The Parody Of Our Reality
The comedic team of Munah and Hirzi has a huge following after starting their YouTube channel that was originally meant to be for, if you forgive the parlance, “shit and giggles”. But will people still listen when the message changes?
BY WAYNE CHEONG | Jul 29, 2016 | Culture
It started out funny.
Maimunah Bagharib and Hirzi Zulkiflie or also known as MunahHirziOfficial (MHO), began as YouTube performers, putting out guerilla-styled videos of them attempting dares on unsuspecting public members. The energy and spontaneity reminded one of Jackass, back when Chris Pontius dresses up as the devil in LA or when the gang dressed up as pandas and skated through the streets of Tokyo—it hearkened back to when one could illicit joy from an unguarded moment.
The videos were roughly edited, the sound and quality were wanting but it drew an audience. They went on to caricature slices from Singapore life: the recalcitrant domestic worker, the nosey macik, the minah, oh Lordy, the epic minah… They moved on to parodies and talking points. They went from kids just mucking about to people who have something to say and while you can scan their evolution through their body of work, we point to you one clear progression in their Hari Raya in the City series.
Like the millions of Christmas specials during the Christmas season, the Hari Raya in the City music videos are meant to celebrate the end of Ramadan. First uploaded in 2008, it was MHO’s first music video that was decently edited and choreographed. It had Munah, Hirzi and friends lipsynching to Anuar & Elina’s “Suasana Hari Raya” as they cavort around Singapore.
There would be the regular release of Hari Raya in the City each year and, it’s notable, that in 2011, there was a skit added to it, which commented on Alex Chang (who complained about a local McDonald’s outlet playing the Muslim call to prayers). MHO touched on topical issues in their other videos and it was meant to be politicised. Having that skit in 2011’s Hari Raya in the City video was just an organic expansion for them.
2012’s Hari Raya video will have Hirzi apologising for the embarrassment caused to the Malay community and added “even though [they] had no intentions of associating [themselves] to [them]”.
Representation is an issue with MHO, given that their videos do not line up with the views of some conservative Muslims. Offenses were taken over Munah’s dressing to the pair’s gay-friendly views and it must be difficult especially when you’re a Malay-Muslim who is caught between traditional thinking and progressive pluralism. In a Today interview, Hirzi states “from the get-go we have never raised the flag saying, ‘we want to represent this and that community’. We have never waved the flag and said, ‘we are your spokesperson’. We’ve just been Munah and Hirzi”. Their YouTube bio equivocally states that they are “just two individuals who like to laugh and smile”.
But the two gets “claimed” nonetheless.
Then come the music video parodies. From Beyoncé’s “Run the World” highlighting the importance of domestic helpers or Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” about rocking it as minahs, the 2015’s Hari Raya in the City will see MHO make the transition from lipsynch to lyricists.
Inspired by Lil Mama’s “Sausage”, the MV is called “Ketupat”. This is the start in the pair voicing their discontent against their detractors in the Hari Raya series (also, shout out to Munah’s shout out for being featured in our magazine).
Right. So the sentiment continued in this year’s Hari Raya in the City, this time the pair took on Beyoncé’s visual album, Lemonade, which is fitting enough for the message they wanted to put out. To wit, Beyoncé’s Lemonade is a protest album (we would have gone for Bob Dylan but whatever). It is Beyoncé’s raised fist against police brutality, against putting her gender down, against infidelity, against Becky with the good hair; Lemonade is the result of how Beyoncé deals with the lemons in her life.
2016’s Hari Raya in the City is undoubtedly a protest song but instead of rallying against the big issues, MHO went for the intimate ones, those that affect them personally. It’s visually funny (six inch songkok!) but that’s a smokescreen. The antics, the dress-up, they are just distraction; it is the lyrics that belie Hirzi and Munah’s frustrations with being told what to do, how to dress, what to say, what kind of causes to take up. Their Hari Raya that they used to attend is now marred with unwanted critiques stemming from Muslim fundamentalists or the anonymous Average Joe on a high horse.
You see this with Yuna, who was raked over the coals during a live gig in Philadelphia. At the end of “Crush”, in an act of gratitude, Usher and Yuna hugged. It was an action that’s as innocent as a wave but no, the netizens gave their two sen, criticising her for such immoral conduct. Yuna issued a statement, “My father always told me 'You make your own decision. You can think. Why do you have to listen to other people?' Isn't it weird, the biggest racism and discrimination that I've ever faced, was never from the Americans—it was from my own race.
“So this is me. I will wear whatever I want. I will show my appreciation whether it's a handshake, or a hug, to my friends, this is me. Save your mediocre downgrading religious preach to yourself, they have no meaning to me.”
(Her fans would come to Yuna’s defence saying that the singer didn’t hug Usher on purpose but they are missing the point; but, again, whatever.)
And that’s the mindset sadly, that somehow when you’re in the limelight, there’s a certain expectation to fulfil, a line that you have to toe, to stay in a box that people want to bury you in. We bet that MHO misses the festivities of Hari Raya (Raya! Raya, where are you? / I miss my childhood too!) without the judgement from relatives. Will there be another Hari Raya in the City parody next year? Who knows but MHO have grown out of the shadows of other people; they have something to say and they will say whatever the hell they want.