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First the viral video

Malaysian singer-songwriter is discovered on YouTube

now the new CD

Malaysian singer-songwriter is discovered on YouTube

June 16, 2009|By COLLEEN SEIDEL / Special to The Herald-Mail

The story of Zee Avi is the story of music in the 21st century. Born on the island of Borneo in the South China Sea, the 23-year-old singer-songwriter found fame around the world and a record deal in the United States with the help of a few independent videos posted on YouTube.

At 17, Avi began teaching herself guitar. She made a video of herself practicing and posted it to show a friend in London. Positive comments from strangers who watched her video coaxed Avi to post more. Soon enough, the petite Asian songstress gained a viral worldwide following and caught the attention of more than a few bigwigs in the record industry.

One of those wigs was Ian Monotone, owner of Monotone Label. He was shown an Avi video by Raconteurs' drummer Patrick Keeler and immediately flew the Malaysian artist to Los Angeles to sing her original song "No Christmas for Me" on a charity album. Not long after, Avi was offered a joint record deal by Monotone Label and Brushfire Records which produced her self-titled debut album, released a few weeks ago.

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Like her label mates -- Jack Johnson (part-owner of Brushfire), Matt Costa, G. Love and others -- Avi makes light, poppy songs best for long drives or background study music. There's a real musicality to her repertoire, a maturity and old-soul style that's impressive for the self-taught guitarist. With a slight rasp in her voice, Avi sounds like Norah Jones, only better. Avi croons simple lyrics undertoned with sadness and loss.

"Honey Bee" is the gem of her first album. An allegory for human relationships, the song floats along, carried by Avi's soft, low-registered voice. The presence of Avi strumming on a ukulele in songs like "Just You and Me" serves to balance the record, adding a few pluckier, happier tunes to the list.

Avi seems full of potential. With good reception, her debut will lead to future albums. If nothing else, this album's tunes are sure to become caf staples over the next year.

For more about Zee Avi, go to her MySpace page, www.myspace.com/zeeavi.

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