Not all our personalities and celebs come from the big towns. HT’s favourite star personality – perhaps the biggest name in Malaysia’s entertainment world – comes from a small town, Muar. In this feature article my hometown.com.my explores the life, ups and downs and remarkable achievements of Wee Weng Chee aka Namewee – rapper, singer, songwriter, film maker, actor and more.
Fiercely patriotic social commentator, political satirist, musician and entertainment artist, Namewee is also the most daring and consistent defender of our cultural diversity and racial harmony.
Namewee’s Muar youth days
Namewee comes from a musical family. But how has his birthplace and hometown, Muar, influenced him? The answer to this question can be found in his musical works which point to his hometown roots playing a key role in his emergence as a personality and artist.
Let’s start with the town itself.
Few Malaysians from the big towns or from other states are familiar with Muar and its multiracial and multicultural history. Also known as Bandar Maharani, the royal city of Muar is the second largest urban center in Johor state. It has a history which stretches back even before the beginning of the Malacca sultanate. Records from the 14th century indicate that Muar and its surrounding area was a part of the Majapahit empire prior to the founding of Malacca. It was also where Sultan Mahmud and his heir fled, following the successful Portuguese conquest of Malacca. Thereafter the history of Muar and the state history have been marked by an influx of immigrants including Chinese, Javanese, Indians, Bugis and other racial groups.
All have shared a steady, eventful and prosperous development under its far sighted rulers. Readers interested in the town’s unique history can refer to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muar_(town)
Today Muar is more than an attractive historic town.It was recently voted the cleanest tourist city in the Asean region and boasts fine local food, good coffee, heritage buildings, a picturesque esplanade by the river, and a vibrant local community.
It is also the birthplace of Malay cultural forms including traditional Zapin dances, Ghazal which is part of Johor’s traditional musical heritage and the Javanese Kuda Kepang, a traditional horse dance – all part of the diverse local, Asian and international musical influences that are showcased in Namewee’s videos and music.
Muar has featured in several of Namewee’s videos. His musical career can be said to have started while he was still in secondary school at Chung Hwa High School. According to Bandwagon Asia, a leader in entertainment news and events in our region:
When 15-year-old Wee Meng Chee first tried his hand at song writing, he quickly noticed that his original songs brought joy to the people around him. Although nobody had heard these original songs before, his classmates quickly learned them, and often sang along with him in school. Motivated by this, Wee kept on writing. By the end of secondary school, he had accumulated a few hundred songs.
His big break took place when he uploaded his music video on YouTube. Beginning with the hometown based Muar’s Mandarin (Chinese: 麻坡的华语) with its biting references which have been interpreted as a
protest against cultural hegemony, his career really took off with his song, Negarakuku, a satirical take of the national anthem which earned him the wrath of politicians, mostly from the ruling party.
Since this initial furore, Namewee has become a household name especially among the young urban generation.
What is remarkable about Namewee is not only his rapper singing and composer activism. He has also successfully branched out into acting, directing and other related genres of entertainment and music without compromising on his principles of artistic independence and integrity, and willingness to sing out against dominant elites and ideologies.
He has also never forgotten his small town roots. To commemorate the 10th anniversary since he started uploading his songs on YouTube, Namewee released a music video titled Muar Mandarin 2017 Official MV (Chinese: 麻坡的華語10週年紀念版), featuring various places including the Wetex, 8th avenue, etc., in his birthplace Muar on 20 May 2017. The video became an instant hit, reaching more than one million views on YouTube in one month.
Namewee’s fans are not only Malaysians but come from all round the world as he embraces different languages, cultures and music.
In 2017 his duet, Stranger in the North, with Chinese American singer songwriter, Wang Leehom on youtube had a sensational reception. To date it has chalked an incredible 168 million views and 160,000 comments on the youtube recording alone.
Another hit ‘Tokyo Bon 2020’, features an entire chorus of “Japanglish” or English words pronounced in a Japanese accent. The music video, which features significant landmarks in Japan to promote tourism, went viral in China and Asia and has received 11 million views on YouTube and over 100 million views across various social media platforms.
Meanwhile his latest love song, I Shot You with Japanese star Yua Mikami, released on 27 June had a staggering one million views in only 11 hours and garnered close to 5 million views in a week.
What will this one man music and entertainer industry next is anybody’s guess. But we can be sure that millions of his fans in Malaysia and around the region will tune in to listen and view the moment the music and video are out!
Namewee’s Artistic Record
Real name Wee Meng Chee
2.51 million subscribers on his YouTube channel
2.1 million likes on FB
One billion views on his Youtube channel
Hit movies: Nasi Lemak 2.0 (2011), Banglasia, Kara King, Hantu Gangster (2012) and The Big Power (2016)
Successful albums: All Eat Asia, Cross Over Asia, ASIAN KILLER.
Most popular songs are Stranger in the NorthCross Over Asia · 2016, Tokyo Bon and Thai Cha ChaAll Eat Asia 2017
Two major awards at the 2018 Global Chinese Music Golden Awards
– Most Views For Chinese Single Music Video on YouTube for “Stranger in the North with over 135 million views
– Highest Music Video Views on YouTube with an average views of 20 million per month
– Most Chinese Music Videos on YouTube
View this post on Instagram
Wow! Thanks The Malaysia Book of Records! That’s three awards! I’ll be receiving the awards on 30th September at Sunway Velocity. Thanks to everyone who’ve supported my music throughout the journey. By the way, I also heard that Malaysia Book of Records allows you to record all your great efforts, just like the Guinness World Records. So I’m actually planning to apply for the longest…. and biggest……. and the most long lasting… I guess I’ll have to wear a sarung for the award presentation for a more convenient display to the audience… XD XD XD 星期天要去領獎了XD沒想到玩音樂可以得到這種獎．．． ＊馬來西亞紀錄大全＊ -Youtube最高觀看次數中文單曲MV – 漂向北方 -音樂類最高總播放量的Youtube頻道 -中文MV數量最多的Youtube頻道
Namewee in his own words
“I love Malaysia, I love each and every individual here and that’s the reason I am giving the best to change the unsatisfactory situations.”
