Prema

Artist Biography

Official Biography (courtesy of Prema.net)

Prema is one of those rare artistes whose sound is truly original. Her voice is distinct, emotive, rich and alluring, her music is engaging, vibrant and alive and her lyrics are honest, eloquent, expressive and witty; a stunning combination which never fails to resonate with her listeners. She is soul, she is funk, she is jazz and she is rhythm & blues - the epitome of fusion.

Music has always played a definitive part in Prema's life. Born in Malaysia to teacher parents, her love for music was nurtured. From an early age she learnt the piano & violin and being taught in the Classical form, acquired the basics and much needed foundation which would set her up in later years.  It soon became evident however that her passion lay with the guitar which she picked up around the age of 14. Once she held her guitar, singing was a natural progression. From this union emerged the beautiful voice that you hear now. It seemed like the one was made for the other and to this day the sound of Prema singing with her acoustic guitar is deeply rousing.

At the age of 15 Prema went to Adelaide , Australia to finish high school and then attend university. She continued playing her guitar and once she began her Bachelor of Arts Degree at university, started to write songs. It was something that came quite naturally to her and it unleashed a desire to write prolifically. She began to busk, taking her music to the streets, fulfilling a deep urge to share her voice and songs to a greater audience. 

As Prema made a name for herself she became a regular around Adelaide and while she was frequently the main attraction she was also often asked to be the support act for many major Aussie acts like ‘The Bachelors from Prague', Dave Mason (from the Reels) and many others.  Prema had made her mark on the local music scene and was even written about in the Adelaide newspapers. This was a huge achievement for someone who started out busking and was a testament to her brilliance even at that early stage.

Upon her return to Malaysia in 1992, she caught the eye of the country's then top record label, Roslan Aziz Productions (RAP). The highlight of her time with RAP was performing as a guest artiste to 45,000 people at a concert held by them, showcasing their stable of artists. Despite not being signed to them, they honoured Prema by including her only Malay language song, ‘Jeans Baru' (New Jeans) in their ‘live' compilation album of the concert. While her time with RAP was short lived she still managed to make a lasting impression on the Malaysian audience and press who embraced her and her music with open arms.

In 1994, Warner Music Malaysia (WEA) bought over RAP and offered Prema a record contract. She accepted it and work on her album began in earnest. The album took 2 years in the making and was produced by much sought after Singaporean producer Shah Tahir. It was completed in Dec 1996 and instantly attracted a positive response from the press and public. Prema' eponymous debut album received critical acclaim and was consequently nominated for 4 awards at AIM ( Malaysia 's Grammy equivalent). She received rave reviews from Malaysia 's most respected critics, ‘She has embedded herself in the discerning music listener's subconscious. And that, is the mark of a great artiste' (Galaxy, Jan 1997) and from the Sunday Star Newspaper (Jan 1997), ‘She deserves every bit of success and adulation for delivering such a classy piece of work. If this were the USA she would have been noticed by now'.

In April 1998, Prema was invited by the ‘Women Take Centre Stage' jazz festival in the UK , to perform at the Jazz Café in Camden and also at The Bonnington Theatre in Nottingham . Her debut album had made its way to the festival's promoter (Debbie Dickinson) who was quite blown away.  As part of the show's promotions, Prema was interviewed by the BBC's doyenne of radio, Ms. Jenni Murray for the ‘Women's Hour' show. She won the heart of Ms. Murray who requested especially for herself, an impromptu ‘live' on-air acoustic rendition of one of her songs. Her performances at both venues in the UK wowed the audiences and it was now becoming apparent that Prema was truly a world class artiste.

In the latter part of 1998 she was sent to Melbourne and Sydney to collaborate with Warner Chappell songwriters. Her label & publishers (Warner Chappell) could now see that she would be successful in the international market. They wanted to expand her music to the Aussie market first and thought that collaborating with Australian writers would be a good vehicle to achieve this; a move which was sponsored both by Warner Music and Warner Chappell. The resulting songs were earmarked for her follow up album and despite them being great songs, it was obvious to Prema and her labels that the collaborations had somewhat diluted that which made her music what it is. Never was there a truer illustration of that old adage, ‘if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.

