In conjunction with our June Women's Issue, we've lined up a few Q&As with women in Malaysia who you might not have heard of, but who are making their mark. Our final one is musician, singer and entrepreneur Wani Ardy. After blowing us away at the recent KL Singers-Songwriters gig at KLPAC, we chatted with her about love, dealing with secondary school failure, and her poetic songs:
ESQUIRE: You pursued performing arts after secondary school. What was the reaction of those around you?
WANI ARDY: I was not a bright kid in school. I was not excellent at anything, to be frank. I liked books and arts, though. During my pre-primary years, I couldn’t fit in very well, so books were my only friends while growing up in Australia and UK. They (second-hand books) were the only things my father could afford to get me. I was very much into the idea of storytelling. My close friends were not surprised when I pursued performing arts - perhaps because back in class, I was always singing while doing my school work! My strict mother sort of gave up on me when I got 2As for my SPM. She was like, “I don’t know what’s becoming of you. From now on, do whatever you want.” So I thought, “YES! Finally I can study what I want!” Music is simply my escapism, my therapy. Through time, my father has accepted my passion for performing and song-writing. “So long as you carry yourself honourably,” he said.
ESQ: Your songs seem to revolve a lot around the subject of love. To you, what is love?
WA: The way I see it, love means trust and patience, courage and sacrifice. You can be kind to a person out of sympathy but unless you truly love, the aforementioned could be close to non-existent. Just look at our local historical heroine who are still unknown by many, Sybil Kathigasu. Look at what she did for Malaya and look at how she died. That is love. That is one rock-solid love. It makes you do things, see things, and feel things the way you never thought you could. You think you choose love but to me, love chooses you.
ESQ: How do you feel if (or when) people compare you to Yuna for your similar looks, and that you’re both singer-songwriters?
WA: I began performing in 2002, but only started to don the hijab on stage last year. I knew this will definitely be one of the issues that will arise. But I can’t afford to worry too much about what people say or think. That’s tiring. I want to please my God and not people. That’s why I’m here. I still have very much to learn about my religion and that is already a (positively) challenging process. I really can’t afford to spend my time satisfying people who have already decided to stereotype me. All I can do is pray and hope that they would see what’s in my head rather than what’s on my head. If they would just read and listen, they would know our songs and writings are significantly different.
ESQ: Could you share the meaning and story behind some of your songs?
I wrote "You" while living in Sydney, far from my then-fiancé. I made three to five songs on long-distance relationship; "You" was one of them. I was doing my groceries alone one day when the iciness triggered me - I looked at my engagement ring and the song just came to me. I performed it at various cafes and bookstores, feeling closer to him each time.
"Lampu Jalan" was a poem which I turned into a song because I believed it deserved to reach more people. It’s about something or someone you will never own. Unlike those lamps at lamp shops which you can buy, a lamp post could never fit into your house even if you have the money. Some things and some people are just not meant for you.
Once in a while I make songs that are slightly different from my usual style, and "Please" would be one of the examples. Words, promises, are indeed, cheap. You say all sorts of things when you’re besotted. It’s like a state of dream. Sometimes it’s nice to fly. Other times, it’s better to keep your feet on the ground.
To find out more about Wani Ardy (and listen to more of her songs), visit her official website here.