Malaysia’s Justin Timberlake Brings Muslim Values Back

April 1, 2007 at 3:17 pm 7 comments

Yasmin and Liyana (MindShare, Malaysia) writes:

At first glance, Malaysia’s latest singing phenomenon looks like a Southeast Asian version of Justin Timberlake, with his slim build and closely-cropped hair. But this is where the similarities end. While JT sings about bringing “Sexy Back”, Mawi, as this unlikely pop idol is known, uses his latest album to bring the Quran back onto the airwaves for Malaysia’s youth. This 25 year old from a poor agricultural village sells more albums of religious tunes and Islamic verses than Justin Timberlake and other global acts. Mawi won the local equivalent of ‘Pop Idol’ by a landslide, motivated millions to purchase the products he endorsed, and has even unintentionally spawned the phenomenon of “Mawi headscarves” among Malay women.

Here’s a video compilation of his performances, with fans looking on in adoration:

So what propelled this average Joe to unprecedented heights of popularity? Timing has a lot to do with it. Alienated by the US-led war on terror, public opinion in the Islamic world, including here in moderate Malaysia, has gradually shifted away from a US-centric world view towards other alternatives. Along comes Mawi, who tries to pursue a career in the competitive entertainment world without compromising on traditional Islamic values. Among a sea of local Hollywood wannabes, Mawi stood out as the first to project a contemporary image yet stay true to Muslim values, winning over legions of Malay fans in the process.

The growing preference for local idols is reflected in the consumers’ brand choices too. According to MindShare’s 3D Research, Malays are more likely than before to opt for local brands. A local coffee brand infused with traditional herbs is giving established international beverages a run for their money, and a similar scenario can be seen in other product categories. For the new generation of middle income Malays, who make up the majority of the Malaysian population, foreign does not necessarily equal aspirational. The growing recognition for homegrown heroes means global brands need to seek ways to speak to consumers in their own lingo and on their own terms.

Entry filed under: content, malaysia, media general, music, trends.

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. David (MindShare Bangkok)  |  April 2, 2007 at 4:57 am

    This is really interesting: over the border in Thailand, (western) international brands still dominate hearts and wallets. Are we heading towards parallel universes of “Islamic” and “non-Islamic” global brands?

  • 2. indi  |  October 3, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    dude..that so-called “singer” is not even close to a justin timberlake.horrid comparison, tsk tsk.

  • […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptdude..that so-called “singer” is not even close to a justin timberlake.horrid comparison, tsk tsk. […]

  • 4. Sarah  |  October 31, 2007 at 10:11 am


  • 5. the agent  |  February 10, 2009 at 2:07 am

    this guy?
    he is a waste of air time on stations
    he is a waste of paper for the news papers
    he is a total piece of shit who depended on race to get fame

    i have no respect for him
    and for gods sake he looks like a monkey that has been smacked in the face with a baseball bat.
    how is he comparable to justin timberlake?

    instead of bringing sexy back
    this 100 year old monkey face begger is bringing extremist back

    not to diss the religion but the way he target his audience…. and who he specifically targets…. says it all.. pathetic monkey

  • 6. my lifestyle optimize community national thailand  |  July 28, 2009 at 12:12 pm


  • 7. my lifestyle optimize community national thailand  |  July 28, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    fox crime


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