When alternative folk singer Guba plays to Malaysian audiences, the locals stand and clap politely while the tourists get up and dance.
The Westerners “get the vibe” of Gabriel Robert Rawantas’s songs, which will help in his performance in Oz Asia Festival in Adelaide next month.
The unusually named “Guba”, was nicknamed by his brother-in-law and the singer “decided to go with it” when he signed with Laguna Music in Kuala Lumpur.
He says he is really excited about his Adelaide performance, which is first official Australian show, which will be with a full band in the Space Theatre.
Guba was discovered two years ago when he was 27, after looking for a studio to start recording the more than 60 songs he’s written. He says it was “kind of a dream”.
“I wrote my first song when I was 13, but I didn’t complete it.
“I don’t care about popularity, being an artist I’m more into what’s fulfilling me, and I love song writing… it’s not just a hobby; it’s something I am really passionate about.”
In 2011 he released his first song, “You& Me” and his first album Hilang last year and says while he tried not to always write about love he “can’t really get around it”.
There is a cultural difference in the appreciation of the Sabahan’s (a region of Malaysia) music.
He’s performed in Australia before, even trying his hand busking in Melbourne, pocketing $90.
“In Melbourne they were listening to my songs and I was just playing, maybe the second song, there were people dancing, there were teenagers standing, clapping, dancing while I was singing and performing.”
Guba originally wrote all of his songs in English, until his record company told him he needed to write a few Malaysian songs to appeal to his home country audience.
His influences were also English-based; growing up listening to UK music, like the Libertines, The Who, Oasis and Coldplay as well as being “a really big fan of Silverchair”.
“Growing up I remember when I was little my dad used to play vinyl records [like] Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and The Beatles and my sister would play Mariah Carey.”
Despite being his first language, he says it is more difficult to write songs in Malay than English.
“I spend a lot of time writing Malay poems, and experimenting with Malay because I don’t want it to be just another Malay song.
“I try to keep similar approach with English songs, but I have to admit it’s a lot more difficult writing songs in Malay because the vocab is filled with specific words.”
Guba is playing September 13 and 14 at 7pm in the Space Theatre as part of the OzAsia Festival. Tickets here.
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