Songs from the Jiwang Kingdom: a review

If you haven’t heard of Mia Palencia, it’s a damn shame.

This Sabahan singer-songwriter has a voice that sounds like honey would if it could sing, sweet yet as strong and full-bodied as a good brew of Arabica coffee.

She’s a jazz crooner as well as an acoustic folk songstress and though I love hearing her do jazz standards, her original songs are still my favourites.

Mia launched her second album a couple weeks back, a mix of tunes called Songs from the Jiwang Kingdom. Though I liked her first album Finding My Way, her sophomore album is so much stronger lyric-wise and its stripped down simplicity is something I find really appealing. In these times where there’s too much overproduction, her simple, soothing arrangements are balm for tired ears.

Her first single, Adam’s Anthem, is currently playing on the airwaves and it’s a fun, folksy tune. But it’s not a schmaltzy ‘tribute’ to her partner, but an honest examination of the insecurities that often plague us especially when it comes to love.

"But you will never know how hard I try, to be the dream you think I am."

The next song, Call Waiting, is a rather humourous song about relationship troubles. Ever known what it’s like to desperately wait for your irate other half to pick up the phone, just so you could apologise and smoothen troubled waters? "Pick up the phone, baby, please don’t miss my call again." It’s the kind of song you could have fun sing along to or, if you’re so inclined, sing outside your lover’s door in the hopes they open it.

(Here’s Mia performing the song with Reza Salleh. I had to stop swooning at listening to Reza. It’s so hard not to want to have his babies)

Mia, if you’ve watched her perform live, has quite the sense of humour and it comes across in her songs. Another hilarious piece is the song Biru about a clueless would-be lover.

If you’re in the mood for something more soothing, The Tender Hour is a dreamy piece about that quiet stillness of midnight. The lovelorn would find some measure of solace in her song about unrequited love, Strong Enough.

There really aren’t any ‘filler’ songs on this album and it’s interesting to see Mia infuse some veiled social commentary in the song Smokescreen. The subtlety of the lyrics are far more effective than a full-on protest song, asking more questions of the listener than pretending to answer them. I suppose it’s a sign of Mia’s growing maturity as a lyricists.

If you want easy listening with a bit more lyrical bite, Mia Palencia’s second album is obviously a carefully crafted set of songs with a lot of heart and accessibility.

Must listens: Smokescreen, Call Waiting, Tender Hour, Adam’s Anthem

To have a listen, go to

Order the album by emailing [email protected] It’s only RM30 and well-worth the money.

Shameless plug here: Mia’s music will grace Electric Minds Project’s next play, Light in KL City. I’ve been incredibly blessed to get the privilege of providing the lyrics for her songs in the play. Do come watch the play and listen to new interpretations of Mia’s music. Running Christmas week at KLPAC, Pentas 2.

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