Everyone look out for Najwa Mahiaddin. This girl really has a superb voice. It simply oozes soul...
Jazzy tunes and soulful songs –Najwa Mahiaddin has serious chops to knock your socks off.
From Muar to Melbourne and now, back to good ol’Malaysia, Najwa had always known that the music industry was where she wanted to shine, despite her parents’ cautious and conservative advice.
‘Why-don’t-you-studymedicine-or-engineering’ became the catchphrase for her parents after she sat for her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), which led to this soulful 22-year-old taking up Electronics Engineering –all the way in Melbourne, Australia.
"I initially wanted to study Audio Engineering because it would be the closest I would be to music and its related fields,"she says over a phone interview.
"Unfortunately,it was not among the courses offered and so I chose Electronics Engineering, which was the next closest thing."
After spending four years in the land Down Under, she returned (homesick!) to Kuala Lumpur (KL). She admits, readily, that in the end, she could not endure engineering anymore.
"Deep down, I know my parents are very proud of me and my music, especially my mom. My dad was more reluctant, but now they have accepted my choice. They have come to terms that I will never go back to engineering."
Her journey into music had been a lifelong love for her–when she was much younger, she used to sing and perform for her family members.
"I used to make up songs and perform for my family, just for fun," she laughs."And I was so into Grease back then, too! It remains my favourite musical till today."
She continued to sing, even while she was studying in Melbourne, participating in performances among the student community –one of which, she describes jokingly, was even a little like American Idol.
"It was called Friday performances, where students performed on Friday nightson certain weeks. The other students then have to vote for who they want to see in the‘finals’. Usually the teachers act as judges to choose a winner."
She continued to show her stuff during Jazz Night performances, and other small and intimate gigs among student communities –until a friend suggested one day that she put her songs up on MySpace (an online portal famously credited for launching the careers of artists such as Marie Digby).
Four cover songs were what she initially uploaded to her MySpace, until comments, messages and compliments started coming in. This also marked the moment she started to be involved in the local music scene.
"I met people in the music scene (such as Mia Palencia and Reza Salleh), who would ask me to perform. And I did –I would come back to KL during my study breaks to perform for No Black Tie and in places such as Bangkok Jazz," she recalls.
She remembers her excitement when she found out that a vocal workshop, organised by Mia, was going to be held during one ofher study breaks. From there, she found her passion for songwriting. "Then people began to say ‘hey,you write your own songs’ and I was invited to join the Bedroom Musician Series," she says. "Now that I am finally back in KL, I can perform more than ever."
Indeed, this bubbly girl has been making waves –most recently performing at the Youth ‘09 convention and at the anniversary celebration of No Black Tie. Hersoulful jazz sound in her husky and quietly confident voice has also been heard in a duet with Malique Ibrahim on his solo debut album, and her six songs on MySpace have received a total of over 120,000 plays to date.
One of her songs, Innocent Soul, was sung in dedication to the lives lost in the war in Palestine."I wrote it while I was still in Melbourne, and at that time the war in Iraq really left an imprint on me," she says. "The song is about a boy, who had lost his mother to the ravages of war. I used to write so many love songs, but there are other aspects of love –between a mother and a child, for example.‘Innocent Soul’ was born from that."
That’s how she finds the inspiration for her songs–through experiences, whether personal or from her closest friends. She also draws from the sounds of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, singers whose influences reflect upon her own music. This singer with a heart iscurrently pursuing her degree in Music at the International Collegeof Music (ICOM).
"College is fun," she enthuses, and when asked of her interestsand hobbies during her free hours, she comes up with a surprising answer.
"I want to say that writing songs and singing is my hobby, but now that I am doing it for real, I can’t say that anymore,"she jokes. "What I am interested in now is lomography!’
Lomography is a photography technique or style which emphasizes casual shots and snapshot photography that are off-kilter, blurry or are ‘happy accidents.’
"There was an exhibition during the Youth ‘09, and I bought a lomography camera. I like the freedom of lomography, and how you can do whatever you want without worrying about ‘real’ photography," she saiys.
For the future, however, she has her sights set recording an album after she graduates from her 4-year course.
"I have always wanted to, but somehow the right time has yet to come for me," she says, with just a touch of wistfulness. "But once I graduate I will have more time, and maybe someday I may even want to run a record company."
With big dreams and a great voice, coupled with tonnes of passion, this girl is definitely a singer to keep your ears peeled for.