“If one neither makes noise nor lifts a finger about anything, one does not love the country. I love it and that’s why I hope it can be changed for the better,”
“I have always been writing songs from all over the world. I like to travel and make friends from different countries, and listen to their music.”
On Covid 19, From his video, Sudah 46 hari. Makan Tidur, Tidur Makan….
“Malaysia 6 races, 17 Musicians, 14 Instruments. This is the first time we record our music separately at home but we put our effort as one. We just want to share our love to all heroes who fight for Malaysian as front liners. Our doctors, nurse, polis, tentera and many more. Thank you so so so much! Finally we can get out from our home! But still be careful lah don’t play play!”
On his latest love song, I Shot You
“This is definitely a romantic love song. Trust me, if you have a clean and pure mind.”
His creative style
“I write all sorts of songs, of various genres. I even have love songs and funny jingles. But, people only choose to remember certain ones, probably because they have a greater impact”
On Stray Dogs in his song
“Please help the furbabies generously. They can’t speak but in their heart they will be forever thankful”
“Neuter instead of kill, adopt instead of buy, help volunteers and fight against dog-killing squads”
“How the audience wants to read and judge is beyond the author’s control. You may say the singer should not drag politics into it but the fact is artists are always dragged into politics.”
“What I want to express in my music, videos and movies is racial harmony… that different religions can co-exist in peace. Of course the way I express myself might not be accepted by everyone, but I hope everyone can see that I mean well”
His Rebellious Young Days
I was always sent to the principal’s office for speaking up in class. When I was in Primary 6, I had a teacher who judged us according to what our fathers did for a living. There was a donation drive and instead of asking everyone to donate, he checked out what car everyone’s dad drove to determine how much each person should donate. I told the teacher I was not going to donate ’cos he was looking down on poor people. I said: “If poor people want to give more, why can’t they? Some rich people are stingy.” When he threatened to send me to the principal’s office, I said “Okay, let’s go now.” By then everyone in class was banging on their tables cheering me on (laughs). In the end, my principal told the teacher off.
On the Freedom of Expression
No matter what I do or whatever happens to me, I’ll still want to speak my mind. There are no restrictions on the Internet. I can turn what I want to say into music, or an essay, or a movie. It’s my responsibility as a creative person. If I want to create something, I cannot be scared. But I’m not saying I have no limit. My limit is what YouTube doesn’t ban.
Most recent charity performance
“ONE LOVE ASIA”, a star-studded concert in support of UNICEF, featuring a stellar lineup of celebrities, artists, public figures and YouTube creators across Asia, live streamed exclusively on One Love Asia’s official YouTube channel on May 27, 2020.
His 2017 Merdeka theme Ali AhKao Dan Muthu (4.5mil views) attracted so many cover videos on Youtube that he organised a competition to award the top three.
His International Collaborators
United States – Wang Lee Hom, Hong Kong – Candy Lo, China – G.E.M., Taiwan – Tiger Huang, Thailand – Bie The Ska, Japan – Meu Ninomiya and Vietnam – Ho Quang Hieu
Albums not available for Malaysian release but available in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore: Asia Most Wanted (2013), Asian Killer (2015), Crossover Asia (2016) and All Eat Asia (2017).
What Others Say About Namewee
Goran Topalovic, New York Asian Film Festival Director
“This is the second movie by Namewee we’ve screened, and our audience loves his irreverent approach to filmmaking, his refusal to compromise, and his go-for-broke sense of satire.”
“While Banglasia makes fun of issues that are of great concern to Malaysian audiences, Americans can definitely identify with them too.”
Fred Chong, Producer of Banglasia
“Banglasia is a wonderful and meaningful movie directed by the very talented Namewee, it’s a great honour that this film is selected for the New York Asian Film Festival and I hope the audience will enjoy the film and learn more about our country.”
Jonathan Fam, in 8 Days (Singapore)
The multi-hyphenate, who got his start on YouTube a decade ago (he now has 1.2mil subscribers), is not just one of Malaysia’s most famous stars but also one of its most controversial. His satirical lyrics and videos take aim at hot button topics like Malaysian politics and racism and they’ve made him the voice of a (disgruntled) generation and also a persona non grata in certain circles.
We guess Namewee’s love for film and music, his predilection for social commentary as well his controversy-fanning sensibilities kinda makes him an amalgamation of Jay Chou, Mr Brown and Xiaxue.
Aiman-Maulala in thesmartlocal.com
Namewee, a name that has been heard in controversies within Malaysia not so long ago. I couldn’t care less about the state of politics in Malaysia but I do like the fact that he has shown an alternative way to voice out his opinion, through music and videos. He definitely showed people that words can convey meaning and simultaneously deliver an impact just as deadly as weapons do.
He conveys his message in a form where simple, everyday Malaysians can understand. Yes, in a micro point of view, the individuals of Malaysia.
Mania-kidd in thesmartlocal.com
Behind all the controversy, I see Namewee as someone who is a patriot and an artist. He voices his opinions not through using guns but through song and music. Of course, he did overstep a few lines and there was a big scandal but he has since put that behind him and has been promoting unity through his music and films such as the smash box office hit, “Nasi Lemak 2.0”