After becoming an online sensation in Malaysia last year, hijab-wearing female rapper Noor Ayu Fatini Mohd Bakhari has been soaring in popularity, and now she is hoping to get her voice heard beyond her home country.
Bakhari, who goes by the stage name Bunga, went viral last November 2018 with a video of her rapping at a local competition in Perak, Malaysia, reports the Associated Press.
She has since been featured in shows and events, including a stint for Youtube show “16 Baris,” which highlights newly discovered artists from around Southeast Asia. Her performance on the show was well-received among old and new fans.
Last month, Bunga was at Pesta Raya, in Singapore, where she performed at the Malay arts festival, an annual showcase of Malaysian arts and culture.
Bunga’s rise in the Malaysian hip-hop scene is particularly noteworthy as the industry has remained predominantly male since it became popular in the 90s. She is also one of the few known rappers in Malaysia who wears both a hijab and traditional Malay dress baju kurung.
The Kuala Lumpur-based artist has set her sights on going international with her music.
“I want to make a lot of songs. I want to go on tours. I want to release albums. I want to go worldwide.”
Similar to other popular hijabi rappers, such as Mona Haydar and Neelam Hakeem, Bunga has chosen to utilize her platform to put a spotlight on important social issues fellow Muslims are facing today. Bunga also makes a conscious effort in avoiding obscenity in her music, which mostly tackles everyday topics, such as her day job, facing bullies, and experiencing love.
According to Bunga, she only decided to wear traditional clothing at the 2018 competition a few minutes before her performance.
“When I reached the venue, I was wearing regular clothes,” she was quoted as saying. “At the very last minute, I bought myself a baju kurung at the venue itself.”
Bunga shared how choosing to wear a hijab while rapping has resulted in her getting chastised for “bringing down the image of women” by critics.
In response to such criticism, Bunga says she will not allow such views to prevent her from becoming “a key player in the world of hip-hop.” She further noted that she is “living proof” that women wearing hijabs can make a place for themselves in the music industry.
“I’ve realized that there are more hijabis who want to rap. I think that’s a good thing because you shouldn’t worry about what others say,” she added.