Growing with his art
Rauf Yusuf is looking at taking his music beyond busking
Article from the Sun daily by Mark Mathen Victor (posted on 1 Sep 2020)
AT 24 YEARS OF AGE, Rauf Yusuf is a man of many talents, mostly skewing towards music. Despite this, Rauf says that his father is the real musician in his family, as he was a drummer in a band during his youth. Rauf grew up listening to his father’s extensive collection of music.
“The musician part of me comes out during the weekends, singing and playing the guitar at local malls, train stations and city street corners,” he said, as weekdays are spent at his full-time day job in logistics.
The young musician is also an ardent outdoor sports enthusiast, and shares his talents through his eponymous YouTube channel and on Instagram (@jaibbx).
You’re a singer, songwriter, musician and beatboxer. How did each of these begin for you?
“My first experience singing in front of an audience was when I was 12 years old. I sang Suci dalam Debu by Iklim in front of my classmates. That song was played so often at home that I had memorised the lyrics, and singing felt so easy to me.
“When I entered secondary school at Victoria Institution, I took more interest in music. I joined the school’s music club and actively sang tenor in my school choir group. I joined the school singing competition and even represented the school in choir.
“A few years into doing my diploma in TESL at Kolej Universiti Poly-Tech MARA, I decided to not let my passion die out, so I joined Vocalism, the college’s music club. After a successful audition, I joined the choir team as a tenor and we performed at various different events held by the college.
“Another stepping stone in the growth of my passion was when I joined a band called The Five Live, where we performed at open mic [sessions] at Jalan Dalam and LiveLokasi.
“As for beatboxing, it started when 13-year-old me was left in awe after witnessing my cousin demonstrating a few cool beats using only his mouth. Soon after that, I taught myself how to beatbox through binge watching beatbox tutorials on Youtube, joining beatbox competitions and performing at a number of events.
“Although it has been 10 years since I started beatboxing, it never ceases to amaze me that the human mouth is able to produce such sounds.
After graduating, I decided to let my passion become my profession. So here I am, singing my heart out to local passersby on the weekends.
“I am aware that to some, it may not seem like the most proper profession, as we are earning from people’s generosity but to me, it is the best medicine for my soul as my heart is content with what I do.”
Do you have a particular genre that you’re more inclined towards writing/performing?
“Honestly, I never had a preference for genres when writing my songs. All I know is that I write some lines, strum and pluck through numerous chords to find a progression that fits the lines accordingly.
“Then, those two are arranged in a way that complements each other, and that’s pretty much it. I do receive comments saying that my music often sounds country-like, sometimes pop, the opinions vary at times.
“For the moment, I am still on a journey to discover my true genre of music.”
Do you have plans to release your own original songs any time soon?
“Yes, I am currently working on getting my first single out, and it is one of the few pieces that I am proud to have made. It will be available on all music streaming platforms, and I am very much looking forward to it. I’ll leave updates on my social media as to when exactly it will be released, so stay tuned!”
How has the pandemic impacted you?
“Everything has two sides to it, including this pandemic that we are going through. The downside of it is that I’m not able to be out and about, sharing my passion with the public, and not earning through busking. I am more of an outdoors person myself, and being stuck at home all the time really took some getting used to.
“But on the bright side, I have so much time to catch up on what I’ve been missing. Being fatigued from work has always kept me from practicing those new songs that I have always wanted to. So right now, I’ve been keeping myself occupied with practice and lessons.
“I also experienced my first ever livestream open mic performance, which was quite an eye opener since social distancing began.”
Next in line
Article from the Sun daily by Mark Mathen Victor (posted on 30 June 2020)
HAILING from the legendary Soliano family, Chanelle Guerzo is part of a new generation of musical artistes within the family.
Though not professionally trained to sing, she picked up the craft when she followed her parents, multi-instrumentalist Daniel Soliano Guerzo and singer Michelle Nunis, to gigs, where she learned by observing.
Classically trained in the piano and guitar, what first inspired Guerzo to sing and play the piano was when she first listened to Alicia Keys’ If I Ain’t Got You at the age of 12.
