This Girl Can Play


I was editing a string of badly written stories for a local paper yesterday – thinking (hoping?) that the world would end in the next ten minutes – when I heard a guitar being played like I’ve not heard it being played for a very, very long time. I mean, it was like someone had learnt to cut through all the fluff and set about to play the damned instrument like it was meant to be played.

It could have been an asthma attack (or a heart attack) but I had trouble breathing just listening to how she played the guitar. Pardon my sexist inclinations, but how could a girl learn to play like that! No, her playing isn’t the million-notes-per-second virtuosity of Satriani, or the technical elegance of Di Meola, or the experimental brilliance of McLaughlin – it was nothing like that. It was more like – how shall I say this? – a warm, down-to-earth, coolness of an old soul who have been mending fractured hearts with her playing for a million years. She is that good!

A quick google told me that the guitar player in question was a young Malay girl who goes by the name of Yuna. And guess what! She sings in English, too. I mean, she really sings in English – not some half-assed attempts at it, mind you. This girl obviously speaks English at home and I wouldn’t be surprised if she spoke English before she could speak Malay. Her diction is just brilliant – no put-on American accent here, that’s for sure.

And I am at a loss for words to describe her music. It’s like listening to lyrics that are melodic and melodies that are lyrical. Musically, she is like sophisticated-but-understated-busker meets unpretentious-jazz-virtuoso; a cross perhaps between James Taylor and Wes Montgomery. It just blew me away! And of course, there’s her guitar playing: way too mature for her seemingly tender years. However, this singer-songwriter-guitar-player isn’t just about the tune, or just the lyrics, or just the playing – this girl is about the total package.

As you can see, Bangkai is obviously smitten (by her music, of course). This Yuna girl is like a breath of fresh air! She made me want to reach out for my Telecaster and start paying seriously again. And if I listen to her for long enough, I think I probably will. And as I stare at this photo of her I nicked off the Internet, I can’t help but drool as I ogle her curvy, white  Gretsch (that’s her semi-acoustic guitar, folks). Now, that is a thing of beauty. No, I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on her Gretsch any day – even if only for a few minutes. But alas…

Listening to her work her guitar, I wonder what her version of ‘Rosie’ would be like. On second thoughts I’d better not know for fear of never getting enough of it. Girl, where were you when I was working the busking pitches at Tottenham Court Road and Marble Arch? I would have given my right arm to be able to jam for a few minutes with you.

Duh! You probably weren’t even born then…

Give this girl a listen, folks!


21 thoughts on “This Girl Can Play

  1. ahhhhhhh…yes mamak,she does.A law under graduate with Uitm.She does have that voice.
    Try the other malaysian in New York,she sweet too.Those girls need to brush up the melody and lyric.That what make it.
    Try our local boy band ‘Hujan’ good too.
    Check up this link beb :it blow up your mind off.

    Anyway,is that a Ibanez or a Greth shes playing?
    She remind you of anyone beb? you….bet ?

    Pak Tuo

    It looks like a Gretsch to me. Of course, I could be wrong…

    Anyway, she does kinda look familiar.

  2. I hope she’ll be given the proper publicity and media attention..let her get well-known in the entertainment circuit..even though she wears a headscarf, we must get her the stardom status that she deserves!
    A star is born!


    Yes, ma’am – a star is born! Its rare to find talent such as hers here in Malaysia – or anywhere else, for that matter!

  3. Dear MatB, this young lady was featured on astro telly quite a while back. I know because my then 23 year old son was quite smittened by her errr talent too.


    Ahhh! Her talent… that must be it 😉

  4. MB,

    Yuna does sound good, in fact more classy if compared to other local artistes yang nyanyi ‘sengau’ and suka menjerit2 tak tentu pasal.

    I like her “Dan Sebenarnya”..meruntun jiwa lagu tu, beb..


    Yes, ma’am – this Yuna girl is a class act.

    I may just put Yuna’s ‘Dan sebernarnya’ on You Tube here.

  5. MatB,

    I’m waiting for her album to come out. She only has singles for now.

    It’s still not too late to arrange for a jam session, you know… but you must be prepared for her to call you `Pakcik’ 🙂


    If we can jam together, she can call me Pak Cik… or anything else that she wants.

  6. Wow, havent been here for a while, please pardon the tardiness…and how are you bro – everything alright?

    Yea this Yuna lass sure is unusual. The white guitar she’s holding seems like an Ibanez fixed with a Bigsby. Did a youtube search, she was also shown playing a Les Paul! Wah ini ayah loaded ke boyfriend loaded ni…not being sexist or anything ya, she could very well have bought it with her own money. Covering all bases sebelum kena tembak hahaha.

    Her phrasing and sense of melody is like a female version of Michael Franks, I think. Good potential. Very pretty (sorry, cant help that).


    Good to hear from you again, bro. Actually, you and Pak Tuo may be right – Yuna’s white semi-acoustic may be an Ibanez (with a Bigsby rig attached). And yes, her black Les Paul looks nice and shiny – delicious!

    And bro, you found the word I was looking for: phrasing. Yuna’s phrasing is reminiscent of Michael Frank’s. Nonetheless, it is still very original.

    This girl will go places, you can count on that.

  7. MB, she was in London recently but I missed her as I was back in sunny malaysia. Yes, she is really good.

    Kak Teh

    Good to hear from you, ma’am. Yes, she is good, isn’t she?

