Going onstage (www.esplanade.com).


Now Hear This: Dayang Nurfaizah

The songs that shaped Malaysia's chanteuse


Published: 21 Apr 2023

Time taken : ~10mins

Renowned for her powerhouse vocals, Malaysian songstress Dayang Nurfaizah has been one of Southeast Asia’s premiere singers for well over two decades now. Famed for her unique ability to blend classic Malay music with contemporary western pop and R&B, Dayang’s sterling discography, spanning 10 studio albums, has consistently been met with commercial and critical acclaim. Hot off her latest record, Belagu II, the multiple award-winning chanteuse talks to us about the songs that have shaped her as an artist and as a person. 

Do you recall the first song you ever sang in a public setting?

Yes, of course, it was in a competition held in my hometown, Kuching. I was 12 and I sang a patriotic song called Bahtera Merdeka. 

You’ve mentioned that Whitney Houston was a major influence on you. What’s the greatest Whitney song in your opinion?

She was considered the greatest of all time, the voice that changed the music industry and also a legendary performer. My all-time favourite is I Have Nothing—especially how she performs it. She was blessed with a voice so powerful and rich, which seemed to come effortlessly whenever she took to the stage. It’s one of those songs I felt with all my soul even as a kid. It’s my ultimate “perfect” song! 

Besides Whitney, are there any other specific artists or songs that have shaped your sensibilities as an artist?

Lauryn Hill. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill lives on! 

Which one of your own songs means the most to you personally?

My first single, Hakikat Cinta. I remember my journey of recording that song as I was still in school. It was surreal to listen to it being played on the radio for the first time. I could not believe that I was a recording artist and said to myself, “I am going to give it my all for my career. I want to be in music for the long haul.” Alhamdulillah (praise be to God), over 20 years later, I’m still here... 

Name a song that’s been at the top of your playlist lately.

Find Someone Like You by Snoh Aalegra.

You have a song called Tak Pernah Menyerah (Never Give Up) which is very inspiring. Do you have a go-to song for yourself to help you get through the tough times?

Diri by TULUS. A song about self-love and making peace with yourself. It’s something that we all need, a belief that everything will be okay.

Because of your extensive work in pop and R&B, most fans tend to view you within that prism. What’s one song that you love that would surprise people—simply because it’s not within your associated genres?

Believe it or not, Sunday Morning by No Doubt. 

Your last two albums, Belagu and Belagu II, were beautiful records designed to repopularise classic Malay songs for a new generation. How did you go about picking the songs you wanted to cover?

I love the classics. I wanted to celebrate our music heritage in the albums. I especially wanted the younger generations to cherish these treasured Malay classics of ours.

There were many great songs, to be honest. Both myself and Aubrey Suwito, the producer of the albums, had a hard time choosing songs. But we had to narrow it down to songs that Aubrey could do justice to in terms of the music, as a producer and arranger, and also songs that I could see myself singing. It was not an easy process. There was a lot of back and forth, to pick the best songs to be presented in the albums. I hope fans are happy with the repertoire of songs chosen. 

You’ve had an extremely successful career that has been going strong for over 20 years now. If you could pick out one specific song from your discography to recommend to someone unfamiliar with your music, what would it be?

Please check out Layarlah Kembali. That song sums up Dayang Nurfaizah. 

Dayang Nurfaizah’s sold out show will take place at Esplanade Concert Hall on 20 May 2023, as part of Pesta Raya – Malay Festival of Arts. Find out more about the festival here, happening from 18 – 21 May 2023. 

Contributed by:

Hidzir Junaini

Hidzir Junaini is a freelance journalist in Singapore, currently covering film and television for publications such as NME Asia and Popwire. He has previously served as a writer and editor for various pop culture magazines such as inSing, JUICE Singapore, Bandwagon, MTV Asia, Straatosphere, and VICE, among others.

The good vibes continue

Pesta Raya – Malay Festival of Arts 2023

Celebrate the icons and treasures of the Malay community in its diversity and richness through the best in theatre, dance, and music from the Nusantara.

18 – 21 May 2023
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