During this period, despite the hiatus in her development as a recording artiste she continued to perform extensively. Her shows were becoming legendary and she continued to blossom. She also worked closely with many charities and was always the first port of call for the Malaysian Aids Foundation, WWF, AWAM (Centre for battered women), Youthquake (a youth programme run by Malaysia 's main newspaper, The New Straits Times) and many more. Her commitment to these organisations was invaluable and her music a true inspiration. The organisers knew that they could always count on Prema for her support as a person and as an artiste.                            

In early 1999, Prema made the bold decision to leave Warner Music Malaysia . She knew that she had achieved all that she could within the constraints of a record label and she wanted the freedom to pursue her dreams on her terms. The split was amicable which made life easier for both parties and it soon proved to be the right decision for Prema. As her music continued to evolve and grow, she went into the studio with her Malaysian backing band to record a brand new track called ‘So Right'. Her unreleased, independent effort was given extensive airplay in all of Malaysia 's leading radio stations; an indication of the level of respect the industry had for Prema. At this time she also had the honour of being asked to be the voice of Telekom Malaysia (Malaysia's government run telecoms agency), resulting in the highly successful, award winning advertising campaign, ‘We're Here For You' which she performed in two different languages.

In December 1999, Prema having met her now husband, relocated permanently to the UK . It was a difficult decision because it meant that she would have to start over. However, it was a move that she was more than willing to make, despite the change of path her career would undoubtedly take. She took this time to reassess what she wanted out of her career and vocation. Not long after coming to the UK , Prema was invited back to be a part of another ‘Women Take Centre Stage' show held at The Scala, London in March 2000. This hugely successful gig would be her last performance for a long while as she took a much needed sabbatical. However, not one to completely disconnect with her music, Prema continued to write and also began arranging & producing her songs.  Many of the songs from her new album ‘in Fusion' were written in this period.

Around mid 2004, Prema started to look for musicians to gig with. Whilst she took a break from performing regularly, she had now amassed new music which she was dying to showcase. She spent around two years working with various musicians but as her music was still evolving, it was proving difficult to sustain lasting musical partnerships. However, this period of transition did result in a showcase gig with Prema headlining at the infamous Jazz Cafe in Camden which was organised by Raison D'Etre (an outfit who nurtures & celebrates talent). This show was a pivotal point in her career - it was the end of one phase and the beginning of a new. She was now ready to make an album.

In mid 2006 Prema started work on her long awaited 2nd album. She worked hard on her songs, crafting, re-writing, arranging and producing them. She wanted to make an album which was a true and authentic depiction of who she was, musically and personally. It was that intention which started the ball rolling. This album, a self-funded project, released by Prema's own record label MoreReverb.com, took two years to reach fruition.

Prema put all her efforts into producing the songs and sourcing the perfect musicians to play on the album and in October 2008, she went to The Cutting Room in New York City to record ‘in Fusion'. She never would have believed that the end result would feature legends Wah Wah Watson and Peter Erskine, geniuses Luis Perdomo, Damian Erskine and Bashiri Johnson...these musicians are her heroes and working with them was a dream come true. Wah Wah Watson had already recorded his parts in LA and the rest of the band met in NYC to record the album ‘live' in 2 days. The entire album of 13 songs, took 13 days to record, mix and master. It is a stunning and inspired piece of work, the likes of which have not been heard for a long time. ‘in Fusion' definitely boasts an elite assembly of like souls and talents; the resulting recordings are a true reflection of that.

Upon her return from NYC, Prema went on to design the artwork for ‘in Fusion', wanting the album inlay to be a visual accompaniment to her music. This exquisite album marks the beginning of the next era in Prema's career. Her many talents and unmistakeable style have earned her the respect of her peers and fans internationally and now that Prema has arrived on the world stage, she is poised to make a lasting impression  in the music lover's consciousness.

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