There used to be a time where pioneers of the local art scene were anonymous, lacking recognition from the public’s eye. But in the wake of such hit series like Kami from the early 2000s that launched the rise of local Indie bands like Hujan, Meet Uncle Hussain, and Bunkface, we Malaysians are no longer strangers to our own artists. It’s safe to say today that there has been a shift in attitudes towards local acts, and their popularity is sure to rise.
Among the new wave of names to the scene, one band stands out in particular: Shuuna, a four-piece indie Nusantara act which consists of lead vocalist Shuhusna, guitarist Mujahid or better known as Muja, Miro the bassist, and Fai behind the drums.
The history of the band started in 2016 with Muja’s previous band, Monalisa. Being a fan of Monalisa, Shuhusna wound up meeting Muja through his performances before coming together to perform as an acoustic duo. Initially performing bar gigs, they wound up gaining a following through Merdekaraya, which led them to perform at Penang’s Nothern Music Festival, before staging other acoustic shows.
The inspiration behind the genre of Shuuna’s music comes from the interest of Shuhusna’s taste of indie rock bands and Muja’s Malay poetry such as Syair, resulting in this new genre of indie Nusantara. However, the band has mentioned that they hope to be able to continue evolving this genre of music that they pioneer in, without the restrictions of working with a record label. When asked whether a shift of genres was owing to relevancy, Shuuna clarifies that it was never their intention to stay relevant, but more on the personal satisfaction of being able to try new things. Muja mentions that sometimes, being tied to a label does restrict your growth as an artist, and limits your creative freedoms.
“The myth was right. If you are in the music industry, you have to do whatever the label tells you to do. But we want our music to resonate with our listeners and even become friends with them,” says Muja when asked about how is it like to be an artist. “We do believe in taking our own agency would enable us to produce any type of music we would want to, even to a point where it doesn’t make sense, at least we were given the freedom to do so because we believe that people who have the same wavelength, they will resonate and appreciate,” he adds. Shuhusna also adds that personal growth plays a big role, saying: “I feel that I have become confident of myself especially when it comes to singing in public and meeting new people and learning new things along the way.”
Apart from that, we had also spoken to Shuuna about their debut EP, Torsades De Pointes. When asked about their particular choice in the album title, Muja explains, “We purposely made this our EP name just so people could pronounce it wrong and boy did they!” While sounding pretty hilarious, the album title is in fact a reference to heart arrhythmia. “Just like how you see a heartbeat sign in movies, we want our listeners to have the same up and down feeling when listening to us.“ Muja says. A few of the songs that featured in the EP are Terang Bintang, Tenang Bulan which is a song about a dialogue between the stars and the moon, as well as Good Night which was inspired by FIFA soundtracks, where they try to remake a song where Shuuna could sing to their audience after a good performance.
Living a life as an artist can be tricky sometimes especially when it comes to achieving balance, as Shushusna and Muja tell us when they’re not busy making music. Shuhusna is a full-time broadcasting student who loves to play games on her phone whereas Muja is a house officer who will be starting his surgical posting soon. Aside from making music, both Shuhusna and Muja also organize Alam Bunyian and Tingkat Dua. Alam Bunyian was initially a gig that was created to allow other performers to perform alongside Shuuna, showcasing young local talents. Over time, it was propelled into a platform where local bands could perform and indirectly helping fellow artistes to be discovered by a broader audience.
When asked about what the band has in store for the near future, both members mentioned taking a short break. “ We have to do this in order for you guys to miss us,” Muja jokingly mentions. However, the real reason behind this is to produce new upcoming music and regulating their other life. Urbanscapes would be their final show of the year after having the opportunity to perform in 25 shows this year. “Every show is a big accomplishment because of the different location, audience, and experience. Getting to have real chemistry with the band and fans as well have also been a blessing,” says Shuhusna. When asked about their inspirations, Muja admits to being a fan of Faizal Tahir, “He is obsessed with Faizal Tahir to a point that he was even in a Faizal Tahir’s Fanclub group on Whatsapp”, says Shuhusna. Shuhusna herself mentions being a fan of the home-grown international pop sensation Yuna.
But as a collective, Shuuna takes their inspiration from Keroncong by P.Ramlee and Saloma when starting their band. Ultimately, their ideal collaboration would be with Sada Borneo for their unique music and interesting play of instrument and melody. In the same vein, they feel that collaborations should not happen merely for the sake of working with other artists but should be used as a learning experience. However, Shuuna also hopes of getting to collaborate with Faizal Tahir and Yuna will come true as well.
“It is good that the music industry is evolving now, everyone can do music compared to ten years ago. The advice that we would love to give to every young person who wants to start a band is to just do it because of you and not for fame. Enjoy your own music and play with your heart.” they say. Regardless of how the local industry is being driven now and how it indirectly shapes our young artistes, the major takeaway that we can observe from Shuuna is that they craft their music with a strong personal narrative.
When asked about what would be the ultimate goal for Shuuna, taking an international stage would be their answer. “Shuhusna low-key dreams about crowd surfing the audience one day so we really need to make it big”, says Muja jokingly. As Shuuna is heading into a temporary break due to their upcoming album, we asked Shuuna on what would be their direction or interest while moving into a new creative hiatus. “I would really love to discover new music, could be a new genre Shuuna, or just anything in the process of us creating a new album”, says Shuhusna.
“I’m really interested in installations right now. For our last collaboration of Alam Bunyian and Urbanscapes, we recently discovered a new world of visual. It would be really nice if we could have a lighting visual or a new form of visuals that we could incorporate with Shuuna the next time we’re performing with new materials,” concludes Muja. “But for now, we hope to get our new album out by next year.”