Bihzhu: Tales of a nightingale
By Sarah-Ann Thorp
“I THINK LIFE IS very interesting. A lot of things happen to each of us that are unique and I get inspired by life itself; the many people I meet, the things I experience,” says Penang born singer-songwriter, Foo Bihzhu.
Here in Kuching to perform on July 28, the former fashion magazine writer always enjoyed music but never considered it a viable career option.
“My friend and I used to jam together after choir practice and had always talked about how nice it would be to make music, but I never took it that seriously. Then when I was in college I wrote a poem and asked her to put some music to it.”
After performing during an open mic session in a jazz club in Kuala Lumpur, the gigs started rolling in until finally in 2011, Bihzhu decided to become a solo artist.
Bihzhu’s first album, ‘Nightingale Tales’, incorporates six songs, crooned in her trademark soulful lilt. The name was inspired by her uncle, who always referred to her as a nightingale.
“He said ‘when they open their mouths to sing, it’s captivating, like you (Bihzhu).’ I thought, oh, that’s cool. So I kind of adopted the nightingale as my symbol.”
Her recent single, ‘Bright Veins’ combines several traditional instruments.
“I think anyone in any country who listens to it will be able to relate to the song. I wanted it to be rooted in Malaysian-ness, to have the connection to our country. We have so much rich musical heritage and to tap into a little bit of that. It adds a really different sound. I wanted to have that extra layer.”
Her next single will be a cover by Alfonso Soliano, Malaysian jazz legend and founder of RTM (Radio Television Malaysia).
For the 25th anniversary of his death, Soliano’s granddaughter, Rachel Guerzo invited Bihzhu along with Ali Aiman and Lokman Aslam to do a cover of his songs as a tribute. It should be out at the end of the month or early next month.
Of course, life in the music industry is not always easy. Bihzhu has never learnt to play any instruments or had any formal musical instruction. Due to this she said that there was some fear during her transition into a solo artist as she sometimes wondered how she could write songs if she didn’t play any instruments.
“There are a lot of doubts of that kind but once I decided that I was just going to do it then it happened really smoothly. Of course, sometimes it’s a struggle financially, to be an independent artist when you’re not supported by any labels, and I’m doing this full time.”
Looking on the bright side though, Bihzhu says “I think that the rewards are so much more than whatever obstacles I face. I’ve had really good support from my family, especially my parents. It’s very fulfilling.”
Bihzhu performed at Zinc Restaurant and Bar in Kuching on July 28 where she played a variety of her original music and covers.
“I have a bunch of musicians with me this time; it will be my first time playing with two of them but we’ve been practicing very hard. I’ll be playing a lot of my own songs and favourite covers, so it’ll range from anything from something like swing all the way to electronica and reggae; the kind of music I like. I hope people will be open to it.”
Watch Bihzhu’s original music video ‘Bright Veins’ below: