Yuna (singer)

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For Yuna's 2012 self-titled studio album, see Yuna (album).
This is a Malay name; the name Mat Zara'ai is a patronymic, not a family name, and the person should be referred to by the given name, Yunalis.
Yuna (singer).jpg
Yuna rehearsing at the 24th annual Juara Lagu.
Background information
Birth name Yunalis binti Mat Zara'ai
Born (1986-11-14) 14 November 1986 (age 29)
Alor Setar, Kedah, Malaysia
Origin Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Years active 2006–present
Associated acts

Yunalis Mat Zara'ai, professionally known as Yuna is a Malaysian singer-songwriter and businesswoman. Born and raised in Kedah, she began writing songs at age 14. She soon taught herself to play guitar, and by 2006, in need of a creative outlet while attending law school, performed for an audience for the first time. Yuna offered her music on her MySpace page, which went on to net over one million plays. This online success tipped off the Indie-Pop label/management company to her music, and in early 2011 she signed with the Fader label.

Joined by guitarist Pa'an, bassist Efry Arwis, and drummer Adib Azfar (and later, Adil Ali), Yuna made her recorded debut album in Malaysia in 2008 with a self-titled EP, which went on to snag five Malaysian Music Awards nominations (the Malaysian equivalent of the Grammy). She took home four trophies, including Best New Artist and Best Song (for the breakout hit "Dan Sebenarnya").

The Decorate (EP) followed two years later (and was released stateside in spring 2011). Decorate included the viral hit "Rocket," which won raves from Billboard magazine, indie rock radio station KEXP, and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, as well as ink in SPIN's Eight Bands You Need to Hear Now. On the performance end, Yuna was nominated as one of MTV Iggy's Best New Bands in the World in 2011, and she marked the occasion by playing at the historic MTV Studios.

Yuna rang in 2012 with a new single, "Live Your Life", produced by Pharrell Williams as a preamble to her self-titled full-length debut, which arrived that April. Summer 2012 found Yuna sharing the Lollapalooza stage with the likes of Florence + the Machine, Jack White, and Childish Gambino. In 2013, Yuna returned with the album Nocturnal, featuring the single "Falling." In February 2016, Yuna previewed her third album with the release of "Places to Go," a single produced by hip-hop legend DJ Premier. The full album, Chapters, was released three months later.

Early life and education[edit]

Yunalis Mat Zara'ai was born on 14 November 1986 in Alor Setar, Kedah, Malaysia to parents from Perak. Her father, Dato' Mat Zara'ai bin Alias is the current legal advisor of Mahkamah Tinggi at Johor Bahru[2] and her mother is a retired high school chemistry teacher.

Yuna attended SMK USJ 4 Subang Jaya, Selangor, where she completed her secondary education. After that, Yuna attended Universiti Teknologi MARA in Shah Alam, where she studied legal studies at its Faculty of Law.[3] In 2009, she graduated with a Bachelor of Legal Studies (Hons.) degree.[4]


2001–06: Early commercial success[edit]

During her tertiary studies, Yuna was involved in the music scene. Yuna was once an independent Malaysian singer-songwriter. She began writing her own songs when she was 14 years old, and her first performance of her own songs was at the age of 19, after she learned how to play guitar. She has performed in numerous acoustic shows and events in many parts of Malaysia since 2006. The same year, she auditioned for the first season of One in a Million, making it to the top 40 round before she got cut from the competition.

2011–2012: Early international breakthrough[edit]

Yuna was eventually discovered in the US by the Indie-Pop record label and management company. They flew out to Malaysia to convince her to sign with them and then proceeded to get her a deal with Fader Label, a record label based in New York, in February 2011.[5] She released her debut US EP, Decorate, in the United States in March the same year.[6]

One of the first few people who expressed interest in her music was Farhan Fadzlishah aka Pa'an (Telephony Delivery), who later became her supporting guitarist. Along the way, Efry Arwis (Lightcraft) helped her with the bass while Adib Azfar handled the drums. Adil Ali (Seven Collar T-shirt) replaced Adib Azfar after the latter quit to concentrate on his drumming role in Oh Chentaku. Yuna performs with her band when she is not active in acoustic gigs.

On 24 January 2012, her single "Live Your Life" debuted on iTunes. The track was produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Pharrell Williams.[7] MTV Iggy described the track as, "polished until it gleams but instead of burying Yuna, it lifts her up. The track has hints that a diva is waiting to shine." On 16 February 2012, the official music video for "Live Your Life" was released.

On 24 April 2012, Yuna's US debut self-titled album was released. Debuting at No.23 on the Pop chart and No.86 on the Top 100 Albums on iTunes, Yuna was also No.23 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart. Accolades from fans and critics alike, such as Billboard, NPR, Elle, NY Times, Vibe Claire and National Geographic, who raves that her sound is “as fresh, honest and deeply personal as anything by Bon Iver or tUnEyArDs," have been rolling in.

She performed "Live Your Life" on late-night TV shows Conan and Last Call with Carson Daly. She was featured on the CBS Evening News in a featured profile piece and toured with Graffiti6 with stops at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. She also contributed to the Savages soundtrack on the track, Here Comes the Sun.

Yuna's meteoric rise in the Malaysian indie music scene is largely due to the strong following she gained via Myspace. Having played at many gigs since the release of her Demo, EP and then two local albums, she is now focusing on promoting and performing music on her debut US Album. Yuna also will be a part of Lollapalooza 2012 line up.

In 2008, she released her self-titled EP which become a massive hit in Malaysia most notably the single 'Deeper Conversation'.[8]

Yuna was the first runner-up of MTV Iggy's Best New Bands in the World.[9] She performed at the historic MTV Studios in Times Square New York singing "Decorate", "Come As You Are", "Lullabies" which is produced by Chris Braide and her new single "Live Your Life", which is produced by Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D.

Yuna recently signed with Verve Music Group.[10] Multiple Grammy-winning producer David Foster, who heads the creative operations of Verve, tweeted: "I'm really excited about the next hot artist to join Verve Music. Stay tuned and keep an eye out for Yuna in 2013".

Charted in Heatseekers Album on Billboard "Live Your Life".[11]

In 2012, Yuna was recognised with a National Youth Icon Award, awarded by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, for her exceptional achievements in arts.[12]

In December 2014, Yuna released the song "Broke Her" as a single. It features a sample of Drake's 0 to 100.[13]

On 31 January 2015, Yuna performed in the closing ceremony of 2015 AFC Asian Cup.

In June 2015, she has been appointed as Malaysia's tourism adviser to boost tourist arrivals in the country alongside with Datuk Siti Nurhaliza and Jimmy Choo.

Yuna recorded the song Strawberry Letter 23 by singer Shuggie Otis used in a commercial for Swedish fashion retailer H&M starring Ukrainian-Canadian model Daria Werbowy that aired in March 2015.[14]


Musical style[edit]

Yuna possesses a light lyric soprano voice.[15] She once described her music as "a cross between Mary Poppins and Coldplay".[16] She explains about this characterization of her musical style, "I can’t believe people still hold onto that! It was a quote that I had on, like, my MySpace music page seven years ago. But yeah, what I meant to say is I like to incorporate a lot of different genres in my music, and, you know, having a sense of honesty and sincerity in the lyrics as well. But I’m still pop at the same time."[17]


Yuna has cited Coldplay, Bob Dylan, and Feist as influences, having been introduced to them by her father. Growing up in Malaysia, she listened to a lot of The Cardigans, Fiona Apple, and Garbage.[18]


Main article: Yuna discography

Awards and nominations[edit]

Malaysian Music Awards (Anugerah Industri Muzik)[edit]

Malaysian Music Awards is an annual event similar to Grammy Awards which recognises Malaysia's finest artists.[19][20] Yuna has received ten awards (including the special Kembara Award in 2011).

The year indicates the ceremony year, awarding the previous years' works.

Bout Year Nominated work Award Result Ref
17th 2010 Yuna New Artist of the Year Won [21]
Dan Sebenarnya Best Pop Song Won
Best Song (Song of the Year) Won
Best Vocal Performance in a Song (Female) Nominated
Deeper Conversation Best Local English Song Won
18th 2011 "Decorate" Best Album Cover Nominated [22]
Penakut Best Pop Song Nominated
Best Vocal Performance in a Song (Female) Won
Gelora Jiwa Nominated
Yuna Kembara Award Won
19th 2012 Terukir di Bintang Best Pop Song Nominated [23]
Memo Best Local English Song Nominated
Photo of You Nominated
"Terukir di Bintang" Best Album Cover Nominated
Terukir di Bintang Best Musical Arrangement in a Song Nominated
Sparkle Best Music Video Won
20th 2013 You're So Fine (with Guba) Best Duo / Collaboration Vocal Performance in a Song Nominated [24]
Best Local English Song Nominated
Lelaki Best Pop Song Won
Best Song (Song of the Year) Won
Dwihati (with Aizat Amdan) Best Music Video Nominated
21st 2014 Falling Best Music Video Won
22nd 2016 "Material" Best Album Cover Pending
Best Album Recording Pending

Anugerah Planet Muzik (The Music Planet Awards)[edit]

Anugerah Planet Muzik (or APM) (literal English translation: The Music Planet Awards), is an annual event participated by three different countries – Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Each year, one of the three countries will host the event where all artistes from the three participating countries would gather to compete in two main categories – Best Achievement (judged by professional judges from all three countries) and Most Popular (voted by voters from all participating countries through Short Message Service (SMS) and forms in magazines). Yuna has received 17 nominations and received one special recognition.

Bout Year Nominated work Award Result Ref
9th 2009 Dan Sebenarnya Best Vocal Performance in a Song (New Female Artiste) Nominated
Yuna Most Popular Malaysian Artiste Nominated
10th 2011 Most Popular Regional Artiste Nominated
11th 2012 Best Female Artiste Nominated
Terukir Di Bintang Best Song Nominated
Yuna Most Popular Regional Artiste Nominated
New Media Icon Nominated
12th 2013 Terukir Di Bintang Most Popular Regional Song Nominated
Yuna Most Popular Regional Artiste Nominated
13th 2014 APM Most Popular Artiste Nominated
Dwihati (with Aizat Amdan) Best Duo / Group Nominated
14th 2015 Yuna Regional Most Popular Artiste Nominated
Social Media Icon Nominated
Lautan Most Popular Song Nominated
15th 2016 "Material" Best Female Artiste Nominated
Yuna APM Most Popular Artiste Nominated
Social Media Icons Nominated
Rentas Planet Award (International Breakthru Award) Won

Anugerah Juara Lagu (The Champion Song Awards)[edit]

Anugerah Juara Lagu (or AJL) (literal English translation: The Champion Song Awards), is a yearly event which recognises the musical composition of a song based on the collaborations of three parties – the lyricist, the composer (s) and the artiste. Its weekly programme will gather singles and song nominations from various artistes where they will compete until their songs are shortlisted as finalists before ultimately being nominated to be judged by professional judges. From 1986 until 1991, finalists were chosen based on monthly winners, and from 1992 until 2008, songs were separated into three main categories – Ballad, Irama Malaysia and Ethnic Creative Song and also Pop Rock. However, from 2009 onwards, the award show was revamped and all 12 finalists were made to compete against each other regardless of category. Throughout Yuna's four years of participating, five of her songs had qualified for nomination in the show. In 2012, she won the award show's highest title, the Champion of Champions with Terukir di Bintang, her seventh Malay language song.[25]

Bout Year Nominated work Award Result Ref
24th 2009 Dan Sebenarnya 1st Runner-Up Won
25th 2010 Cinta Sempurna Finalist Nominated
26th 2011 Gadis Semasa Nominated
Penakut Nominated
27th 2012 Terukir di Bintang Winner Won
29th 2014 Lelaki Finalist Nominated

Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian (Berita Harian's Most Popular Star Awards)[edit]

Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian (or ABPBH) (literal English translation: Berita Harian's Most Popular Star Awards), is an award ceremony that recognises the most popular artistes of the year. The award is a yearly ceremony organised by one of Malaysia's newspapers, Berita Harian with results entirely based on votes cast by readers. Yuna has received five nominations and won three awards.[26][27][28]

Bout Year Nominated work Award Result Ref
23rd 2009 Yuna Popular Female Singer Nominated
Popular New Artist (Female) Won
24th 2010 Popular Female Singer Won
25th 2011 Won
26th 2012 Nominated
27th 2013 Nominated
29th 2015 Popular Trending Artists Nominated

Shout! Awards[edit]

The Shout! Awards is an entertainment award show created to celebrate the Malaysian entertainment scene which is said has rapidly developed. The award recognises people of music, television, film and radio industry as well as the entertainment industry as a whole. Yuna has received thirteen nominations and won five awards including the award show highest honour, The Ultimate Shout! Award.

Bout Year Nominated work Award Result Ref
2nd 2010 Yuna Break Out Award (Best New Act) Won [29]
Popstar Award Won
Dan Sebenarnya Mobile Artiste of the Year Nominated
Yuna Ultimate Shout! Award Won
3rd 2012 Yuna Popstar Award Won [30]
Power Vocal Awards Nominated
Terukir di Bintang Music Video Awards Nominated
"Bintang di Langit" Fresh TV Series Awards Nominated
Yuna Wired Celebrity Awards Won
4th 2013 Dwihati (with Aizat Amdan) Music Video Award Nominated
Popstar Award Nominated
Yuna Nominated
Wired Celebrity Awards Nominated

MACP (Music Authors’ Copyright Protection) Awards[edit]

Bout Year Nominated work Award Result Ref
22nd 2011 Dan Sebenarnya Most Performed Malay Song Won
25th 2014 I Wanna Go Most Performed English Song Won
26th 2015 Rescue Won

Melodi Awards[edit]

Bout Year Nominated work Award Result Ref
1st 2013 Yuna Dynamic Celebrity Nominated
Choice Female Celebrity Nominated
2nd 2015 Dynamic Artist Nominated

MTV Europe Music Awards[edit]

The MTV Europe Music Awards (EMA) is presented by MTV Networks Europe which awards prizes to musicians and performers. Originally conceived as an alternative to the MTV Video Music Awards and since 2011 other worldwide, regional nominations have been added.

Bout Year Nominated work Award Result Ref
19th 2012 Yuna Best Asian Act Nominated [31]
21st 2014 Best Southeast Asian Act Nominated
23rd 2016 Pending

World Music Awards[edit]

Bout Year Nominated work Award Result Ref
22nd 2014 Lelaki Worlds Best Song Nominated
Rescue Nominated
"Nocturnal" Worlds Best Album Nominated
Lelaki Worlds Best Video Nominated
Home Nominated
Yuna Worlds Best Female Artist Nominated
Worlds Best Live Act Nominated
Worlds Best Entertainer of the Year Nominated


Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1st VIMA Music Awards
Best Pop Vocalist N/A Won
AVIMA Awards
Best Song to Play at Camp Fire and to Do Away with Monday Morning Blues Deeper Conversation Nominated
Best Overall Female Vocalist N/A Nominated
Junksounds Awards
Best Acoustic Act N/A Nominated
Song of the Year Backpacking Around Europe Nominated
MTV Iggy
Best New Band in the World N/A Nominated
25th Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards
Favourite Asian Act[32] N/A Nominated
Newbie Awards
Best New Female Artist N/A Nominated
PPMH Awards
Stylo Artist Award N/A Nominated
Promising Artist Award N/A Won
1st Bella Awards
Bella Creative Award N/A Nominated
Best Artist - March N/A Won
Brandlaureate Awards
Special Award - Grand Master Brand Icon N/A Won
Stail EH! Awards
Most Stylish Female Celebrity N/A Nominated
Best Achievement Celebrity N/A Nominated
Choice Magazine Cover Celebrity N/A Nominated
The Boombox Awards
R&B Video of The Year Come Back Nominated
27th Malaysia Film Festival
Best Original Film Song Lautan Won
The Malaysia Book of Records
1st Singer Listed in The US Billboard Top 10 R&B Chart N/A Won

Business/ Entrepreneur[edit]

Yuna co-owns a women's clothes boutique, IAMJETFUEL, in Subang Jaya, Selangor.[33] In 2014, she re-opened the shop with a new name, 'November Culture', which is also situated in Subang Jaya with a worldwide online presence. 14Nov by Yuna Zarai (brand name) are clothes and scarves that are designed by Yuna herself. She started introducing this brand in the US by promoting it in fashion shows (Fashion Fighting Famine or #FFFShow) in California. Besides that, she also opened a pop store in New York as well as Los Angeles.

In popular culture[edit]

Yuna covered "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles for the 2012 film, Savages. The song was featured during the ending credits."Tourist" was featured as part of the soundtrack in season 1 of a US TV series, Arrow.[34] Her song "Favourite Thing" was featured in another US TV series, Pretty Little Liars. She was featured in the Malaysian version of KakaoTalk advertisement, released in Malay, English, and Chinese language. She also recorded a song in collaboration with Adam Young of Owl City called "Shine Your Way" for the soundtrack of the animated film The Croods. The film was released by DreamWorks Animation in March 2013. A remix version of her song "Live Your Life" by MeLo-X appeared on the in-game radio station WorldWide FM in the video game Grand Theft Auto V. Another Yuna song "Lullabies" was also featured in the twenty-second episode, the season finale of the fifth season and also the series finale of 90210, the reboot of "Beverly Hills, 90210". Not only that, this song was also featured in Being Mary Jane. Yuna also had her song "Lights and Camera" featured on an episode of the third season of the US reality show Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta. Lights and Camera was also used as one of the soundtracks from Beyond the Lights. Yuna's version of A Whole New World from the 1992 Disney film Aladdin, featured in the Deluxe Edition (bonus track) for the album We Love Disney (2015 compilation album).[35]


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  34. ^

External links[edit]