SHOWBIZ: From rocker to cultural troubadour
Prema Yin tells Dennis Chua of her evolving identity in music
PREMA Yin admits she is full of surprises. The award-winning singer and songwriter from Seremban recently gave the Press a preview of her new album, Prema Yin: Redefined.
The album, she says, will only be ready in January or February next year. It contains five songs. Prema composed and penned the lyrics.
A noteworthy milestone, it marks Prema’s transformation from rock singer to cultural troubadour. Redefined, says Prema, is an evolution with innovative musical arrangements infused with classical Indian elements as well as contemporary beats.
“And it’s a transition close to my heart,” she says.
Prema has always believed her Chinese-Indian heritage is what makes her unique as a Malaysian musician.
“To be able to incorporate this aspect of my identity into my artistic persona and music, and expose fans to my soulful side has always been my dream. I’m delighted to have finally achieved it with my new album,” she says.
“When I first started, I was still finding myself. I played in the club scene and percussion bands. I needed to find what suited me. Now, I see the experience I’ve gained has led me to this turning point.”
Laying aside the vocal acrobatics which were once a key component of her music, Prema serenades from the heart in Redefined. While retaining her energetic showmanship and stage presence, she wants to get intimate and connect with listeners, in the spirit of “keeping it real”.
WEBISODES AND TOURS
The five songs in her album are 100pc, Just With You (featuring Narmi of One Buck Short), Mexico, Second Best and Ring My Bell. She is in the process of producing a music video for Mexico.
The singles, which feature her soaring vocals complemented by the soothing sounds of the veena, are collaborations with notable musicians.
Besides Narmi, there is Stephanie Tham (keyboards), Ryan Lee Bhaskaran (percussion) and her veena instructor Shrimati Jayalakshmi Premkumar of India. Prema plans to include talented new dancers Kreshenka Jaisi and Fara Nabira Ruslizan in her music videos too.
“Redefined will have a nationwide college tour coupled with inspirational workshops in the months ahead,” says Prema.
She also has a 10-webisode YouTube series In My Own Words to accompany its launch.
“There will be one webisode on my website each month. Three have been completed and the first is about my visit to the Seremban railway station and Kampung Jentong, an Orang Asli village in Sungkai, Perak,” she says.
Prema will be spending the next two months doing gigs, production work on her album and songwriting in Berlin, Germany.
“I’ll be working with the music production company Main Berlin, which I became acquainted with during my gigs there some years back,” she says, adding that she will be writing songs for new artistes.
Recently, she performed at the World Youth Jazz Festival in Bogor, Indonesia, as one of three Malaysian acts besides Bizhu and the Joan Quintet.
The 27-year-old singer who admires Steve Tyler, Sarah McLachlan, KT Tunstall, Janis Joplin, Jessie J, Yuna and Christina Perri, plans to infuse indigenous languages into her future songs following her “exciting” visit to Kampung Jentong.
“Music is an art form and means of expression. I express my emotions, situations and concepts through my music and lyrics.
“I go with what’s true to make my creations relatable and real. It’s important that my listeners get it and it’s my way of connecting with my audience,” she says.
Prema is the youngest of five siblings, and an accountancy graduate from Sunway University in Subang Jaya. She discovered her love for music at 5 when she serenaded her family at a recreational club. “I didn’t know then that I would one day become a songwriter but I was very fortunate to have realised my love for music from an early age.
“Singing has always been a part of me and in most respects, defines who I am.”
With unwavering support from loved ones, Prema pursued her dreams at 18, and has not looked back since.
In 2004 she had her big break, winning ntv7’s Who Will Win Malaysian Topstar singing competition. Prema, who began writing music at 13 and was at first into R&B and soul, spent three years, beginning 2006, singing with the Aseana Percussion Unit and joined the bands Broken View and International Groove Collective.
Her first single, Bleed, was launched in 2008 and reached No.1 in the music charts of radio stations Hitz FM and Fly FM.
Prema has toured Japan, Singapore, Germany, the United States, China and Thailand.
She has been part of notable music festivals such as Rock The World 10, Penang Jazz Festival, Sunrise Jazz Festival, Sarawak Rainforest Festival and the Singapore Arts Festival.
She performed with American singers Colbie Caillat and John Ford Coley during their visits to Malaysia five years ago. Prema’s debut EP Eyo Eyo, came in 2009.
The music video for Eyo Eyo gained four nominations in the 17th Anugerah Industri Muzik in 2010, while the English version was released in 2011 in the United States on iTunes. She won Best Female Act in the Avima Awards 2010, and Eyo Eyo was named Asian Anthem Of The Year.
In 2011, Prema went to Los Angeles to work with producers and composers such as Scott Krippayne, Dan Hoal, The Highschoolers and Ra Domini to broaden her style.
The results of her experiences abroad can be heard in her newest songs, which are heartfelt odes to finding one’s identity.
“My journey as a rocker has not always been easy,” admits Prema.
“It took lots of discipline and perseverance. Today, I can safely say I’ve overcome many obstacles, taking my music to the next level.”
Redefined, she sums up, is her “new vision” of weaving together different musical ideas to create an original genre. “It’s my life story, and I want to sing my story.”
For updates on her musical journey, visit www.premayin.com.