Friday, April 9, 2010

Angelolli Asks Nicole Foo Bihzhu

26-year-old Nicole hails from Penang but calls Kuala Lumpur her stomping ground. 
I first knew Nicole as a writer and was totally blown away the first time I heard her sing. I remember telling her: You should be doing this for a living! And she replied: I am! So though she masquerades as a writer by day, by night she is a prolific performer with a voice that just refuses to quit! Oh, did I mention she has a knack for languages and can sing in English, Brazilian and of course Malay.

With her band Rhapsody, Nicole has performed all over Klang Valley - No Black Tie (Jalan Mesui, Kuala Lumpur), Laundry @ The Curve (Petaling Jaya), La Bodega (Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur), Frangipani (Kuala Lumpur), KLPAC (Kuala Lumpur), Actor's Studio Bangsar (Kuala Lumpur), Asian Heritage Row (Kuala Lumpur) and more! She has also performed in Penang (at the 2006 Penang Island Jazz Festival) and the award-winning Pangkor Laut Resort in Lumut, Perak.

Someone please give her a record deal already!
Nicole performing with Layan Sound System at Roots Night.  
Who are you and what do you do? 

I am Nicole Foo Bihzhu, a singer and a freelance writer. 
Nicole Foo Bihzhu.
Why did you decide to live the creative life? 
I don't think anyone lives the non-creative life. Even if you have a nine-to-five job, you can still make it a little adventure every day. But I made the conscious decision to be serious about my music probably as recent as November last year.

How did you start off singing? 

I have a picture of me with a mini-mic at 2 years old and my mother tells me that I started singing then! I've always been involved with music throughout my school years, but somehow never imagined it could be anything more than a hobby until my late years of college where my high school mate of mine Ywenna and I formed our band Rhapsody. This was late 2004. We made our debut at an open mic session at No Black Tie and that was the start of it. 
(Ed's note: Ywenna Carollin is the composer and piano extraordinaire while Nicole is the singer and lyricist.)

Nicole at age 5.
What are your idiot-proof tips when it comes to singing/performing? 

There's a quote from Henry Van Dyke that says: "Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." So I think it's important to remember that you're just a part of the big picture, and doing the best with what you have. And that really motivates me and keeps me on track when it comes to performing, knowing that I'm doing something that's real, that means something to me. But I also don't do soft drinks or coffee because my body reacts badly to them, and a spoonful of raw honey taken neat helps my voice! :)

The inimitable duo of Rhapsody, Ywenna (on the piano) and Nicole.
What were some of the best advice anyone ever gave you? 

That "nothing happens to you, but everything happens for you". It puts everything in perspective, knowing that every single situation, whether pleasant or otherwise, is for your benefit, so you learn lessons that will make you a better person. 

What is on your current lust list? 

Ohhhh, please don't get me started! If I really think about it, the list of things I want is never-ending, I mean a girl can never have enough clothes or shoes or accessories or books and DVDs and gadgets right? So I try not to focus on that (I'm a recovering shopaholic!) but instead just be grateful for what I have. Makes life easier for me and my bank account balance.

What would you like to see more of in the world? 

In the world? Whoa. I think we could do with a huge dose of love and kindness, but I think as long as humans exist, there will always be conflict - with ourselves and with the environment. So I believe that if you want to change the world, you gotta start with yourself, and I guess that's it really, if I think the world needs more love and kindness, it starts with me being more loving and kind.

Who inspires you and why? 

I don't really have any famous icons I look up to but there are people who I'm close to in my life who inspire me by being who they are, because they have big hearts and are the epitome of living creatively - by using what they have and making the best out of it. I think you'll see a recurring theme in my answers and I can't help it because that's what I try to live my life like!

What are you working on now? 

My bandmate Ywenna and I are working on some songs right now, hoping to get into the studio this year and having something tangible in our hands that represents who we are and what we're trying to do. I also perform occasionally my reggae band, Layan Sound System which organizes a really great reggae night called Roots Night. 
Roots Night started in 2008. It's always at Palate Palette because the spirit of the venue really complements the spirit of reggae. And because reggae is still very niche in Malaysia, it offers fans of the genre a chance to come hang out with like-minded souls and just skank to the grooves! 

We invite different artists to perform each time and acts like Pure Vibracion, Ras Muhamad etc, have their own tunes, so it's not like a Bob Marley covers type of event. The best part about Roots Night is that everyone feels welcome and it's really a laidback but festive atmosphere, the 3rd edition even had families joining us and we've even had spontaneous Capoeira players perform outside where the fire twirlers do their thing in between sets on stage. Our most recent edition had popular acts like King Lhota and Indonesian Ras Muhammad.  
On a personal note, I'm trying to get healthier by swimming twice a week! 
(Ed's Note:
According to Layan Sound System's Facebook page: 
"The LAYAN SOUND SYSTEM is a collective of disc jockeys, musicians and MCs playing ska, rocksteady, reggae and dub music. Based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where the grass is green and the trees are seen, the 'Layan' has been a platform for local reggae enthusiasts to perform and meet with their regular ROOTS NIGHT! series.")

Which creative souls blow your mind away? 

I am utterly in love with Caetano Veloso, a Brazilian icon, there's something about the purity of his voice and an earnestness in his art that moves me completely. 
I'm also quite inspired by Jamie Oliver, I've been watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution online and it's like his School Dinners reality show in UK where he tries to get schools in Virginia, Huntington to eat healthier, and I think he's a great example of someone who's using the talents he has to make a change.

Check out Nicole's and Ywenna's page on myspace, where you can listen to a playlist of their songs and performances, or find Rhapsody KL and Layan Sound System on Facebook for regular performance updates. Nicole has a show coming up at No Black Tie on Monday April 2010 at 9pm.

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