Top 6 Malaysian Tracks of 2016

05 December 2016

As we near the end of 2016, check out some of the year’s best local singles.
By most accounts, the past 12 months have been a testing period for many people, but just as pressure creates diamonds, distressing times inspire awesome music. Here’s a look at six of Malaysian music’s most notable new singles, and the musicians showing us all how it’s done.

Ali Aiman ft Talitha Tan – Cover You
Ali Aiman cut his teeth in music by graduating from Kuala Lumpur’s International College of Music (ICOM) and then the famed Berklee College of Music in the United States, but the proof was in the pudding – his breakout 2014 single, Breathe, marked him for greatness. The 29-year-old songwriter defies convention further with Cover You, pairing a melancholy hymnody with a low-key electronic vibe. Talitha Tan acts as Ali’s foil as their lilting vocals meld together, fittingly glorifying the theme of two souls filling each other’s empty spaces. Cover You should serve as a potent sign of what Ali’s debut LP Circles has to offer.

A-Kid ft. K-Main and Klash – Apa Lagi Kita Mau
How does one of the most controversial questions posed during the 2013 General Election gets flipped into the most hilarious anthem of 2016? The answer: upstart emcee A-Kid of the Krayziesoundz hip-hop crew, with help from The Bat Cave’s K-Main and Klash. Tongue superglued firmly to cheek, Apa Lagi Kita Mau is an absurdist, flippant commentary on the cultural stereotypes that skew Malaysians’ views on each other. Like a musical equal-opportunity roast, Apa Lagi Kita Mau forces us to laugh at ourselves, while injecting a call to much-needed self-reflection.

Yuna ft SonaOne – Pulang
It seemed almost inevitable that two of Malaysia’s biggest urban music stars would end up on a track together, but the pairing of globetrotting songstress Yuna and rapper-producer SonaOne was a welcome surprise nonetheless. Pulang plays off the obvious markers of Yuna’s success in the faraway United States and SonaOne’s French Algerian heritage, but the song is also an homage to both artists’ love for and dedication to the Malaysian music scene. Produced by Hujan’s AG Coco, this single is proof positive that homegrown music standards can be right at home anywhere on the planet.

Airliftz – Gwalos
Clocking in as a fresh 18 year-old, rising hip hop artist Airliftz is not your older brother’s rapper. Referencing Kanye over Jay Z, The Weeknd over Usher, this rapper-producer brings a more current sound to Malaysia’s hip hop soundscape than the standard macho, aggressive music that paved the way for his arrival. On Gwalos, his formal introduction to the world at large, Airliftz isn’t afraid to wax poetic on his vulnerabilities, ruminating on his sense of inadequacy trying to provide the very best for the woman of his dreams – a far cry from the empty boasts of his more insecure baller predecessors. Did we mention he composed the song too?

Aman RA – Budak Flat
Slowly but surely gaining traction in Malaysia’s underground hip hop scene, rapper Aman RA staked his claim in local pop culture consciousness with this paean to working class, hustler culture. Budak Flat is an unadulterated celebration (not an apology) of not just the rough-hewn origins of hip hop in its birthplace of the United States but also in the less affluent neighbourhoods of Kuala Lumpur. Aman RA’s independent streak shines through his arrogant rhymes and unabashed commitment to getting his way by any means necessary. This song proves its own point by garnering more than 300,000 hits on YouTube through not much more than online word of mouth.

Kyoto Protocol – Evolusi Muzik Malaysia pt 1
Over the last few years, Kyoto Protocol has risen from being one of Malaysia’s pop-punk upstarts to cementing their status as a solid pillar in the local music landscape. Evolusi Muzik Malaysia pt 1 is at once the quirky quintet’s homage to our shared rock ‘n’ roll roots and a showcase of just how far the band has come: their sonic journey from ’50s classics like A Ramli’s Oh Fatima to Search’s Isabella, Hujan’s Pagi Yang Gelap, all the way to their own single Pussycat, is not so much medley as it is a historical document.  By standing on the shoulders of giants, Kyoto Protocol has also sized itself up, and their impact on local music looms large indeed.

By Azwan Mahzan
Videos courtesy of respective acts featured

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