Introverted, a centrist and cat lady. These were the three words that popped into local singer-songwriter, Aisyah Aziz when asked to describe herself in three short phrases. Prancing around the decadent halls of the Grand Shanghai Restaurant, you may mistake Aisyah’s confidence for extroversion. But after having a chat with the 26-year-old songstress and listening to her pensive and eloquent replies, we can see why. There is a stillness and calm behind her free-spirited innocence. Dressed head-to-toe in Moncler’s 2 MONCLER 1952 collection designed by Veronica Leoni, she gave the vibe of an old soul from the future.
ELLE Singapore sat down to find out who is Aisyah Aziz and dug deep into her Malay roots and heritage, reflecting on the aspects that shaped her to be the rising star she is today.
ELLE: Tell us about some experiences/things or a memory that is still really vivid today, that has shaped who you are in one way or another.
Aisyah: I think it would be when I was diagnosed with Muscle Tension Dysphonia (MTD), three years ago. At that time, I had no idea what it was. But basically, I couldn’t sing for a year. My body just refused to sing. My body was aching most of the time and it was very uncomfortable.
What’s interesting was that my therapist made me realise that it was actually the anxiety that I was going through during that time that worsened my condition. I was uncovering a lot things within me and it was really making me uncomfortable. That reflected in my body, causing me physical aches which was not allowing me to move on. She told me that I got to take my medicine diligently and really take the time to check in with my feelings and mental state. I was like, oh, if being anxious was stopping me from singing, then it was a really easy decision to like, work towards not being anxious anymore.
I thought that was really cool. I could now move forward with my life, knowing that I am now capable of being present. And also just, you know, reflecting and really being honest with myself.
What does ‘heritage’ mean to you personally, and what are some aspects of it that is at the forefront of who you are today?
I’m also trying to find that out. I feel like this whole shift in perspective, like the whole world is shifting. And I’m flowing with it. I think it’s encouraging us to learn more about our culture and heritage.
I guess being Malay, really teaches you the art of being forgiving. We forgive easily and are easily contented. We find joy in making time for human connections instead of constantly being in the race to riches. I think there’s some value in that, It’s really given me perspective and balance in whatever I’m trying to achieve in my life.
What values have you learnt through your heritage that you want to actively pass down to future generations, and are there some values that you think need to evolve?
At least for my household, I can’t speak for anybody else, the biggest value I learnt is the art of forgiving and letting go. That value was anchored in my household. I guess that’s why I consider myself to be pretty Zen. Because I grew up watching my dad not releasing his anger towards people and I thought that was really cool.
So I tried mimicking that in my life which has been really helpful. I don’t attach myself to anger or my emotions. Yeah, I think most makciks and pakciks are like that.
I think there are definitely some values that we have to evolve and we are evolving, actually. We are more accepting of kids being more expressive. I feel like that’s really an amazing thing and I hope everybody flows with that.
What does it then mean to you to ‘protect’ who you are?
I think it’s important, right? To protect yourself from being hypnotised or influenced by what society wants you to think. It’s important to be grounded, to really take time and really listen to yourself.
Another way I protect myself is by detaching myself from people and my fears. And when I say detach I don’t mean running away from them or distancing myself. You know the saying, if you love someone, let them go? I think what that saying means to me, at this point of my life, is letting of my attachment of that person. My love for that person remains but the attachment doesn’t have to.
How does this attitude — of protecting and retaining your sense of self — translate to your style as well?
Growing up and evolving. It just naturally translated to my style and sense of fashion. These days, I don’t try so hard to please people anymore. And I think that’s growth. It feels amazing to not care what people think of me. So, I really am enjoying this process of acknowledging my growth, and the people closest to me understand that I need this for my expression.
Same goes for my music. I want to sing about whatever I want and not be forced to speak about things I don’t want to speak on. I don’t want people to tell me what to do or how to think. I really just want to be who I am and follow my heart. It’s really just that simple.
If you could live in any time period, which would it be and why? Do you consider yourself an old soul?
I really like the 80s. I feel like it’s vibrant, colourful, passionate. It’s full of energy and expression. That resonates with me and I just want to immerse myself in that.
But you know, the 21st century is not bad in all honesty. The advancement in technology is amazing. Like during the COVID crisis, we couldn’t meet anyone and yet with technology, we are still connected.
I guess I do consider myself to be an old soul because I have always resonated with the music, fashion and overall vibe of people in the 60s or 80s.
Are there different facets of Aisyah that are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but yet somehow come together harmoniously?
I think everyone has different versions of themselves. I could really be very happy, cheerful and quirky sometimes and the next moment, I just really need my space to recharge. That balance is important. I don’t know if these facets are harmonious just yet, but I’m trying to make it work.
Why do you think it’s important not to forget where you come from and who you are, while embracing continuous growth and the future?
It’s important to remember your roots because otherwise you’ll lose sight of how far you’ve come. Learning new perspectives and all these lessons you’ve learnt from living your life and meeting people.
It’s not about living in the past but instead the acknowledgement of your roots. This is so that you are open to receiving new perspectives and unlearning toxic thought patterns. So, it’s really a process and always find balance, guys.
We don’t have to go too far right or too far left. Let’s just be in the middle, have fun and love each other.