Woman On Fire: Maya Hanum


Maya Hanum is an aspiring singer-songwriter from Malaysia. Rosie On Fire caught up with her to learn what drives her on this journey.




How did it all begin?

I’ve always loved performing on stage – ever since I was as a kid. It’s a different kind of rush, similar; I would imagine doing extreme sports. It’s addictive. Onstage or offstage, it’s the one thing that makes me happy. It’s a gift I’m grateful to have, and I would like to share it with the world.


What is your biggest achievement?

Being featured on Altimet’s song and music video for Mudah.my with Sasi the Don was one of the highlights of last year. It reached over 1.7 million views on YouTube, which was amazing. He was fun to work with and very humble.  It was inspiring to say the least.

Besides that, I’ve been doing a lot of gigs, writing music and working with different musicians, which has really helped me develop as an artiste. There’s so much more I want to do in this industry and learn from it. I would love to create music that allows people to not only hear me sing but connect and feel something.

How did you overcome your challenges?

There are two types of challenges for me: internal and external. Internally, one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is my confidence – believing that I can make it as an artiste and follow through despite all the noise.

Your biggest competition is yourself, and it’s all about taking it one step at a time.

Your biggest competition is yourself, and it’s all about taking it one step at a time.

Externally, I’ve learnt that you can’t please everybody. I have performed gigs where the crowd hasn’t been very engaging, which was a little challenging but I try not to let that affect me and I move on to the next show.


What do you want to achieve with your music?

I want to connect with people and be as real as possible; that’s the hardest thing with songwriting. Being real isn’t always easy, especially when you’re going through a really hard time. It could be heartbreak or losing a friend, and it’s difficult to put your feelings into words.

You know when you listen to a song and think, “That’s exactly what I feel”? That’s the beautiful power of art and music; that’s what I hope to achieve.

I would call my genre ‘soul-pop fusion’, because at the root of my singing is Soul, and I’m listening and trying to incorporate different elements into my music depending on the mood and story I’m telling.

What is your creative process?

It’s about finding the balance between being internally and externally connected. Sometimes when I write, I don’t necessarily write about myself. It could be a story someone told me or me seeing an old couple walking together and thinking ‘I want a love like that’.

With art, it’s all about being vulnerable. You have to take care of yourself, but you also have to give; it’s a give-and-take.

With art, it’s all about being vulnerable. You have to take care of yourself, but you also have to give; it’s a give-and-take.

Real emotions are messy and sometimes hard to handle. So it’s important for people to know that it’s okay for them to feel and share.


Any advice for aspiring singer-songwriter?

Just get started, don’t be afraid. Sometimes, we have to jump into the deep end of the pool. Find a friend and jam together for fun. Sign up for an open mike event. Meet and work with different musicians because you can learn from them, especially those who have been in the industry for a long time.

If somebody says negative things to you, try your best to brush it off. It’s okay to feel upset by it because it’s human to be upset, but don’t dwell on it. Keep going; you will get better as you go along. It’s a skill that develops over time.  

How did you keep a healthy body image?

What I have learned is to be able to accept myself with or without the glam because nobody is perfect. We get so obsessed with little things like blemishes or eye bags but everybody has flaws. Self-acceptance is important and keeping active of course.


What is your style?

As much as I love glamming up for my stage performances, I also like to wear jeans, a tank top and comfortable shoes, without makeup. I’m more inclined to the cut of the clothing – this is something that I learned from my mum – because if it’s cut well, it falls nicely. Also if I’m comfortable, I feel more confident. I like flowy clothing, along with the lines of bohemian, chic and glam.


Why did you choose your kimonos?

I love the colours. I feel like they reflect my personality because there are elements of dark and light.  Willow has a bit of darkness and mystery to it. I have moments where there are a lot of internal conversations going on especially during my writing, and I’m just in my zone. Zero Chill reflects the lighter side of things when I’m letting loose and enjoying myself on stage or with the people I love.


Photographs by Khairul Anuar

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