KUALA LUMPUR -- Singing and playing guitar with her garage punk band TingTongKetz, trans musician Shika Corona is a striking mak nyah -- Malay slang for a trans woman. Tall and charismatic, she and her two LGBTQ colleagues have carved out a niche following in Kuala Lumpur's lively underground music scene. But they remain persecuted outsiders in Muslim-majority Malaysia, where cross-dressing and same-sex acts are illegal, and persecution of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer community is growing.
Shika, 43, was born in the small Malaysian town of Ujong Pasir, near Melaka, where she grew up listening to imported heavy metal music at a time when Malaysia was shifting toward increasing Islamization. TingTongKetz's 2018 debut album "Enjoy the Monsoon" celebrates the struggle to be trans among conservative Muslims. The song "Berubah," which means "To change" in Malay, focuses on Shika's gender confirmation process, which she completed in Thailand in 2015.