Observations of a musician on tour

Azmyl Yunor

Malaysians must rediscover the art of daydreaming, letting go, and contemplating life's bigger questions. – EPA pic, December 1, 2023.

LAST night marked the finale of my solo folk performances in Malaysia for the year. While not a groundbreaking event, every public endeavour, particularly in the arts in Bolehland, carries a personal touch.

Though it’s only the first day of December, I won’t delve into a year-end reflection. As a stream-of-consciousness writer, here are a few lessons from my 2023 experiences.

With the pandemic’s shadow hovering on our radars, I expected society to learn from the nearly three years of inertia it caused. However, our capitalist society’s machinery seems to forge ahead without reflection.

Economic forces drive this momentum, yet visible cultural scars and trauma linger in our neighbourhoods, evident if we take a moment to pause and reflect.

As a touring musician, I find ample reflective time during travels, soundchecks, and the quiet moments behind the scenes of performances.

Two observations stand out, forming two sides of the same coin.

Firstly, we’ve lost our innocence. This may seem obvious, but it’s crucial to remind ourselves. Between lockdowns and the reopening of the economy two years ago, we faced the stark reality of our vulnerability. We must rediscover the art of daydreaming, letting go, and contemplating life’s bigger questions, embracing uncertainty and leaving behind the quest for certainties born out of our lost innocence.

Parents shielded their children during the lockdown, witnessing their growth while preserving their awe towards the world. Despite seeking blame for post-pandemic messes, some individuals step up to solve issues rather than exacerbate them. Though we’ve lost our innocence, it’s time to balance selfishness with selflessness.

Secondly, we’ve rediscovered ourselves through loss. The loss of innocence creates a void, and I once assumed it led either into darkness or towards reclaiming our stake in the world. Contrary to my belief, people are more resilient than I credited them to be.

Stories of resilience aren’t in the news but surround us, embodied by faceless individuals navigating their days. Recognizing our resilience allows us to connect with others’ experiences and rediscover the protagonist in our life – ourselves.

During Rull Darwis’ “Kembali Tour” in Kuantan, artist and musician friends returned to their pandemic-affected hometown, working collectively to revive it. The pandemic emphasised life’s brevity, urging us to rediscover ourselves, whether by returning to our roots, reviving childhood hobbies, or reconnecting with long-lost friends through a call instead of just a WhatsApp text.

In simplifying life, resist the complications of hype and look inward; the answers have been there all along.

Life is simple. Don’t make it complicated by believing the hype. Look inward – the answers have always been there. – December 1, 2023.

* Azmyl Yunor is a touring underground recording artiste, and an academic in media and cultural studies. He has published articles on pop culture, subcultures and Malaysian cultural politics. He adheres to the three-chords-and-the-truth school of songwriting, and Woody Guthrie’s maxim “All you can write is what you see”. He is @azmyl on Twitter.

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