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Meet singer-songwriter from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu, MAYABAYU


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kopivosian, I am MAYABAYU! I was born in the coastal city of Kota Kinabalu (KK), Sabah. I am a full-time singer-songwriter, vocal teacher, and food aficionado. My birth name is Beverly Rachel Matujal and in the beginning stages of my career, I used to go by Beverly Matujal. After changing genres from folk-country to Tribal-Electropop, I now do shows under the pseudonym MAYABAYU.


*Kopivosian = ‘Hello’ in Kadazandusun Language.


Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

I grew up in KK but for over four years now, I have been based in Kuala Lumpur (KL). This city is nothing like my hometown, and yet I’m so used to it here that whenever I go back home, the laidback nature of it all feels so alien to me. Where KL is busy and an assault to your senses, KK is warm and relaxing. To be honest, I’m grateful to be able to call both places my home. Living in KL pushes me to be more ambitious while I always have KK to run back to when things get too overwhelming.


Living in KL pushes me to be more ambitious while I always have KK to run back to when things get too overwhelming.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

Best Things about Kota Kinabalu

My family is there, and I’ve always been a family girl. Food is of course, out of this world. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t daydream about a decent plate of ‘Tuaran Mee’. Also, try googling a picture of a sunset in Kota Kinabalu. I rest my case.


Worst Things about Kota Kinabalu

The lack of opportunities in pursuing music as a full-time career. Unfortunately, the rates that my fellow musicians are getting paid for shows back in my hometown has been below average for awhile now. And it’s difficult to sustain the cost of living with this issue going around.


Best Things about Kuala Lumpur

There’s so many opportunities for a full-time musician in KL. Thankfully, I have been able to survive because of this but not without hard work, of course. Over my career, I’ve had opportunities in performing for festivals, as a Voiceover talent for ad agencies and in songwriting. Banana Leaf here is also pretty darn amazing, I have to say.


Worst Things about Kuala Lumpur

I’m going to say what every person who lives in KL is thinking: Traffic. Other than that, I get very homesick from time to time. And it’s such a bummer to know that the cost of flight tickets from KL to Sabah can sometimes cost you as much as flying to another country (i.e: KL-Thailand).


Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Living in Kuala Lumpur for work, three words pop into mind: Inspiring, Challenging and Supportive.

Being a creative in KL is Inspiring because there are so many inspirations to be found in every corner. This city is such a melting pot of culture and ethnicities that I find myself constantly artistically reinvigorated by the environment I am living in. It can be Challenging too because there is so much talent out there and everyone is so good at what they do. But competition always breeds innovation and I wholeheartedly believe that. For me, I am constantly discovering what sets my music apart from anyone else’s and if I am being true to myself, that is all that matters. Finally, the Indie English Music Scene has always been, in my experience, Supportive of each other. I believe that we can achieve so much more when we are working to build each other up instead of tearing each other down. Thankfully, I know that the company that I keep shares the same sentiment that I do. I will always be grateful for that.


How did you start your career in art?

As a young child, I’ve always been fascinated with music and especially songwriting. There is something magical about stringing along sentences and making them fit into a melody. What essentially starts off as nonsensical eventually becomes a story that is capable of connecting to a listener regardless of race, religion, and culture. I wrote my first song at the age of 11. It was about the struggle everyone faces before eventually finding peace. The song was called ‘Path of Least Resistance’ and it was pretty deep (and pretentious!) for an eleven-year-old. But after discovering Taylor Swift and picking up the acoustic guitar, I started writing about crushes and boys instead. A complete 180-degree turn. To be honest, I always knew I was eventually going to be a full-time artist. And once I obtained my double degree in Public Relations and Events Management, I made the decision to jump full-on into music. I have never looked back since. And now, I have gone from writing songs about crushes and returned to my roots: deeper subject matters and what it means to be alive, in general.


There is something magical about stringing along sentences and making them fit into a melody.


Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

I have been one of the few to have truly a supportive network throughout my career in music. My father, especially, has been there for me since day one and he is my number one fan. I doubt I would be where I am without his guidance and of course his never-ending belief in me.


What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

Just like any other musician with a small-town backstory, I dream of one day being able to make an impact all around the world with my music. More importantly, I hope that I’ll be able to make my home state, Sabah, proud. As MAYABAYU, my new music is so dependent on the culture and heritage of my people and it’s what makes my music sound the way it is. So in all that I do, I hope I can make the lovely Sabahans back home, proud of their roots and where they come from.


If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

In terms of artistry, I have always admired AURORA and Lorde. Both are strong female songwriters who are unapologetically raw when it comes to their music and it would be a dream come true to collaborate with them.


How would you describe the women around you?

The women around me, especially in the music industry, are all smart, independent and strong. They inspire me to be better as a person and a songwriter. The producer that I work with, Simmy, is so creative in nature that I am often in awe of the beauty of her musical arrangements. She did such a great job in Producing and Arranging ‘Predator’. Despite not being East Malaysian herself, she managed to tap into the essence of what it’s like to be Kadazan and it is beautifully highlighted in the single. For the music video of ‘Predator’, I had the pleasure of working with Hannah Moujing as my dance choreographer and Elena Moujing, Amber Thane, Norazirra Era, and Ethel Deidre as my dancers. We are all Sabahans currently working in KL and it was such a great experience shooting for the video because we got to reconnect with fellow kindred spirits and our ethnic roots. I am also very close to the members of an all-female collective I am a part of, WANITA* (Consisting of Amni Musfirah, Irena Taib, Jamilah Abu Bakar, and Shereen Cheong). Each of us are solo artists in our own right but in everything that we do, we always have each other’s backs.


*Wanita = ‘Woman’ in Malay Language.


The women around me, especially in the music industry, are all smart, independent and strong.


Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

Growing up, I have always been a fan of Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza and Dato’ Sheila Majid for their vocal prowess and stage presence. In all honesty, I’m still a big fan of their work!


Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

I believe the music industry, not just in Malaysia, sets unspoken rules when it comes to female artists. We are expected to have a pretty image, to be sexy but not too sexy that it causes controversy, approachable but not too outspoken as to yet again, cause any controversy.  In my own experience, I was once told by a music producer that I was getting too old and that I’d better start caring more about how I looked than the quality of my work if I wanted my music to go further. Call it the optimist in me—but although this is the way the music business has always been, I believe a wave of change is coming. Even though there will be many a hurdle to overcome, if we rise above the unnecessary criticisms and focus on being the best we can be, the fight will be worth it in the end. And when the change finally comes, we’re going to be grateful that we stuck to our own truths and stayed loyal to our craft.


Even though there will be many a hurdle to overcome, if we rise above the unnecessary criticisms and focus on being the best we can be, the fight will be worth it in the end.


Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

Dear reader, let me start by saying that it won’t be easy. In fact, it might be the hardest thing you will ever face. There will be people who will overlook your talents, judge you at face value and people who will not hesitate to find a way to take advantage of your mind, your heart and your hard work. But stand strong. Be calm. and be tenacious. We were all put here on Earth with a purpose for our lives. If this is your purpose, prepare to fight for it. But know that you are not alone. Reach out and surround yourself with people who share the same sense of purpose and grow together. And most of all, be kind. To yourself and to others. Because when it’s all over, that’s all that matters.



Photos courtesy of MAYABAYU, Eng Hooi Teoh, Krystal NgTang Chun Cheuh.