PETALING JAYA: Penang-born Jefri Nazri was lip-syncing to a song from his “Malay Jiwang” Spotify playlist in his car when he decided to record himself on video.
Never in his wildest dreams did the US-based Spanish major expect the video to amass more than 127,000 views in just four days, with thousands of retweets and likes, after he posted it on Twitter.
His tweet was fairly simple and meant to be a joke. Following a recent trend, he wrote:
“Me: ‘How Malay am I?’”, along with an 11-second video of him jamming in his car to “Kau dipaksa, aku terpaksa” by Scan.
But so famous is he now that the 26-year-old regularly gets new followers and messages. Many also watch and debate on the regular videos he shares of his thoughts on Malaysian culture and his life in America.
Perhaps seeing someone with an American accent converse in fluent Malay might be playing a role in this newfound popularity; not to mention his good looks.
But look beyond all this and you will find that there is more to Jefri’s videos that meets the eye.
“The main reason I posted the video was to show everyone that just because a Malaysian lives outside of Malaysia, doesn’t mean they should forget about their culture,” Jefri told FMT from New York.
“Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi-religious country. I believe that our differences should unite us, not divide us,” he added.
“I love making friends with people of other races and religions in Malaysia. I believe that if we spent more time together, there would be a lot less hostility.
“I encourage everyone to have open dialogues with other people, especially those who are different from you.”
This concept is not a foreign one to Jefri. And it all started when he got ticked off by a Twitter user who said that girls who donned the headscarf were more beautiful than those who let their hair out.
He said he was livid at the thought of someone judging another person’s choice of clothing. Women should be free to express themselves and wear what made them feel comfortable and beautiful, he said.
“He asked me if I wore ‘tudung’ and I said, ‘I don’t need to wear one to understand that a woman’s choice in how they dress is completely theirs. I doubt they’re out here thirsty for your validation on what’s beautiful or not’ which got about a thousand likes on Twitter.”
A common theme in all of his videos is that one should learn a lesson from everything.
“I want to express that in whatever discussions we have with others, it’s always crucial to be open to disagreements and ultimately to be civil. It’s okay to disagree with someone, but at least be open-minded enough to listen to the other side.
“We’re living in a world where a lot of contention exists, especially now in Malaysia. I urge everyone to be well informed on issues that are going on.”
Jefri’s own experience growing up may be playing a role in crafting his worldview. He recalls not befriending more people because of a fear of speaking English and come across as showing-off.
“I would often speak English with my Chinese and Indian friends, but to be completely honest, most of my friends were Malay, and at least in the neighbourhood where I grew up in, you don’t just go around speaking in English because it may come off as ‘flaunting’ or ‘showing-off’.
“If I could turn back time, I would have befriended more people of other races,” he said. “I think it’s so cool that many Chinese Malaysians and Indian Malaysians are able to speak multiple languages.”
He also regrets not learning from their experiences and viewpoints.
“So my message to the youth is: Don’t be afraid to learn something new and don’t ever give up on your journey towards higher education because I promise, it will always be worth it.”
It’s a message that applies to everyone.