Malaysia’s Pocket Dynamite, Prema Yin, is an entertainer with more passion and punch than a Flaming Lamborghini on New Year’s Eve. Deborah Joy Peter activates her all-access backstage pass for an exclusive tell-all with the spectacularly seasoned singing sensation.
At a time when her peers were either out chasing butterflies, having tea with Barbie or building towering sandcastles by the sea, then four-year-old songbird, Prema Yin, remembers laughing in the face of stage fright while belting out notes from a set of pipes whose origins often eluded many. Over two decades in, the wondering has stopped and the applause continues on in uproarious aplomb.
Then chasing the dream professionally at sixteen, the indie instrumentalist describes her immersion as an avenue for creative expression. Yin shares: “When I pour my emotions into the songs I sing, it feels like a weight is lifted off my shoulder, and more so when the lyrics hit home.” On a less sentimental note, her sense of fulfilment isn’t yet complete since career-wise, she insists the journey is only half-travelled. Still, she’s grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to develop as a musician.
One to keep the show going, as an artiste, she enjoys setting out in search of new landmarks to attain. It’s the very attitude which saw her go from snagging four prestigious nominations at the 17th Anugerah Industri Muzik showcase in 2010 to another at LA’s Hollywood Music in Media Awards under the Best Pop Song category only a year later. Following that, the rock diva was commissioned to perform at the 2013 Guinness Arthur’s Day Festival at the Sepang International Circuit.
Here, she opened for All American Rejects, The Wanted, and Five for Fighting. She’s also shared the stage with R&B icon Taio Cruz and done backup for soul sensation Colbie Caillat at least once. More than that, the effervescent entertainer made her mark taking on international tours across multiple countries including the US, Germany, China, Indonesia, Japan, and Singapore. Just as impressive are her vast airtime exposures on local and Indonesian radio as well as stellar chart successes across a period dating back to 2009.
“Besides luminaries like Sarah McLachlan, Aerosmith, and Janis Joplin, my inspiration comes from those who’ve left a mark on my life—past lovers, family, and friends.” Triumphs aside, Yin is constantly reminded of the debilitating hardships once endured. One such challenge was finance. “I invested my savings into my first EP hoping the investment would prove worthwhile. That pocket-emptying sacrifice coupled with not knowing where to start and what to do back then didn’t help.”
Rubbing salt into the wound, there were many who mocked her efforts and when put-downs were done in bad taste, the bitter pill became extremely hard to swallow. Luckily, with guidance and strength from a nurturing handful, her single Eyo Eyo went on to bag several noteworthy nominations and a feature in Hollywood film, A Novel Romance. Other originals such as Bleed, Superstar, and Prove It To Me, to name a few, still today serve as unforgettable markers of her mastery.
Two years ago, in taking her crooning chronicles further, the star refined her stage identity from rolling rocker to cultural troubadour. The transformation allowed her to regain full autonomy of her creations and incorporate variety into her act by tapping into her Chinese and Indian cultural heritage. “It has helped me be me. I no longer feel the compulsion to fall into step with any particular persona or become someone I’m not, never mind turning into a mirror image of the symbol others want to see.”
The long-time singer-songwriter recently added to her repertoire video-making using stop motion animation and vocal coaching; she sees students weekly and makes house calls. Her first self-made lyric video was released in 2014 for Ring My Bell. More importantly, the 28-year-old visited Santorini in Greece last June—her dream destination. But when she isn’t away travelling, she has the age-old Chinese art of Wing Chun and the classical comfort of the veena to keep her occupied, both of which are her current top interests.