In this original series, Globetrotter discovers the rising musical prodigies of Southeast Asia who are more than ready to give you the Variations in Sound! For Part 3, we talk to Bil Musa from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
ON THE LOOKOUT - PART 3: BIL MUSA
Some pop songs are known for its melancholy chords with either emotional heart-crushing or excited lovey-dovey lyrics. But what if they're solely based on true stories? As human beings, we do not live far from the inconsistent realities where we struggle to survive and cope with our day-to-day emotions. The Kuala Lumpur-based Bil Musa is here to remind you that you're not alone on this so-called emotional roller coaster ride.
Currently signed under Yuna Room Records helmed by Malaysian superstar Yuna (who we featured in our second print edition), Nabilah Musa was first discovered by the "Live Your Life" singer's manager while performing at her relative's wedding. Although some people have questioned her fear of living under Yuna's shadow, Bil refuses to see it as a competition.
Bil with Yuna (center) on the latter's wedding day
Bil, who considers herself a private person, never dreamt of becoming a singer, much less needing a stage name. "The name 'Bil' came from some of my aunts and cousins who have been calling me that since I was a kid. Then, when Instagram came about, I didn't want to use my actual name for privacy reasons, so I decided to go with 'Bil' but that's obviously too short" she recalls. "Eventually, it felt just right to say 'Bil Musa' when the label asked what I would prefer to be known as."
In the eight-track album Young Adults, Bil combines the elements of electronic beats with her signature bubbly melodies; in some songs, her sweet-sultry voice is always in tune with the sound of the guitar strings. The album speaks about the stages of growing up, waking up at 4AM after losing someone and wanting to dance without being bothered. In "No More Excuses," Bil's first track from the album that was released in 2017, Musa talks about how some days we have to face our downhill moments. "You think that nobody loves you, you blamed everything on everyone, scared of what you might become, thinking you're the only one," she sings.
Globetrotter discovers more about Bil Musa in this exclusive interview.
Globetrotter Magazine: Who influenced you a lot during your writing process?
Bil Musa: I don't think I can say I was influenced by one particular person. I wrote about my friends from school and when I went to university, I wrote about my friends there. Everyone's sort of getting in and out of relationships then, and I would write about that. When I got out of secondary school, my friends would hear that I was this girl who wrote songs about other people so they would come to me with propositions, like, "Listen, this happened to me recently. Can I tell you about it? Can you write a song about it?" Sometimes, they'd just want to keep it for themselves. There are a number of demos that I made but only some made it to my first EP and album. It's safe to say that everyone I come across is an influence.
Globetrotter Magazine: If you could have your singing career anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Bil Musa: The UK! I always say this. I grew up with British music because my parents listened to music that was mostly from there. It wasn't like how it is now; we're all, like, "American this, American that." When I was a kid, "white worshipping" was for British folks (only joking)! I developed my own taste in music after that and I loved (and love) rock music, like stuff from Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. That was my base and then only I started getting into more modern American rock bands and more chilled-out music. I always feel like British music and musicians are more intriguing and cooler. I have no idea why and this is obviously an illusion but that's the reason I want to be among them.
Globetrotter Magazine: Top 5 songs on your playlist right now?
Bil Musa: Sabrina Claudio - "Belong to You" (feat. 6LACK), Ruffedge - "Bila Rindu," Kendrick Lamar & SZA - "All the Stars," The Beatles - "If I Fell" and Virgoun - "Surat Cinta untuk Starla."
Globetrotter Magazine: Since you're the first one in our Variations in Sound - Malaysia edition, where's the spot to discover local music talents in your city?
Bil Musa: If we're talking physically, then I randomly go to Gaslight Cafe in Bukit Damansara. There have been a couple of nights that I regret going, but almost 100% of the time, you discover really raw, unique talents. They also have poetry nights and other art-based shows there. Otherwise, the more obvious one is The Bee, in Publika. There's shows there all the time, featuring local acts. You never know when you can walk in there and come out a fan of a local act you would have otherwise never heard of.
Globetrotter Magazine: Honest answer please, which song from Young Adults that our readers should listen to right now?
Bil Musa: I know everyone loves "No More Excuses" because it's a love-it-the-moment-you-hear-it song but I'm in love with "4AM" and will always be. Sometimes I still get shocked that I wrote such a painfully beautiful song. Haha! Also, listen closely to the lyrics!
Globetrotter Magazine: What's more to come from Bil Musa?
Bil Musa: More collaborations, more behind-the-scenes work like songwriting and composition for other artists and shows around the region hopefully! I may venture into other things in the entertainment industry but that'll be a surprise!