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How a ‘heartbroken twink’ became Malaysia’s new queer pop icon

How a ‘heartbroken twink’ became Malaysia’s new queer pop icon

Malaysia's queer pop icon Alextbh (Photo: Facebook)

Rising queer Malaysian pop star Alextbh is turning heads in the global industry with music he describes as ‘twink pop’.

The 22-year-old self-starter has more than 10 million plays on Spotify. This year, he performed at Urbanscapes, Good Vibes Festival, and Laneway Festival.

He was last week listed by Billboard magazine as an LGBTQ artist to listen to this season.

It’s an impressive feat. Alextbh (real name Alex Bong) began producing music in his bedroom with the aid of Youtube tutorials just a few years ago.

Malaysia is seeing a worrying crackdown on the marginalized LGBTI community. Police have raided gay clubs. What’s more, one conservative state caned women for attempting lesbian sex. And, importantly, the government continues to spew anti-LGBTI rhetoric.

Alextbh is an outspoken supporter of the LGBTI community. He brings rainbow flags to performances and regularly speaks out on social media. He describes his blend of R&B and pop as ‘twink pop’ or ‘twink R&B’. ‘We’re anticipating a revolution’, he said.

Gay Star News caught up with the indie popper to find out more about his rise to fame and the situation for LGBTI Malaysians.

Did you always want to be a musician?

Not at all! I was just a heartbroken twink putting music up on SoundCloud, and it wasn’t until Spotify noticed Stoop So Low and started putting it in major playlists that I realised I can do something about this. I know that music has always been integral in my life, I started learning how to produce music when I was 14 or so, with the help of YouTube tutorials and other resources online.

How would you describe your music?

Pop-infused R&B and R&B-infused pop. Basically music for all the twinks out there, haha.

How do you feel being described as an LGBTIQ musician?

It feels liberating, to know that people are supportive of my sexuality and the message I bring forth with my music. It’s usually subtle, you can’t really tell by just listening to my music — until you noticed the pronouns I use (he/him in my lyrics) or maybe other kinds of visuals.

But I guess that’s the point — I want music and narrative that represents LGBT+ community in Asia, especially in times where discrimination against us usually goes unnoticed in the western world.

What has been your experience of being gay in Malaysia?

It’s great! We’re a tight-knitted community, we pretty much go to the same events and shows, simply because there aren’t many to begin with. So it’s very easy to warm up to the scene. I’m just really thankful that the queer scene in KL is thriving, knowing that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience this back in my hometown in Sarawak (a state in East Malaysia).

It was pretty different back then, I always felt like I was an outcast and I have to be (I really hate this word but there’s no other way to describe it) straight-acting to fit in. It wasn’t until I started performing on stage that I started becoming more comfortable of my sexuality, all thanks to the people that go to my shows.

Queer music scene over here is thriving as well, and they just so happen to be my friends. Viktoria makes great deep house/electronic beat and Darren Luke makes trap-infused pop music, to name a couple.

What is the situation for everyday LGBTI Malaysians?

It’s regressing, which is a shame because a lot of queer people voted the new government in. I’m just appalled that politicians that I thought will back us up — ended up favouring the masses for their own political gains. But as with any kind of oppression and tyranny — the more the government subjects that on us, the angrier people will become. We’re a pressure cooker. We’re anticipating a revolution.

Does your music send a message to LGBTI Malaysians?

Yes — I simply want to put a spotlight on their existence, considering how badly erased we are in history. And I want them to know that they are never alone — my songs, my heartbreaks, my persona is reflective of that. I want them to relate to it in ways that no hetero artists can. I want them to know that there can be a silver lining, and I — along with many other LGBT+ activists in Malaysia — are a testament to that.

 

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