M'sian singer Yuna gave up legal career to tap musical talent

MALAYSIA - Law versus music. To many, it might not be a difficult choice to make. A legal career would be the practical life path to follow.

But if Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna had taken that path several years ago, her immense talent may have gone to waste.

This is a singer whose rich, dreamy vocals have taken her from her home in Alor Setar, Kedah, to the US, where she has collaborated with American rapper-producer Pharrell Williams, been signed to two US labels, released a full-length international album and two EPs, performed at major music festivals and been featured on a movie soundtrack.

Yuna, 26, who will be here on Sept 21 as part of the 1 World Music Festival, released her latest EP, Sixth Street, digitally last month. She sets herself apart, not because she is Malaysian-born and least of all because she dons the hijab.

The EP, her first under her new label, Verve Records, retains her soulful vocals while showing her obvious growth as an artist. On it, there are collaborations with the likes of Californian rapper Kyle, labelled "the new Drake", and Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger (who produced the single I Wanna Go).

The album has had music critics drawing comparisons with Yuna's own favourite Canadian indie artist, with Spin magazine saying that she "combines chart-friendly songwriting with baroque pop filigree on Feist-y EP".

The Feist comparison should be a very flattering one for Yuna, who has said that it was Feist who spurred her to pick up a guitar and write songs in English and Malay while in law school.

Her song, Dan Sebenarnya, which she had uploaded to MySpace, changed it all.

"In my final year of law school, everything became real. Malaysian TV shows wanted me to perform big concerts. So, after graduating, I decided to go for it. I didn't think I'd be a good lawyer anyway," she recounted to Billboard in April last year.

She released a self-titled EP in 2008 and her single off that CD, Deeper Conversation went on to win Best English Song at Malaysia's Anugerah Industri Muzik Awards in 2009. Dan Sebenarnya also did well, earning her the Best Pop Song and Song Of The Year awards.

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