With a dynamic range that extends beyond the formalities of genres, Penang-born singer/songwriter Bihzhu is making waves in the local music industry with her rich, soulful voice that is simultaneously vivid and spirited.
Her new single I Am Enough was released on music streaming sites like Bandcamp and Spotify on February 14, a special moment not for the fact that it was Valentine’s day, but for herself: “It all begins with me.”
Over the years, her genuine craft in songwriting has overwhelmed the pain and heartache much relatable to her listeners; this time around, she’d like to celebrate self-love, empowering her listeners with words of hope and encouragement, so everyone can come together not only on the Day of Love to celebrate life and love, but on the other 364 days as well.
What does the lyrics in your new single I Am Enough mean to you?
The chorus consists of affirmations I used to repeat to myself in the mirror when I was struggling with insecurities and fears in life. I felt incredibly awkward back then, but eventually, the truth of those words started resonating with me, and I began to believe them. The words changed my whole life, and I started living with the idea that “I am soul / I am beautiful / I am loved / I am enough”.
What was it that made you struggle with self-doubt, before finally overcoming it?
Since young, we have been inundated by the media, by popular culture, by society, and sometimes, even by our family; we’re supposed to behave a certain way, look a certain way, be a certain way to be taken seriously, or valued.
Growing up, I’ve always felt fat and unattractive, and to distract myself from how I felt, I would pick on other girls in school, whom I felt were fatter and more unattractive than me. I didn’t have anyone to talk to, no role models to look up to when it comes to understanding why I was feeling that way, and how to deal with it. I just knew that I didn’t like myself. One day, I decided to change. I apologised to those girls I’ve hurt, and I’m grateful that they forgave me. With that, I also learned to forgive myself. Slowly, with the help of those words from the chorus I Am Enough, I started to value myself for who I am, rather than what I look like.
It’s not to say that the insecurity hasn’t returned since; it came back when I was starting out with my music career, and when I was once single for five years. It takes time to realise that I’m doing music for myself and not anyone else, and not relying on another person’s affection to define my value through learning to fall in love with myself. Self-love has pervaded every aspect of my life, and still is. I’m proud to say that I’ve struggled through the hard times, and I hope that I can use the pain I’ve been through to also help other people, who are struggling through the same path.
In the midst of a female empowerment era, with a heightened awareness on self-love, what are your thoughts about it and how can we better achieve such empowerment?
I am a feminist, and one of the biggest misconceptions is that female empowerment is only for women, when in fact, equality benefits everyone: women, children, men, the economy and so on. No man is an island, they say, and self-love affects everything in your life. Our relationships with ourselves define so much of the relationships we have with other people.
I love that there’s a lot more awareness on things like body positivity and mental health, as well as a huge community of like-minded people out there that you can connect with. So much information is accessible to us these days that there’s no excuse anymore not to educate ourselves on all that’s happening.
How do you think music can be used as a medium to empower people?
Music is prevalent in our lives, and it’s truly a language that can break barriers. It has the potential to be a form of communication to tell our stories, especially if we don’t get the same opportunities in other parts of our lives.
In your opinion, what is the biggest issue surrounding equality and female empowerment?
I’d have to say, the willingness to listen, to truly listen. A lot of people – both men and women – have made up their minds about certain things, and are not willing to listen to anyone with a different viewpoint or experience from their own. I strongly believe that just because something doesn’t affect you personally, it doesn’t mean that it’s not affecting someone else. If we could all just really listen to one another, and to empathise with one another, in ways big and small, we can make it better for everyone.
This article was first published in the August Man Malaysia March 2020 print issue