Kuala Lumpur singer songwriter circuit (2005 – 2009)
Azmyl Yusof (Sunway University Malaysia)
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This talk explores the emergence of the Kuala Lumpur singer songwriter circuit by charting the development of the annual singer songwriter showcase KL Sing Song. The showcase, which ended its run at it sixth installment (from 2005 to 2009) serves as a case study on the fostering of communal spirit and networking amongst like-minded arts practitioners. Taking a self-reflexive approach, it also considers the parallel developments of other related ‘scenes’, primarily the underground and indie rock, from which some of the KL-based singer songwriters featured in the showcase also participated. Taking cue from the DIY (do-it-yourself) punk approach ethos, the event emphasizes the use of only original compositions and has featured a variety of singer songwriters (from award winning globetrotting performers to upcoming youngsters to seasoned street buskers) with minimal instrumental accompaniment (itself an agent of mobility). In contrast to the more visible and ‘hip’ indie rock scene (which tended to be detached from contemporary politics), the singer songwriter scene has also provided an alternate cultural space for its participants (including for some who have moved on to commercial success) by being friendly to political communication and satire, with its notable support by the alternative online media, non-governmental organizations, and non-commercial venues and art spaces in the Klang Valley, Malaysia. Through a combination of journalistic method of data collection based on the presenter’s professional background and insider network access, this talk hopes to offer greater insight into scene politics and the agency of artists outside of the overemphasized paradigm of the ‘music industry’ and locate practices that were prevalent before the arrival of social media platforms. The talk will also share the development of the singer songwriter circuit in the past decade right up to the COVID-19 pandemic which essentially halted all music-making activities, affecting the entire performing arts community’s livelihood while also revealing the structural shortcomings and severe lack of political will by Malaysian music industry players and policy makers.
Azmyl Yusof is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Arts, Sunway University Malaysia and a recording and touring underground singer songwriter. More popularly known as his stage name Azmyl Yunor, his research interest parallels his artistic practice which includes music subcultures and the cultural politics of identity in Malaysia. A gig organizer and the co-founder of several seminal punk and experimental rock bands, he has been recording and producing albums independently since 1997 as a solo artist and band member and continues to collaborate with filmmakers on projects. A weekly columnist for an online publication and a regular guest and host on radio shows, he is known as one of the few critical voices of his generation in the local performing arts community. His most notable publication was a chapter on Malaysian music subcultures, Malay youths, and mediated moral panics in Media, Culture and Society in Malaysia (2010). With his observational eye on the cultural politics of contemporary Malaysia that sets him apart from peers, his recent album ‘John Bangi Blues’ is a rootsy rock n’ roll romp dedicated to his district of Bangi south of the capital (launched in September 2020) which has been hailed by music magazine NME as a “blistering commentary on the ‘Middle Malaysia’ experience”.