Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Malaysian singer-songwriter Yunalis binti Mat Zara’ai, aka Yuna. The Kedah-born singer moved to Los Angeles at the age of 23 to pursue her musical career and found success there.
Earlier today, Yuna, 33, uploaded a post in her Instagram stories, sharing something that happened to her back in 2009, when she was trying to promote her music.
She had met with a representative from a major music label in Malaysia who was looking to sign her. During the meeting, she asked them for help to market her English songs so she could promote them internationally. But the record label shot her request down, claiming that it wouldn’t be good for business.
“Yuna, no one will want to listen to your English music, just make Malay music,” Yuna quoted the rep in her online post. According to Yuna, the label had proposed that she made nine Malay songs and only one English song.
Instead of bowing to pressure, Yuna stood her ground and politely thanked the label, telling them that she would get back on the offer — but she didn’t. Eleven years later, she is now the only Malaysian singer making a name for herself in the U.S.
In a subsequent post today, Yuna shared photos of her success in the past decade, including her successful single Crush featuring R&B star Usher that peaked at No. 3 on the US Adult R&B Billboard chart.
Another proud achievement of hers was to be featured on the Times Square billboard in New York three times. The first time happened four years ago in November when the singer was featured on the iconic Nasdaq billboard to promote her third international studio album, Chapters.
“Your goals may sound crazy to others and that’s ok,” her Instagram post read. “Just don’t let yourself believe them when they tell you ‘You can never do it.”
But Yuna has not forgotten her roots and continues to sing in Malay from time to time, such as Pulang (Come back), Sayang (Love), and Tiada Akhir (No end).
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This article, ‘Just make Malay music’: Yuna recounts words from a label exec 11 years ago, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!