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Ethnic-Chinese Malaysian label keeps 'pop rebels' ablaze

Two decades on, Soundscape Records rocks on in Malaysia, despite COVID-19

The sound and the fury: "We were young and idealistic and wanted to make a difference," says Soundscape Records founder Mak Wai Hoo of the early days of the Chinese Malaysian rock movement that he helped create. (Courtesy of Mak Wai Hoo/Soundscape Records)

KUALA LUMPUR -- In 2001, few understood the importance of "Pop Rebels," the first compilation album released by Kuala Lumpur-based Soundscape Records. But its release was a remarkable event, illuminating a little-known element of the Southeast Asian music scene and establishing an independent record label that would influence Chinese-speaking youth across the region for the following two decades.

"Pop Rebels" featured bands like Moxuan, Lang Mang, KRMA, RUSH and Mumster, all formed by ethnic-Chinese Malaysian musicians, singing in Cantonese and Mandarin and infusing peculiar Chinese moods into the global tropes of alternative rock. It was a bold and defining move in Malaysia's largely Malay- and English-focused local music industry.

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