Malaysian New Age music, Mariem Hassan, and Scotland’s Capercaille

Imee Ooi

By Elizabeth Doyle


Imee Ooi — I like New Age music. It gets a bad reputation when people feel like it’s taking something sacred and making it palatable to people who don’t appreciate its raw form — transforming something important into something that makes lovely white noise.  But it doesn’t have to be thin.  When it’s done well, New Age music can be sacred in its own rite — a merging of ancient chants or hymns with the modern science of enhancing music’s emotional impact. It can be a joining of two powers, a holy intention and a relaxing experience, rather than the watering down of just one power.  But only when it’s done well! Here’s a Malaysian New Age composer, Imee Ooi, who I think does it very well: Click here.



Mariem Hassan



Mariem Hassan — Here’s an interesting lady. She was born and raised in the western Sahara desert — one of ten children in a nomadic family. And boy, can she sing! I love it when she does that classic Saharan call-out, with her tongue fluttering like a wing. She’s Sahawari, and has survived annexation and refugee camps, both of which she’s been very outspoken about. Women have played a strong role in her culture, and you can see that confidence and competence when she performs. The language of her songs is Hassaniyya, an Arabic dialect. And she does write them. I’ve really never seen anything quite like her before:   Click here.






The Kirkyard Stone, Aberlemno, Scotland

Capercaille — Speaking of annexations, this is a very popular Scottish folk band, singing a song about England’s treatment of Scotland. This band has been around since the 1980s, which is quite remarkable, because the popularity of Celtic sounds wouldn’t take off until a bit after that.  I only have one of their albums, and this is my favorite song on it.  What I like about them is not only their instrumental expertise, the singer’s likeable voice, and the fact that they are early pioneers in the genre, but also their liveliness. The fact that they’re singing about something terrible, and yet, instead of feeling weighed down by sluggish intensity, the song feels … very, very alive. It’s interesting! Click here.


Top photo: author:Florenus / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain / Composer Imee Ooi


Second photo: Author:Carlos Fernandez San Milan / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license / Mariem Hassan


Third photo: Original uploader was Xenarachne at en.wikipedia / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported / The Kirkyard Stone, Aberlemno, Angus, Scotland, UK

Nneka, D’Gary, and Mak Minah

By Elizabeth Doyle

Nneka — Nigeria has made some of the most popular music in all of Africa. They have some really excellent recording studios there, and a long history of putting out worldwide hits.  Here’s a modern rising Nigerian star that I like.  Her full name is Nneka Egbuna, and she was born in Nigeria to a Nigerian father and European mother.  Perhaps slightly influenced by famous Nigerian musicians like Fela Kuti, who helped establish Afrobeat, she also writes and sings songs that seem to be very much just her own thoughts, feelings and inventions. I like the honesty with which she sings. And what a sweet voice!  She’s my pick for the next international Nigerian sensation:  Click here.

D’Gary — You don’t have to be a guitar aficionado to appreciate how talented this guy is!  He hails from Madagascar, where music is as diverse as the people who live there, and he absolutely plays the guitar his very own way.  He even has an idiosyncratic way of tuning it.  He’s a descendent of the nomadic Bara tribe of Madagascar, and according to rumor, took his guitar playing to professional levels in part in order to help support his widowed mother.  I think he’s pretty spectacular. Here he is:






Mak Minah – Mak Minah Anggong was a traditional Malaysian singer from Kampung Peretak.  She was Temuan, and traditionally, many Temuans  believe that their people were put on this earth to guard the rainforests.  Mak Minah was herself an environmental activist who was very vocal against a damming project that forced many Temuans to leave their forests and ancestral lands. Devoted to the culture and traditions of her ancestors, she was also a heartfelt singer who was just stepping into the spotlight late in life, when sadly, she passed away rather suddenly. We do have some recordings of her singing, though.  Here she is, singing as part of the group, Akar Umbi:  Click here.

Top photo: Andreas Lederer / “Copyleft: This work of art is free; you can redistribute it and/or modify it according to terms of the Free Art License.” Nneka in 23 July 2009

Second photo: Tom Turner / “Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License Wikimedia Commons.”  A busy market street in Antananarivo, Madagascar, where D’Gary was born.

Third photo: 10014derek  /  “The copyright holder of this file allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed. Redistribution, derivative work, commercial use, and all other use is permitted.” / A picture of the view from Mt. Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia