LAST_UPDATEThu, 19 Jul 2018 2pm

Meet The Malaysian Film Music Composer Who’s Making Strides In Hollywood

Photo: Azwar Rashid ( Azwar Rashid (

You’ve seen the infamous video clip of Ola Bola’s official theme song ‘Arena Cahaya’ sung by Zee Avi, but then you may (or may not) notice the name written in the credits next to hers – Rendra Zawawi.

“Who is he”, you ask? Good question. While he is the co-producer and co-writer for the movie’s theme song, Rendra, is like a hidden gem − he’s been in and out of our homeland but in cameo the whole time.

Well, not really for those who have been following his music career since 2007.

And perhaps if you were not a part of one of his over 50 live shows here, or even in the US, UK, and Japan; you probably didn’t know that he has released two EPs, 'First Melodies' and 'Faceless' which earned him a few nominations in VIMA Music Awards.

Apart from 'Arena Cahaya', as a composer in Malaysia, Rendra’s previous scoring works include some jingles, commercials, and theme songs for tele-movies such as 'Kalau Dah Perempuan', 'Ana, Aku dan Aiman', 'Pulang Sayang', and 'Tarbiah Cinta' featuring Dina Nadzir.

But where is he now? Finding his comfort ‘behind the scenes’ after graduating from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, the man who’s determined to do more for the local music industry, has embarked on a new journey in his city of dreams, Los Angeles (L.A); putting his skills in contemporary writing and production, to perfect use.

In an interview with Rendra, he shared with Malaysian Digest, since working in L.A, life has been pretty good and that he’s been onto a few projects. Nonchalantly saying, as if there’s nothing to brag about, the 31-year-old tells us he is currently an assistant to Emmy-nominated composer Mac Quayle.

“I’ve worked with him on shows such as FX's ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’, FOX's ‘Scream Queens’, and ‘Mr. Robot’ which is USA Network's Golden Globe winner,” says the chap who has also worked with Oscar-winning film composer Yuval Ron on several projects, including being the music editor to the international feature film "The Evil That Men Do", and music engineer for some of his works.Photo: Azwar Rashid ( Azwar Rashid (

“I get to do music and everything related to it at the eye of the entertainment industry which is Hollywood. You can't get any more nucleus than that. Also, being in a city of a 'melting-pot' culture does give a sense of familiarity from back home,” except for the food of course, he quipped.

Having said that, he does miss home, only that to master his craft in the niche field, the Petaling Jaya boy who has big hopes and dreams of maybe one day making the nation proud and becoming the first Malaysian composer to make his break in the Hollywood film music industry, is committed to staying in the U.S for a little while longer. But he tells us, things are hard, as you can expect them to be.

“There are thousands of like-minded driven composers out here in L.A looking to be the next best thing, but what makes you stand out from them? It's definitely in your own unique sound and style. Not saying that I've fully found my sound, but I've often received feedback that most of my writing has hints of my roots, which is my beloved Malaysia.

“Maybe I can make Malaysia proud and become the first Malaysian to have scored an original TV series on HBO, or a Quentin Tarantino movie?," he playfully gestured.

However, in all seriousness he adds: "I see myself tapping further into the entertainment scene here in L.A (Hollywood) - basing and footing myself solidly as a composer for visual media or as a songwriter and producer.

“It is my personal belief that one of the more unexplored ways to improve the quality of our local entertainment industry is to actually be here in the center of it all, and it’s my long-term personal mission to be some sort of a 'bridge' between our film music industry back home and Hollywood.”

Although the composer admits, his friends, front-runners Yuna and Zee Avi who are also in the States have contributed so much for Malaysia, he feels being deeply rooted behind the scenes, especially in the film music world, is definitely another less-ventured way to channel knowledge and expertise back home.

Rendra believes that Malaysia’s music credentials and talent pool should not just stop at where it is today – and that he can be that person to fill those shoes in time, as a sign of gratitude to Malaysia.

“There is definitely a big talent pool of Malaysians here doing music related work, like sound engineer Alvin Wee whose score mixing for films include 'Kungfu Panda 3', 'Metal Gear Solid 5', 'Final Fantasy 13-3', whom I’ve also had the pleasure of working with on the production for 'Arena Cahaya'.

“And if we can somehow crowd together collectively, I'm positive that we could all further bring Malaysian film and music to the eyes of the world. This is what I'd love to personally give back to Malaysia.”


Watch out for Rendra’s work in the upcoming score for award-winning director Thiyagaraja's "Menunggu". To find out more about Rendra and his works, check out