WELCOME TO THE POST-PANDEMIC RAVE: What befalls the future of nightlife? While recent fashion months have shown a renewed sense of optimism amidst a staggered re-opening of clubs and event spaces around the world, the reality remains uncertain within our borders. Though Malaysia is in the process of transitioning to the endemic stage, our own locale has struggled to recover.

Fickle SOPs, COVID-induced agoraphobia, and rising entertainment tax have all been heavy contributors to our suffering creative scene but, as always, passion finds a way. Arabyrd, our April cover star, is one creative in particular who has made the pandemic work for her.
Blazer, hoodie and trousers: All MSGM; Top: Gucci; Bracelet: Stw.stw.stw | Makeup: Juan-Les-Pins Precision Lip Pencil, Single Eyeshadow in Matcha, Climax Mascara, Bronzing Powder in Casino, Highlighting Powder in Ibiza, Afterglow Lip Shine in Nympho / All Nars
Sleep-deprived and apologetic, the Sarawakian rocks up to our cover shoot 30 minutes late. In her defence, any hour of the morning is too early when you've been up all night at the studio. Fortunately, she's nothing if not a trooper—all it takes is a venti iced Americano and she's back to her spirited self; more or less, a force of nature.

Now fully caffeinated and prepped from hair and makeup, the film gets rolling and the spotlight is centred on her.
Blazer, top and trousers: All MSGM; Shoes: Stw.stw.stw
Born Sharifah Arafah binti Wan Abdillah Edruce, the Sarawakian native has been in the game for a while now. As daughter to two long-established veterans of the music biz, Arabyrd has had roots in the industry from the very beginning. However, it was the poetic lyrics of Tupac that sparked her interest in pursuing music full-time, introducing the then-tween to the vast world of hip-hop.

"I think I was 11 or 12. I was in school and people were carving the Wu-Tang logo onto desks—that's how I found out about [hip-hop]," she recalls, smiling. "That's when I went and bought my first cassette." Not long after, a recording opportunity arose during a hangout with friends, when her cousin's father suggested she hop in on a recording session: "Maybe you need a girl on your song". She went in, did an eight-bar verse, and the rest was history… almost.

While music remained an outlet throughout her time at school, the path to 'performer' did have its detours. Rather than jump straight into the deep end of the music business, she first went on to pursue a degree in advertising at university, eventually landing a full-time role at an ad agency.

Her corporate stint didn't last long, though: "I was really focused on my job at the time," she muses, turning to us with a glint of mischievous defiance in her eyes. "Then, I realised that it was all just bullsh*t. So, I quit my job and I've been a performer since then." It was at 23 that she decided to take the plunge—"I'm going to do what I love"—as a musician.
Earrings: Gucci | Makeup: Light Reflecting Foundation in Punjab, Radiant Creamy Concealer in Custard, The Multiple in Copacabana, Light Reflecting Setting Powder in Crystal, High Pigment Longwear Eyeliner in Ocean Drive and Santa Monica BLVD, Climax Mascara, Highlighting Powder in Ibiza, Afterglow Lip Shine in Nympho / All Nars
Since breaking into the Malaysian music scene, Arabyrd has made a name for herself as a rapper and as one-half of DJ duo Twinkies. She has always been a chameleon of sorts, priding herself on her fluid exploration of genres.

"[My musical influences] change every three minutes—as soon as the song ends!" she laughs. "A lot of people think of me as a hip-hop artist, but when I started doing my solo stuff, it was mostly electronica. I mean, I rapped because I can't sing, but I don't like to limit myself to just one genre."
As for what drives her music? "There was a lot of angst when I started out," she sighs. "Then, for maybe three or four years, it was really tough for me to write." Why? Put simply: Growing pains. According to Arabyrd, a huge creative slump came about during a transitional period in her life—one where she matured from an angsty youth to a fully-formed, bona fide adult. Gone were the angst-ridden verses that had imbued her music and in its place was a series of self-meditative exercises instead.

When prompted about how her writing style has evolved over the years, she explains that the difference in process is night and day: "These days, I usually just sit and write whatever I feel in 20 to 30 minutes, just right off the top of my head. It's more like journaling now. Just a 'don't disturb my peace' sort of thing."
Top, leggings and shoes: All Gucci; Sunglasses: Stylist's own
Pre-pandemic, she thrived off the shared energy and interactions of the live stage, having opened for Diplo and the Beastie Boys, and worked with homegrown hip-hop veterans like Joe Flizzow and SonaOne. And, like every other musician during the pandemic, the vocalist took part in various digital events, including the annual hip-hop headliner Raising The Bar Festival (RTB), which returned to the stage through the screen last year. But virtual experiences are not the same, she remarks: "I feel really good when I can make people dance and make people happy. I think I feed off that energy. I miss that kind of interaction."
Until live music returns in full force, Arabyrd has found solace in a new path—one that has taken her back to her roots. Her latest venture, the YouTube docu-series 'Sarawak 360 Experience: Stories From The Heart', comes in collaboration with the Sarawak Tourism Board. In the series, Arabyrd serves as the show's host—an apt outlet for her on-stage charisma—as she takes both herself and the viewer on an immersive tour of the state.

Needless to say, the experience was no easy feat for the city girl. "After only having visited two or three cities in Sarawak at that point, I ended up covering the entire state for this show. It's crazy because I'm not an outdoorsy person at all, and we're talking about hiking for several hours with leeches and floods and whatnot." That said, the journey East did not come without its silver linings.
Headpiece: Stw.stw.stw | Makeup: Matahari Blush, Single Eyeshadow in Matcha, Climax Mascara, Afterglow Lip Shine in Nympho / All Nars
From exploring the natural environment to meeting new people and learning different facets of the culture, being back home had been a rewarding experience for the versatile performer. The self-proclaimed hypochondriac stepped out of her comfort zone—both from the city and the stage—and gained a renewed sense of appreciation for her homeland in the process, even meeting her Malay grandmother's side of the family for the first time.
As such, moving back East has been on her mind ever since, but between that and her desire to continue hosting, she also wants to keep platforming "the arts, the crafts, the culture, the people back in Sarawak". In fact, it may even translate into her music as she teases that she's currently working on a track for the Sarawak Forestry.

The latest gig on her resume, however, is something a little different. The creative is currently starring in the action-packed drama series, Alibi, which is airing on the TVS channel. According to her, it's a dream come true—but it didn't come easy. "I've always wanted to act, but my first language is Sarawakian, so there's a language barrier," she clarifies. "But, I got the opportunity. I pivoted."
Blazer, hoodie and trousers: All MSGM; Top: Gucci; Bracelet: Stw.stw.stw | Makeup: Juan-Les-Pins Precision Lip Pencil, Single Eyeshadow in Matcha, Climax Mascara, Bronzing Powder in Casino, Highlighting Powder in Ibiza, Afterglow Lip Shine in Nympho / All Nars
Clearly, things are looking busy for Arabyrd. While the live stage is off-limits for the foreseeable future, like many creatives, there is hope yet.
EDITOR / sarah hani jamil
text, styling & creative direction / Redzhanna Jazmin & Kelly Lim
photography / Soon Lau | Awesome Image
videographY / Euri Erfe
makeup / Elvance Chong for Nars
HAIR / Kay Tuan
art direction & layout design / Sarah Tai
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