Sunday Ramblings: Songbird Dreams

She (Sulyn Ooi) was a meek one often cocking her head carefully when spoken to and looking earnestly at her ‘conversee’ wide-eyed. She was shy about a lot of things. Shy about herself, mostly. And shy about her dreams. When asked what do you do she would awkwardly fidget and quietly say, performing arts. Asked what do you want to do? She would humbly say, Sing.

I have heard her sing. And her voice? It is definitely not meek. It is hardly shy. It draws, and beckons listen. It is clear and serene, yet strong. There is also a bonus, she plays the piano.

That was then. Now, she still sings, and plays the piano. And her voice is still the same refreshing one. But her meekness has kindly been turned away. I guess she grew to be more comfortable with herself. She blossomed.

Becoming more comfortable with what, or who she wants to become, was quite a journey. After a stint at a music studio working on jingles, and another stint of teaching at Sri Cempaka, she recently decided to sow more deliberately towards her dreams.

What does following your dreams mean to you?

For me dream has always been closely tied to ambition, and T. S. Eliot says it aptly : only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. Right now it means courage – to step out of my comfort zone to pursue the “dream” ; tenacity – holding on firmly against all odds, as you have to be the biggest believer of all before anyone else buys into it;  and sacrifice – all good things come at a cost.

What are the challenges when it comes to following dreams and what do you most struggle with?

Challenges are aplenty! Mostly I struggle with Self. A lot of doubt, a lot of fear, and I grew up very shy, very uncertain. Even after getting a postgraduate degree in music, I did not allow myself to fully step into the path of singing and songwriting (things I love most) until quite recently.

What did you dream of doing when you were a) young b) fresh and c) now?

Honestly it was a big foggy question mark when I was a kid and grandiose plans when I was fresh out of uni. I even made a list at 19 of things I should have achieved by 25: I would be engaged, I would have two albums, etc… It looked totally doable on paper! But you cannot control when life partners come in and I spent a large amount of time focusing on all my weaknesses when I should be developing my strengths. Well, the more you live the wiser you get, as you should. These days I am much more positive and my outlook is healthier. I did manage to put out an E.P. and am working on my next one.

Now my dream job consists of being able to sing, write, gig at different places, for different crowds in different countries. Putting out music that gives good vibes and feeds the soul. Be sustainable. Be relevant. That would be my ultimate happiness. And love, of course, which I shall not get into here.

What is the biggest sacrifice of following dreams do you think?


What is music, and what does it mean to you?

Music is soul food. Universal. Creativity. It’s a live art, it’s ever changing and it transcends racial and geographical boundaries. It gives me hope, makes me feel alive when I’m involved as a listener or as the person creating it. Yes I know I sound cheesy.

Tell us about yourself, and your journey so far and also your journey towards your band, NightJars.

I’m originally from Kedah, spent 6 years in New Zealand and am entering my 4th year in KL. Whatever little accent I acquired from living there is now completely gone, Manglish is in my blood. I don’t say too much in person as I’m an introvert. I love a good laugh.

I have previously worked in a production house and as a music instructor. I’m venturing more into performing: on top of my personal music I’ve also started up NightJars with a friend, providing live music for various occasions: weddings, private functions and corporate events. We welcome bistros too, basically anywhere which will allow us to do what we love to do.

What do you think can be carried through in a song? 

So many emotions, it’s really hard to try and list them all. A song can carry positive or detrimental messages. It can urge you to go go wild at a club or tell you there’s a better day ahead. Or it can contain all the grey shades, the in betweens: because life and people are hardly ever black and white, and it isn’t easy to condense that clearly, creatively into 3 minutes. Those songs I find most beautiful.

What does it mean to you to sing, to perform, why?

I love it very, very much. It feels natural for me. There have been many times when I felt like a ton of bricks and after singing the weight would be lifted and I’d say to myself, “I really should do this more often”.

How do you want to grow this talent of yours?

Well I would love to take piano lessons again – I need to. Apart from that, to never stop learning. I doubt there will ever come a day where I’d go “Alright. I’ve learnt all there is to learn about songwriting. I’m going to kick off my shoes and take it easy”.

Finally here is an old music video of hers below. She will also be sharing some of her own music on Issue Magazine. For those who are interested in engaging NightJars for a gig, send them, or Sulyn a message on Facebook.

Sulyn Ooi – Terrified (Kara DioGuardi cover) from Eng Hooi Teoh on Vimeo.