Nafas makes music that breathes

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SUFFOCATING on all stale music out there?

Is a lack of new sounds leaving you breathless?

Nafas might just offer the kiss of life.

Hailing from England, Ireland and the Indonesian Islands, they put the “world” into world music.

Salim Dastan was born in Dublin while sister Aminah was born in London to expat Malaysian parents.

The family returned to Kuala Lumpur in 1984 where the siblings picked up Malay on trips to Tioman Island.

“The language was the connection to our Malaysian side. People didn’t believe we could actually speak it.” said Aminah.

Now based in Ireland, they speak more Malay than they did in Malaysia.

“Malaysians in Ireland love to speak Malay together,” added Salim.

Together they formed Madu in 2000 and released two albums: From the Elders’ Yard (2011) and Rocksteady (2012).

Nafas — meaning “breath” — followed in 2013 after Salim and Aminah met Tommee Balukea at the Kita Kitar festival
in Langkawi.

Together with Balukea, they are influenced by ethnic sounds, driven by bass-heavy rhythms, vibrant melodies and conscious lyrics.

It is fronted by Aminah and Balukea’s vocals and backed by Salim, aka Mr Upfull, who produces and mixes the beats.

Balukea, who plays the guitar and kecapi, was born in Simbawa Island and lived for many years in Australia.

He has seven albums to his name.

“I was introduced to music in Bali when I was 12. I was never formally a music student but I learnt from watching others.”

After 20 years performing at festivals, Salim and Aminah now want to see how far Nafas can go.

The trio are currently working on the band’s first studio album release.

“We’re making music that breathes. Hence the name ‘Nafas’,” said Balukea.

Touring Southeast Asia, they impressed musician and actor Sean Ghazi, artistic director at jazz bar Bobo KL.

“Nafas was a departure from our usual programming. Their variety is good and they brought an entirely new audience to Bobo KL,” said Sean.

This article first appeared in yesterday’s Malay Mail Afternoon E-Paper.