Not wanting to be just a classical pianist, the drive to constantly experiment, improve and evolve her sound led her to the keytar, before she then began performing with the band Muzza and the Razzle Dazzle.
Guerzo spoke further with theSun about her life and future plans.
What is the history behind your musically-inclined family?
“Where do I even begin? Well, let’s just say that I didn’t really know I was from a musical family ‘dynasty’ until I was actually old enough to realise that almost everyone in my family played music. I thought that every family was like mine, you know? I grew up thinking it was normal.
“Until other people started bringing up things like the legacy, and I even felt some sort of pressure while growing up in a well-known musical family.
“I do know that my great-grandfather Alfonso Soliano was the leader of Radio Malaya Orchestra and also conductor at RTM Orchestra. My late grandfather, Salvador Guerzo was a saxophonist, composer, arranger and conductor for the Petronas Orchestra.
“I’m honestly very proud to come from a family of musicians, from my great-grandfather to my grandfather, my grandmother Francisca Soliano, grand uncles and aunts (too many to name) and then on to my father Daniel, my mother Michelle, uncles and aunts and so on. And of course the next generation to carry on the legacy is me.
“I really hope that I’ve made my family proud thus far. Music is in me and I shall try my best to upkeep the family name.”
Was your path as a singer and musician a natural thing, or was it influenced by your family?
“I feel like it was a very natural thing for me to get into music. My parents would tell me how I used to play the piano when I was three years old.
“I started learning from a very young age, and the learning just never stopped. Even to this day when I teach my students, I learn something new. Because of the many musicians in my family, of course everyone has different opinions about everything.
“People would expect me to play jazz because of the family, but somehow I’m more inclined to pop, pop rock and metal music. Shocking, I know. But, of course, we all support each other, regardless of what genre we play and listen to.
“We don’t bring each other down. We were all taught to stay humble. There is always someone better than you. There is always room for improvement. And also I’ll quote my late grandmother, Francisca Soliano, by saying: “Do all things with love”.
What are your current/future projects?
“I’m working on my first solo single, Stay, which will be released by the end of the year. It is a single prior to my first solo album which I initially targeted to release this year, but unfortunately due to the global pandemic, it has been delayed so I’ve decided to release my album next year and I get to work on it more!”
Have your projects been affected by what’s going on inside and outside the country?
“This pandemic has slightly disrupted my momentum. I did have production plans, launch plans and everything, but the situation is such, and maybe it’s a sign to just keep writing and composing. I take it as a blessing in disguise. The pandemic hasn’t been all bad for me, to be honest.
“I always try to see the positive side of things. It was difficult in the beginning because I was a music teacher two years ago, but then I decided to take a break and become a full-time musician. Since the pandemic I’ve decided to explore my other interests such as cooking, doing art, practicing calligraphy, and of course now there is time to work on personal growth and self love as well.
“But of course times like these made me realise that you must always have a back up plan. Fortunately, with my teaching and performing experience I’ve started online classes by teaching piano and vocals during the pandemic and it has been going great so far.”
Singing a different tune
Jeryl Lee breaks free from complacency by constantly challenging herself
Article from the Sun daily by Jason Lim (posted on 28 May 2020)
JERYL LEE never imagined that one day she would be given the opportunity to stand on an international stage to sing her heart out; it just didn’t cross her mind.
Not until she was 12, when she joined Taiwan’s Chinese Million Star singing competition. And she did not stop there.
At the age of 14, she won the Water Cube Singing Contest For Overseas Chinese Teenagers in Beijing, China. But her proudest achievement was when she ranked among the top six finalists of the Sing! China competition TV series when she was 16.
Her ballads impressed many of the music industry’s most sought-after Chinese artistes including Na Ying, Jay Chou, Wang Fei and Harlem Yu.
In an interview with theSun, the now 20-year-old singer let us in on what she has been up to.
Although under quarantine like the rest of Malaysia, Lee’s home studio in Penang has proven conducive to her creative process. She most recently recorded a particularly poignant song, Respect 1,000,000, as a tribute to the frontliners for their hard work, which even touched the heart of Malaysia’s health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
What have you been working on?
“I’ve been staying at home while spending time with my family. I’ve also managed to record a few music covers with my friends and learned to cook from my mum. Other times, I’ll try to spend a little time working out at home to stay fit.”
Who are your influences when it comes to music?
“My biggest influence is my mum. Like me, she loves singing too, and she always encourages me to persevere no matter what situation I’m in, or the troubles I face.”
How has the journey been like?
“I think this journey has almost been like a dream to me. To be honest, I still find it hard to believe, simply because when I first joined these competitions and programmes, I didn’t set expectations for myself, nor did I anticipate any reaction. Surprisingly, the responses have been heart-warming.
“I think the moment that I felt like I ‘made it’ was when my parents, friends, fellow professional artistes and even fans approved of my vocal aptitude. And when I appeared on stage at the Beijing National Stadium for Sing! China.”
What do you find most challenging in the music scene?
“The most challenging task would be to constantly challenge myself in any aspect of life.
I started singing when I was eight, and I realised I’ve been singing the same type of song all this while. It made me realise the importance of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and to experiment with a different kind of music; I need to surprise the people who have been supporting me.
“[People] do not only wish to hear you sing, they want more than just singing. It has become clear that I need to improve myself by learning how to compose, and even play the piano.”
How do you navigate through social media?
“I like how easily I’m able to stay in touch with my fans, particularly via Instagram. It has also become a platform to release new songs and covers to stay connected with my fans and interact with them.
“Being on social media is how I keep myself up to date with the latest news and be informed about what’s happening. It’s also the place where I do my research and find inspiration for my studies.”
What are the best and worst messages you’ve received on social media?
“I’ve received so many amazing messages, that I’ve forgotten the bad ones. Oftentimes, my fans would direct message (DM) me on Instagram to let me know how they felt encouraged and motivated because of me.
“As for any unkind words, I’ll just ignore them.”
Have you always envisioned yourself to be where you are today?
“Never, I just went with the flow. I’m really grateful to be surrounded by all the people who have encouraged me and supported me throughout this journey. They’ve shaped me tremendously to be who I am today.”
Age not a barrier
Article from the Sun daily by Leena Zuki (posted on 03 Mar 2020)
TWENTY-YEAR-OLD singer Shalma Eliana took some time out of her hectic schedule to talk about her music, and how she moved from singing in her bedroom, to being known for her songs Janji Terindah and Mahukah Kamu.
Shalma is currently juggling between college, where she studies Mass Communications, and her career as a Universal Music Malaysia recording artiste.
She is optimistic about her music career despite receiving some criticism. She shares: “People say that I don’t deserve to be a singer, or that I don’t have a bright future in the music industry.”
Shalma adds: “They want the old generation of singers, but now [it] is different, you know? Different singers create different music, fresh music. You can’t expect people to sing [the] way old singers do. As a singer, I like to create music that reflects who I am instead of doing [mainstream] music because it doesn’t last.”
Describe yourself in three words
“Outgoing, shy, and a food lover (especially Indian food).”
How did you start singing?
“I did not realise that I could sing. I was singing in my room. Then one day, my sister randomly told me that I had the ability to sing.
“From there, I gained confidence and started to sing at school events, and recorded my singing on SoundCloud (an online music sharing platform) and shared it with the public.”
At what age did you realise that you wanted to focus on music as a career, instead of just a hobby?
“When I was 16, I was approached by music labels but I did not layan (entertain) them because I was in school.
“I focused on school and finished my SPM examinations. Then, when I was 18, Universal Music Malaysia approached me and that was when I realised that I [had to take music] seriously.”
How do you manage to balance your education and your career?
“It’s not that hard because for college, I attend classes in the afternoon. Then, it also depends on my schedule. I will inform my manager if I am busy [and may] have to skip certain events. I like to challenge myself sometimes. It [multitasking] is definitely [possible].
“But when it comes to college assignments, that is one thing that I have to sacrifice my free time in the evening for, which I have [otherwise] allocated for my music.
“There are days where I need to stay up late to complete my assignments before I do music, either on the same day, or push it to the next day.”
Has being a singer changed your life in any way?
“For me, there are so many things that I have yet to learn, and want to learn. Being a singer has taught me a lot.
“I am better at talking to people because I have been very, very shy before this, as I’ve mentioned earlier. So when I started meeting new people, I learned a lot from them, despite being awkward at first.
“The knowledge that I’ve picked up through meeting new people is what helped me to gain more confidence to interact with other people.
“It has been fun but also challenging, because it is not easy to get to where you want to be. Then, you have competition. I prefer to collaborate instead of compete with others.”
Do you have any role models that have inspired you to be where you are today?
“Personally, I am the type of person who gets inspired by the person’s music instead of the person itself.
“There are a few, but one would be Yuna. She is very inspirational, because it is not easy to get to where she is today in her music career.
“People say: ‘She’s rich, that’s why she gets what she wants’. But for me, I think she deserves to be where she is today due to her tremendous effort.”
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
“I don’t know because I could be doing anything ... However, my wish is to be a more successful singer and expand my music career internationally as I will be furthering my studies overseas. I might attend a music academy or an art school there.
“Maybe I could connect with producers out there – who knows, right?”
Any advice for young inspiring singers in Malaysia?
“Always believe in yourself and never give up, [even though you may] feel like giving up because of external competition.
“You will have haters [who want] to bring you down, and you yourself might also bring yourself down.
“But, keep going. At the end of the day, just do what you love, because there will always be people out there who will enjoy your music.”
The indie girl
Article from the Sun daily by Tiviya Lakshmanan (posted on 21 Nov 2019)
RESYA Rahman started singing as a childhood hobby but now she wants to make it her career.
The 24-year-old, a recent graduate in shipping management from the Netherlands Maritime Institute of Technology, has a raspy, hypnotic voice that belies her cute and bubbly outward appearance.
The Kota Damansara native also founded a band called Margosa. This indie rock band initially had five members but due to individual commitments, two of them left. The current lineup consists of Resya, bassist Hisyam Hamzah (a.k.a. Pjay) and guitarist/vocalist Raja Nazrin Shah.
The band’s first single Kota Cinta was featured in Astro Ria’s Mega Drama series Sweetdream, which got people talking about them on social media. This got them invited on several TV and radio shows.
Margosa’s other major hit is the English language song Safe Haven and Jane Doll. Two new songs – Tak Semestinya Indah and Parut Lama, Luka Baru from its upcoming album were also featured in the drama Demi Rindumu.
Other than being the band’s lead singer, Resya is also a guitar and ukulele player.
Margosa is currently doing a series of gigs and battle of the bands competitions (such as Rock Out Battle of the Bands 2019) but Resya took some time off her busy schedule to share her experiences in showbiz to date.
So how did it all start?
“It all started when I was in my secondary school and after graduating high school, I started attending music events and meetups with all these musicians and ended up creating a band myself.
“Before Margosa was created, the members were part of other music bands. We decided to come together and create our own band. The whole thing happened in the course of one night when we decided to play some music together.”
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
“For me, the biggest challenge we faced was getting exposure. There are tons of music bands especially indie rock bands out there. So, it is really a challenge to penetrate the mass market.”
Which would be your biggest achievement?
“The biggest achievement so far is having our song featured on Sweetdreams. It was an overwhelming feeling and and it’s nice to see that our song being accepted and to get so much feedback from the market itself.
“We did not use to get good reviews from music critics but things completely changed.
“To prove them wrong feels amazing as well.”
How did your parents react to you joining a band?
“My parents are the most supportive people. They supported my dreams since I was a kid. My mum bought me my very first guitar. My father would drive me around and help me to go to auditions or jam sessions.”
What is the most embarrassing comment you have received from the fans?
“I have always been told that I sounded like a man. When we released our first single Kota Cinta, there were comments addressed to me saying that the band should find a vocalist who doesn’t sound like a man. However, I don’t take it seriously.
“I am actually not surprised with it because even at home, my father mistakes my voice for my brother’s.”
How would you describe yourself?
“I am a very talkative person and very bubbly. I like to mingle with people and I am a very positive person who believes everything has two sides.”
Is there any upcoming plans?
“We are in the midst of writing new songs and hopefully our debut album will be released by the end of this year.”
Playing beyond the walls
Article from the Sun daily by Mark Mathen Victor (posted on 12 Oct 2019)
WITH an impressive musical resume in the gig economy, 24-year-old Keith Noel is one musician not afraid to take risks. After all, walking away from his Christian music roots, and his church, to pursue his own dreams is certainly something most people would hesitate doing.
“I didn’t like (Christian bands such as) Hillsong and Planetshakers. I was more about gospel music; they had groove and were more rhythmic,” he explained. “I obviously felt a lot of emotion playing that kind of music, and it did help me musically, but it didn’t help me internally.”
He also made the bold decision to drop out of his expensive law school, in order to loosen the family finances so that his two younger siblings could pursue their studies without taking any student loans.
Keith once studied in law school before dropping out so in the hopes that his two younger siblings could continue their studies without being burdened by loans.
This allowed Keith to focus completely on creating music full time.
“I’d play for six months and go ‘This is going nowhere. Let’s go to the next band’,” he said.
Having played in a number of bands spanning different genres, either as a temporary player or as a sessionist, Keith has now established himself as the artiste Leon Sapphire, employing unconventional sounds through mood-setting vocals, jazz and R&B.
Speaking to theSun, Keith spoke about what makes him tick as a musician, his background and even his thoughts on the local music industry.
How did Leon Sapphire begin?
“Leon Sapphire is a persona. I didn’t want to go by ‘Keith’. I would’ve been like a singer-songwriter, which I didn’t want to pull off.
“My favourite artiste is this guy called Justin Vernon, and he has a band called Bon Iver. That band is his persona. It’s kind of his persona to be undefined.
“I wouldn’t even think of it as my own thing. Everyone that plays for me now, I never tell them what to do or what they should be playing. I grew up in a place where you could express yourself through music and when we’re doing it, it’s like a group project.
“Leon Sapphire consists of ‘Noel’ backwards, and I was a big fan of drinking Bombay Sapphire. I didn’t come up with the name myself. I was playing with [fusion rock band] TMJB, and my lead singer started calling me that.
“Before I knew it, everyone started calling me Leon Sapphire.”
Where do you start when creating your music? The lyricism or the songwriting?
“A good musical idea of where you’re coming from is very important, but the lyrics are king for me. [Local] English music has been going on for many years. I’ve always felt like I have to compete with the best of the best.
“The only music I listen to when I’m in the car is on Lite FM. I get really in touch with the lyrics, how they come up with them, and where they’re going.
“When I try to write songs based off the music, it comes off as generic to my ears. So I always try to write lyrics first.
“Music-wise, I’m secretive about where it comes from and the process. It’s most things that are undefined and pique my interest.”
Much like any ‘tormented’ songwriter, where do your words come from?
“I don’t talk a lot about the problems in my life and this is a good way to express them, especially societal problems that I feel have no answer to them. You can only reflect on it.
“I don’t get involved [in] political and racial problems. There’s no answer to them, so I have to sing about it. It’s the easiest way to champion my ideas.
“I’d say my lyrical themes revolve around the progression of love now compared to many years ago, male suicide rates, Indian people trying to get jobs, and the middle class life.”
As a bass player who also uses the bass synth, why did you skew towards with these instruments in telling stories?
“I started playing when I was seven or eight years old. My dad was a musician back in the day, as a guitarist.
“According to him, one day God said his fingers were blessed and he was meant to play the keyboards. From the age of 25 onwards, he picked up the keyboard and now he plays it so well.
“My brother started playing the drums when he was three years old. When I was younger, I used to look up to my brother, and one day my dad asked what I wanted to play.
“I didn’t want to play the guitar because everyone played it, and I didn’t want to use the keyboard because my dad played it. So I chose the bass.
“It was that or the saxophone. The bass is the easiest to pick up, and the hardest to master.”
Do you think you’ve found your voice or signature style, or is it ever-evolving, much like the intricacies of life?
“I feel like you can find your sound multiple times, especially identity. Right now I’m singing from a very soulful place.
“When I’m singing a song, you might not understand the words sometimes but when you’re listening to me, you’re coming into my world.”
Any other instrument you’d consider/like to start playing: “Drums.”
Top 5 most influential records/albums: “Bon Iver’s Bon Iver and 22, A Million, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar, and Thundercat’s Drunk.”
Top 3 most influential singers/songwriters/instrumentalists: “Justin Vernon, Marvin Gaye and Erykah Badu.”
Positive influences only
Article from the Sun daily by Jason Lim (posted on 15 Aug 2019)
WITH a legion of social media followers – currently 281,000 on her Instagram account @ms_kuan – Christinna Kuan is always serving us killer outfits-of-the-day (OOTDs) that have us swooning. Her travel diaries showcasing her jet-setting lifestyle from Finland and Georgia to South Korea and Taiwan, and everywhere else in between, have sparked our inner desire to travel.
Kuan also founded her very own clothing line, Christinna.K, in February this year and has even set up a physical store in Penang. Her distinctive personal style can be seen in her brand; feminine, chic yet strong, and sophisticated just herself.
She shares: “It took years before I chanced upon the opportunity to have my own fashion label, eventually I took the leap of faith that could set on a whole new venture.”
As recognised as she is as an influencer, the 22-year-old is also a talented singer. Her collaboration with Malaysian singer-songwriter NYK on a song cover of Aladdin’s theme song A Whole New World even caught the attention of US actor Will Smith, who plays the Genie in Disney’s recent live-action remake.
What does it mean to be an influencer?
“For starters, I think an influencer is a lot of things.
“An influencer definitely has the power to influence a lot of people, since the amount of outreach definitely knows no boundaries. An influencer also needs to know his or her part in making positive changes in this world, by fully utilising social media platforms to spread information and positive vibes.”
What makes an influencer?
“I think that anybody can be an influencer. The number of followers isn’t really a benchmark to define who ‘an influencer’ truly is.
“As long as you play a central role in influencing a certain demographic then you’re an influencer, just like how my parents have influenced me all this while.”
At what point did you realise you’d made it as an influencer?
“I think a lot of times, people might forget that there’s no ‘industry’ to begin with. However, as time passed, the growth of my followers and engagement from brands are definitely showing positive signs that I have ‘made it’ in this industry.
“On the contrary, I do think that this is an ever-growing industry that requires you to always learn, maintain and evolve, so never be complacent of your current status, no matter how much you’ve achieved.”
What do you wish to see in terms of change when it comes to influencer marketing?
“I hope that influencers could be more sincere when marketing the products, including providing genuine opinions so that the masses won’t be misled.
“On the other hand, I also hope that influencers will get the amount of pay we deserve as well. Far more than often, the creativity and effort we put in marketing products for brands is under-appreciated. I wish that brands acknowledge our effort more, and as for influencers? Never settle for something less than you deserve.”
What would you do differently if you were just starting in the industry now?
“Seeing how competitive this industry has become, I would definitely try to be a better version of myself and create more creative content.
“I will also be more courageous to experiment with new styles. Definitely step out of my comfort zone to experiment with different possibilities.”
How did your music collaboration with NYK start?
“I met him around three years ago in Singapore, and ever since we’ve always kept in contact even before he fully pursued his singing career. After watching Aladdin at the cinema on the first day it was released, I fell completely head-over-heels for the theme song A Whole New World.
“I contacted NYK and we decided to work together to produce a song cover. I was super excited for our first ever collaboration.”
What does a typical day in your week look like?
“A typical day in my week includes lots of meetings and planning with my team, dealing with clients, having photo shoots and attending events.
“I also spend the majority of my time managing my boutique Christinna.K and concept store UFCO in Penang as well. When I’m not working, I love to spend as much time with my family as I can.”
Swaying to sweet sounds
Article from the Sun daily by Marion Fernando (posted on 11 July 2019)
INSPIRED by old classic rock bands, Kuching-native Allester Shaun was 14 when he joined his first battle of the bands.
