As long as I can remember, I have wanted to do music in some shape or form. It started with dreaming of being a pianist-pop singer like Vanessa Carlton, then a jazz singer like Emi Meyer, a k-pop band member, then an electronic music producer. My family however, were not as enthusiastic. Funnily enough, I turned back to music for comfort when they didn’t believe in me.
Strangely, discovering Yuna came out of my year 10 Nirvana phase. I stumbled on her cover of Come As You Are by Nirvana, and it shocked me that someone dressed like me (at the time I wore hijab whenever I left the house), who looked like the people I grew up with, was playing guitar (a stringed instrument! “The lutes of hell” my Islamic studies teacher would say) and singing – which I was taught to believe was forbidden for anyone without a male voice (as if such a thing could be gendered anyway.)
Armed with this video, I schemed that I will work towards music no matter what, away from the eyes of my family and religious group. I snuck earphones in underneath my hijab to listen to her on repeat. I window shopped for guitars online, acting like one day I could afford a new one. I watched cover tutorials for hours on end.
Discovering that she didn’t even pick up a guitar until she was 23 in the middle of law school, she showed me that there was no rush, and I needn’t compare myself to people who have been trained in music since preschool. Slowly I found the confidence to travel to Indonesia alone, luckily in the middle of Yuna’s Chapters tour.
It was one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever been to. The crowd was full of women in hijabs and abayas – while dancing my foot got stuck in one the hem of one girl’s abayas. I can’t recall another concert where that has happened. I felt overwhelmingly accepted, surrounded by Muslim girls who were singing along and just living their best life, thousands of kilometres away from my parents’ strict version of our faith. Yuna brought me and these people together, and helped me realise I don’t need to compromise anything at all in my life and faith to enjoy and make music.
And it wasn’t only Yuna who helped. In Indonesia, my friends were unashamed to express themselves – there was no whiteness to compare themselves to, nobody to bar them from creative spaces. Of course, it’s not perfect – music scenes perpetuate the patriarchy and favour English-speaking people there as well – but I brought the visions of Yuna and my friends on stages when I came back to Western Sydney, and joined the All Girl Electronic production workshop. The rest is pretty much history.
Header image taken from Yuna’s facebook page.