RAW Episodes is a series of G-Star collaborations that showcase unconventional artists, creators, and craftsmen. The first in the series explores the world of musician Yuna Zarai.
Known as much for her style as her music, Yuna was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and now lives in Los Angeles where she entwines her cultural background with the musical sounds of organic pop, R&B, soul and acoustic folk. Having already worked with notable producers like Pharrell Williams, Yuna is quickly rising from the musical underground. Her latest album, which features in the video, has just been released on Verve Universal.
We spent the day with Yuna in LA, taking an in-depth look at her life and her inspirations, and finding out where this stylish musician is headed.
Yuna first picked up the guitar at the age of 16, but it wasn’t until she was 19 that she formed a band and began to take music seriously, playing shows at intimate jazz cafes around Kuala Lumpur. Yuna recalls shocking her parents when they first found out about her musical talent. She was studying Law at the time and they were unaware of her growing side-project. “After about a year I invited them to my first proper gig and they were blown away. They asked, “Wait, you wrote all these songs?”
It wasn’t long before she had a large following in Malaysia and the rest of the world came calling. “I started recording and working with a lot of different producers and I was really happy that it actually happened for me. It’s amazing how the Internet works nowadays, the world just becomes a smaller place.”
On inspiration, her belief is: “You have to be really open to everything in order to get inspiration. I always see myself as a student. I never consider myself to know everything about anything.” During our day with Yuna, we made the trek to the Griffith Observatory and sat on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood. Once at the top, we looked back across the sprawling metropolis that has become Yuna’s home and greatest inspiration.
Yuna’s favourite part of the city is downtown, specifically the fashion district. “I like to pretend I am a fashion designer, so I just get all this cool fabric and use them to make my headscarves.” She took us with her on one of these fabric hunts and along the way we visited some of her favourite spots.
When we asked about her personal style, Yuna had this to say: “I love wearing jackets in particular. I have 100s of jackets at home and chambray shirts and skinny jeans. That’s why I feel like I could relate to G-Star. I love their clothes, you know how it’s very utilitarian and I love the pockets and the hidden things in the clothes.
I feel like it's the uniform for urbanites. It’s so comfortable and yet it’s so edgy. You don’t have to try hard to look cool. You can just put a G-Star jacket on and you’re set for the day. I’m really that kind of girl; I don’t overdo my style in a day-to-day kind of outfit. One piece is enough to make your look complete.”
Inspired by Yuna’s style philosophy and eclectic headscarves, designers in the G-Star atelier created a one-off denim head-wrap for her collection.
Like the way that Yuna’s headscarves reflect her life, Yuna believes that good music reflects the artist. “Music to me is an experience. It’s probably why sometimes when you turn on the radio you always get the same experience, it’s because everyone is trying to give out the same vibe. But for me, you need to give something just a little bit different.
You can attract listeners with certain details that will reach out to the masses, but always bring your identity into it. That’s how people are exposed to new things and they learn more. I try to remind myself of this every time I make music, so hopefully it comes across in my albums.”
Yuna’s new album Nocturnal is now available on Verve Universal.
Learn more: yunamusic.com