Malaysian singer-songwriter performs intimate show at Rutgers


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Yuna started the evening with one of her hit tracks, “Falling,” and continued to excite the crowd with her upbeat tunes all evening.

Last Friday, Yuna, a singer-songwriter from Malaysia, performed an intimate show at Livingston Hall. The four-piece folk-pop group was preceded by a spoken word performance about the life of a modern Muslim woman. The event was hosted by Sara Zayed, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and president of MuslimGirl Rutgers, the organization that co-sponsored the event with the Rutgers University Programming Association.

This was Yuna’s Rutgers debut and she played a crowd-pleasing set that included many songs from her latest album, Nocturnal. This is Yuna’s third studio album, released by Verve Records and was highly anticipated after her last album, which had tracks produced by Pharrell Williams.

This event had been in the works for over a year, Zayed said, and was originally planned for International Women’s Day last March. However, it was canceled because of a blizzard. Yuna was thought of for the event because of the role model she has become to all women, especially Muslim women, she said.

“We thought it would be really awesome to bring Yuna for this event because she identifies as Muslim and has completely built herself up from scratch,” Zayed said.

Yuna is a self-taught singer and guitarist, who grew up in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city in Malaysia, and is the first musical artist from Malaysia to gain this level of popularity in the United States, according to her website. She has won nine Anugerah Industri Muzik awards, the equivalent of a Grammy, since her official career start in 2010 and made her breakthrough in the United States in 2012.

Her early success can be attributed to her effective online presence. She first grew her fan-base on MySpace, forming a strong cult following in Malaysia. Her outreach is no longer primarily reliant on social media, still many people find her that way like Duaa Eisa, a guest of a Rutgers’ student at the event, who said she found out about Yuna online.

Eisa said she felt a strong connection to Yuna’s music because she is relatable. 

“She is a Muslim, scarf-wearing, singer ... who you feel like you know when she’s on stage,” Elisa said. 

She believes Yuna’s music should be more mainstream because it is so good.

Yassmina Bendahud, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, also enjoys Yuna because her music is so relatable and enjoyable. 

“Her music is easy to connect to,” Bendahud said.

Yuna is important to MuslimGirl at the University and Muslim women everywhere because her career is exemplary of what women can do while wearing a hijab, or headscarf, Zayed said. 

“The hijab doesn’t hold anyone back from anything,” she said.

Yuna redefines the convention of a pop star by wearing her Hijab and having unprecedented success as a Malaysian singer in America. She has unique presence on stage being a confident, strong and visibly religious woman.

Zayed believes Yuna's career has made her an important public figure for the modern Muslim woman. Yuna challenges the misconception that those two things cannot happen simultaneously.

“We can be obedient worshippers of Islam at the same as having fun and being light-hearted,” Zayed said. 

Everyone left the auditorium feeling as bubbly as Yuna’s lyrics and melodies and with another image of who our pop stars are and what they can look like.


Brittany Gibson

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