“Momma, I made it.” It’s the type of phrase every aspiring musician dreams about one day saying. The culmination of hundreds of hours of practicing, recording, performing, wishing, and hoping, all coming to fruition. 

For many musicians, the ultimate validation is hearing a crowd of people singing along with every memorized word while they spill the intimate parts of their soul. A good number of Bruneian artists have chased this dream, and for several, it may have felt that perhaps the mantle of international success might be out of reach – reserved for others, in countries with larger populations and more developed music and media industries.

But the game has changed. Inexpensive home recording technology, social media and the age of content have entirely shifted the dynamics of a rise to stardom. Bruneian artists are now plugged into the same network as everyone else, competing for the attention of listeners with the world’s biggest names, and we’ve seen successes. Aziz Harun and Jaz Hayat have both reached the peaks of popular music in the ASEAN region in the past couple of years; and they’re only getting bigger. Coming fast in their wake are a slew of other Bruneian acts who have their sights set on breaking out. Watch this space as we take you along on their journeys.

More than 10 years deep into his music career, Zed Peace’s journey at the forefront of local Hip Hop has been a long and winding one. From being a high school kid who simply enjoyed rapping with his friends, to forming a three-man rap group called Micbandits, and gaining enough online attention in the late 2000s to earn a label deal with Kartel records, arguably Malaysia’s biggest hip hop record label, it has been a journey that has seen some great highs. But it has also had its share of lows, dead-ends and setbacks. Not one to be deterred, after choosing to take his career on the solo path as an indie artist, Zed Peace has methodically and tenaciously pursued the perfection of his craft, all the while balancing a full-time job and being a family man.

Six albums, countless verses, and some notable collaborations later, Zed Peace has put in the proverbial 10,000 hours, and is once again starting to make waves as Brunei’s lone representative in a resurgent ASEAN Hip Hop scene. We recently followed the “Kampong Boy” rapper to Kuala Lumpur where he was invited to perform in the Borneo Hip Hop Showcase, to get a sense of what it takes for a Brunei Rapper to truly ‘break out’.

The last time we caught up with Brunei’s Indie Pop darlings, ‘Empty Wallet’, was just over a year ago, in May 2018. The five-piece band spent some time in Progresif’s recording studios to record their single ‘Haru Biru’, did a live performance on Progresif Radio’s Tiny Lounge, and shed a little bit of light on their origins, experiences and ambitions as a band.

Dating back to 2011, and finding common ground over post-high school unemployment and a shared love of music, the band happily told us about their evolution from a cover band into writing and performing originals, the work they were putting into recording an album, and their ambitions to expose their music to a wider audience. Well, a lot can happen in a year. A lot did happen in that year. In their biggest opportunity to date, Empty Wallet was invited to perform live on Astro TV3’s show, Borak Kopitiam. With a Progresif film crew as their travel buddies, we documented the experience and got to hear how the guys felt about their debut appearance on a regional network and what they hoped to gain from the exposure.