This local singer received the highest number of Vima nominations – 7.
Growing up in Kuala Lumpur, Amirah Ali was constantly exposed to the juxtapositions of different cultures and different viewpoints. In Kuala Lumpur, several languages are commonly spoken; and timeless traditions stand side by side with modern personal styles and values.
Its populace subscribes to several different religious backgrounds, and traditional music, played on instruments unheard of in Western countries. It is this exposure to diversity that has framed who Amirah Ali is today: both as an artist and as a human being.
Starting to learn the piano at the age of six and writing songs at the age of 11, Amirah completed her Grade 8 in Piano with Honours at the age of 15 and went to study the cello in New Zealand completing her Grade 5 with Distinction within a year. After getting her Bachelors degree in Multimedia Film and Animation, she worked in the theatre industry under The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Center and later went to pursue her masters at Northern Illinois University, USA. There, Amirah embarked on her songwriting career by joining The Nashville Songwriting International Association, Grammy U Chicago and Houston, West Coast Songwriting LA and TAXI.
Musically, Amirah enjoys exploring ways to fuse aspects of music traditional to her part of the world with elements of modern Western pop. She uses traditional Malaysian instruments and elements to lend her songs a unique feel, blending them together with Western pop instruments and rhythms. She hopes this style will make traditional music more appealing and relevant to the youth while showing older, more traditional communities that pop music is not “just noise.”
Amirah’s debut single ‘Katakanlah’, has been awarded two international songwriting awards including second place in the world wide ISC International Songwriting Competition 2011 beating 15,000 entries from 115 countries with judges such as Timbaland, Peter Gabriel, Rihanna and Kelly Clarkson finalist in The John Lennon Songwriting Competition 2010.
‘Katakanlah’ delves lyrically into difficult and heartfelt topics referencing to the desecration of houses of worship within Malaysia, and was featured on Bernama TV news after a strong following was gained by renown Malaysian bloggers including Marina Mahathir. The ‘Katakanlah’ Club Remix version was also featured in a compilation album by Clorets Music with 30,000 copies distributed at Virgin Megastore in The Middle East.
Amirah has been chosen as Marie Claire’s Women of Style and Substance 2011 Award which will be held in July 2011 and nominated for Anugerah Bintang Popular in Malaysia November 2010, Anugrah Industri Muzik (the Malaysian Grammys) 2011 under Pop Ethnic Category and SEYTA Selangor Talent Youth 2011 under Best Song.
Her self-written song ‘There We Go’ was recorded by Alif Satar, Sony Music’s Artiste, for his album ‘Lelaki Seperti Aku’. Amirah’s Aidilfitri Album, ‘Syawal: Koleksi Lagu Aidilfitri’, released in August 2010, sold 7,000 copies in one month, showcasing traditional Malay, Indian, Chinese and modern pop music used together including in a bonus track in the album entitled ‘Malaysia’.
By doing this, Amirah Ali accomplishes in a truly unique way the ultimate goal of pop music – to bring people together.
How does it feel to be nominated for a VIMA award? What does this nomination mean to you?
I believe that traditional music should not be forgotten or sidelined in today’s world and that our traditional music is still relevant today. I also believe that the audience of today, including the youth, enjoy listening to songs with a substance and message, songs about unity and equality which I am passionate about, and songs that are honest. This is why I compose and write the songs that I do and why I combine traditional musical instruments with pop music. To receive seven nominations competing with many other mainstream artists including for best pop song/act and best electro dance dance is a true honour and it has helped encouraged me to continue to do what I do. I thank the public and the VIMA Committee their support and for believing in me.
What efforts have you made to promote your nominations to your fans?
I have posted messages to my Facebook fans and friends’s walls asking for their support and vote. I have about 5,000 friends and 16,000 Facebook fans so I am trying my best to get to everyone – I have spent weeks doing it. I have also sent several email blasts to my mailing list fans of about 2,000 fans from all over the world and tweeted to the general public. To be honest, I feel like a sales woman doing this, but I do believe that VIMA is important, especially for independent artists.
Do you believe that social media platforms such as Facebook, Youtube and twitter are relevant marketing and publicity tools for a musician? What efforts have you made to engage with your fans using social media?
Social media is the only tool I have used, and ever used, since embarking in my career as a singer-songwriter two years ago. It was the only thing I could do and afford because it was free. I use Youtube to share my latest music, Reverbnation to keep in contact with my fans and update them on what I am doing. Facebook and Twitter to interact more directly on a more frequent basis with my fans and supporters. Honestly I am very new to Twitter so I do not use it as much as Facebook. Although I do not favour being glued to my laptop and phone for hours a day, I love the chance to get to know my supporters and hear their thoughts. As an independent artist, it is a necessity. However, in order to really maximise and master social media, one would need to pour in hours everyday doing it. It is alot of work.
How would you best describe your music?
In terms of music, my music is pop based with world music elements by using traditional instruments such as gamelan, erhu, sitar, seruling and tabla, by using ethnic modes and scales as part of the composition foundations of the song or having modern western instruments playing using ethnic modes and scales. It excites me to experiment and try out new ways I can combine modern pop music with traditional world music – to combine the east and west – the old and new – and make it all seamless as one unit. This is my passion. I hope to bridge communities together regardless of age, cultural background and religious believes through my music by sharing common hopes and goals through the messages of my songs.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I hope to compose songs that will stand the test of time and that would make a difference. I am extremely picky when it comes to my own compositions compared to when I am composing for other artists, and I spend alot of time soul searching on what I want to write about. I also spend months and sometimes years working on the production of a song as I only top quality production for all my songs, and with my limited budget as an independent singer-songwriter, it is a big challenge. I want my songs to be of international quality. I hope to bring Malaysian traditional music and instruments to the international arena amongst other international pop mainstream artists. This is my goal.
What are your songs about?
I write about issues that I feel strongly about especially on unity and equality. ‘Katakanlah’ is about the Kalimah Allah issue in 2010, ‘Sailing the Sahara’ is about my hopes and aspirations for Malaysia and ‘Malaysia’ is a song about my beloved Tanahair through my eyes where I believe that “Indian, Chinese, Malay, Dayak or Kadazan – we are the same” (taken from ‘Malaysia’). My Aidilfitri songs such as ‘Syawal’, ‘Dondang Raya’ and ‘Joget Lebaran’ which was featured in my Aidilfitri EP talks about the importance of education, progress and modernity within the context of Malay pantun. ‘Dondang Raya’ features traditional Chinese instruments despite being an Aidilfitri song as there are Muslims of many different races. I have also composed an Aidilfitri song in Mandarin and Hindi which is in the process of being recorded. My latest song is ‘Saya Manusia’ which is about the victims of oppressive regimes in the middle east – a sequal to ‘Katakanlah’. ‘Queen of My Heart’ is a song I composed for my mother and ‘You’re God’s Gift to Me’ is a song I composer for my father. I also write love songs, particular themed on relationships between people of different race and religion and the obstacles that they face like ‘Tell Me’ and ‘Where Shall We Meet’