  8. Been reading bits and pieces about her in the papers. Sadly, they were not about her talents. She’s been getting negative press about her beng late laa..last minute cancellations laaa…
    Typical Malaysian press reporting. Focus on the negative, kan?!
    After reading this review of yours, I’m definitely curious about her now!


    This girl is talented. Anyway, the Malaysian entertainment press isn’t really something we can take seriously – unless all we are interested in are scandals and are not particularly interested in objectivity.

    Satisfy your curiosity about this girl, ma’am. You wont be disappointed.

  9. yeah she’s dope. it’s a pity that the media haven’t been treating her nicely, she’s been the victim of stupid gossip bullshit. this is our industry’s unique way of welcoming great talents. man if i was the media i’d caress her like… anyway happy buka puasa.

    penyelamat dunia


    I hear you bro!

  10. Hi again,Mat-san,

    Wow!Now you really drive my curiosity to check out this young local lass`s talent. Music ,and good music, is one of the few things left that inspire and give meaning to people our age, kan ke gitu, my friend?

    Any good tips of how exactly do I begin my search?U-tube?etc?

    Dunno why, but at this late hour ,Carole King`s soulful rendition of “It`s too late” suddenly plays in my mind.Aaah!What will I give for the good old days,when the feet start tappi ng on the disco floor to the haunting strains of “Stairway to Heaven”!

    (Sigh)!Selamt Berpuasa my friend!


    Selamat berpuasa to you, too, sir.

    YouTube is a good place to start, sir.

    Carole King’s ‘It’s Too late’? It’s never stopped playing in my head…

  11. She had made young females to take up guitar lesson. I could’ve sworn that I will never as good as her.

    She’s a law student.

    sir pok deng

    There seems to be this thing about law students and guitar, isn’t there?

  12. hello mat b,

    sorry for being away so long due to some family distress. ( i lost a mother and a brother within a week)

    anyway, i’ve just googled and agree with you that yunalis bt mat zarai is definitely a gem. shades of katie melua and eva cassidy? but certainly head over shoulders over the local fare.

    nice to be back and thanks for the introduction to her music from an old man with a heart condition.


    kassim ahmad

    kassim ahmad

    I feel for your loss, sir. My prayers go to the deceased.

    Yes, sir. She is head and shoulders above the local fare

  13. ..this oldster is never into today’s music..what more indie.. but for Yuna, I’ll readily make an exception..thank you for pointing her out to me..(comment made after watching and listening to several of her videos…)


    The pleasure is mine, sir!

  14. sooo sooothing! [i’m listening for the 6th times!]

    first, i’m totally buta-muzik. i only know what pleases my ears and my ears are mighty please.

    thankie.. thankie matb! =^)

    global voice says yuna sounds like norah jones. i totally agree.

    however, her style of singing — the unique way she places her cadence [what you and halim called phrasing] — to me is reminiscent of my favourite french jazz singer, belle du berry of paris combo. [here’s a sample:


    I’m glad you enjoy her as well. At first I was a bit apprehensive that not many will share my passion for her.

    Belle du Berry? I must look her up, ma’am

  15. Hey Matt, there’s something special about women with guitars. When I first saw that photo of Yuna on your post, my tot was wow what a cross between Agnes Chan & Suzi Quatro. And she’s into Jimi Hendrix too, that’s very deep, bro. I’ll bet she go far. Yeah can-the-can!!



    Yes, sir! Women with guitars turn me on, too.

  16. matb,

    a friend who sits on the bench told me that yuna’s dad is a judge and our little crooner is also a law student.

    the talent apparently came from dad who used to jam with his own group back when he was himself reading law.

    not bad my sleuthing eh? ;^)


    Not bad at all, ma’am. Not bad at all!

    Hmmm, I wonder if her dad is from my generation? We might have jammed together once or twice.

    What’s this thing with law students and guitars!

  17. Hi Mat-san,

    Though this is slightly off tangent, better to do it before I forget, whilst getting lost in the madding crowd rushing to balik kampung this weekend.

    Selamat Hari Raya, my friend, and Maaf Zahir Batin if I have overstepped the usual limits oif decorum and decency in my postings to date.

    This Raya, my usual sojourn across the Causeway will not be an extended one.Have to be back at work by the Friday after Raya.

    God Bless, and here`s looking forward to more of your postings…probably one of the few things left that guarantees I maintain my sobriety and cheerfulness,amidst the ever-increasing madness and what-have-you which are constantly threatening to drown the likes of us,who, at the end of the day, just wanna be able to say,”Why Don`t We Do It On the Road!”(Bless Abbey Road..I planted a kiss on the road`s lamp post a couple of Christmas`es ago).



    A gentleman like you, my friend, is not capable of over-stepping any limits of decorum or decency. So, no need to worry about that.

    I hope you had a good trip to Singapore and hope it is not too late to wish you a Selamat Hari Raya and ma’af zahir batin.

  18. Hi Matt,

    Drop by with same reason as the others.

    Here’s wishing u & the family;

    Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri. errrr if u don’t mind the Maaf Zahir Dan Batin doesn’t come out too easily for me, hope u understand.

    This one 4 u;

    Have a great one, & don’t do what I wouldn’t do..heheh



    Thank you my friend – for the wishes and the Suzi Quatro video.

    Now I cant shake visions of the black leather clad rock vixen out of my head.

  19. I thought you told me the other day that you first heard it when your wife played the songs after downloading it from the net. She fell in ‘love’ with the melody and simplicity of the lyrics when it was aired on tv…..hem

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