“Not just me, there were more people like me during high school,” said the now 22-year-old signed to boutique music label This Way Up Records.
He started writing original songs with the same band and musically inclined circle of friends at 15, playing to a different tune from his dreamy second single after getting signed, Sweet Babycakes.
“I started off with a metal band, actually,” laughed the singer/ songwriter who is bound to take his biggest stage to date at Good Vibes Festival in July.
“That’s where I started making my own songs, like composing for my friends as well.”
With a penchant for composing and creating guitar riffs, Allester only started singing after enrolling into architecture at Taylor’s University, KL.
“I never sing in front of anybody. I usually sing in the shower but that’s about it.”
He soon met “guitar god” Rioan Jasmin Ampuria in uni, formed a band together, and later put music and his studies on hold for a year to return to Kuching.
Rioan is from Sabah and the pair never met until uni, but apparently “his mum used to date my dad,” said Allester.
He flew back to KL, “but this time, I was already wanting to quit performing and focus on my studies. Instead, says Allester: “I got the offer to be in the label,” after record boss Jin Hackman asked to hear an original, which turned out to be first single Blue.
“It was like an adrenaline rush, and I was like, gosh, I don’t know what to write about so I was like I’ll make a song about cigarettes [because] I smoke when I’m like really stressed.
“It took me like a few hours to finish the song, then I sent it to Jin, he liked it, and then he put in my first gig doing a solo, as in by my own name. That was my first gig [Raising the Bar at The Bee] last year, February.
Ahead of his EP Kiss/Kill Me Darling, due out sometime this month or August, Allester will be dropping its title track - Kiss/Kill Me Darling on July 12.
What is the narrative that you want to tell with your upcoming EP Kiss/Kill Me Darling?
This album is like a collective of what I have. I was also inspired by prom songs, cause I’ve been binge-watching like Back to the Future, you know.
They have this soundtrack that is really soothing to your ears. So when you listen to it, it’s pretty cool, and apart from that, that’s just it.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m very emotional, I guess [laughs]. I love the tunes so I just want to put it out there. There’s no other reason. I just want to do it.
What is your songwriting process like?
Most of my songs, are very fictional because I’m more to the guitar, you know, composing riffs and stuff, and I really suck at making lyrics, to be honest. I’m not really good at it.
Sometimes I have to ask my friends, like hey man, is this song right? Is there like a grammatical error or some stuff, so yeah, that’s when I usually put myself in a very fictional situation. And then, I’ll ask myself, how would I feel about this, if this happens and stuff. It’s like ... being in somebody else’body or something.
Do you start with the beat or the lyrics first?
Usually, I will start with the melody, like guitars but sometimes as well, I’ll start singing, and you know, when you have this tune in your head, and you just like [hums tune to weet Babycakes, and I [go] oh, okay, I’ll just record it on my iPhone.
I’ll just [hums tune to weet Babycakes, then I’ll go back to my house and I’ll just try to recollect all the tunes and make a song out of it. That’ what I do. It’ either that or that, so both at the same time.
The music video for Sweet Babycakes says you wanted to direct a love story. Can you talk about the idea behind the video?
Actually, it wasn’ my idea but I loved it. It [was] a friend of mine from RocketMob, he pitched this idea to us, and we ended up [liking] this idea. I think he got the inspiration from this movie, starring Johnny Depp. It’ called Sweeney Todd something like that.
In the video, he didn’ look like he was having much fun, but the end was so sweet.
Yeah, it’s like a person who doesn’t want to show their inner feelings to a person that they love or you know, it’ll take time for him to show his [feelings] and stuff. That’ the idea of it.
What is your idea of love?
Love should derive from, you know, your spiritual feelings. I don’ know, I think love is just a mutual feeling where you can connect with that person or something.
It could be anything, actually, love can be anything. You can love the tree, you can love the guitar.
It’s the thing with passion as well. It’s from your own passion and your own [sense of] belonging, companion or anything, and how you guys can create - what do you call it in chemistry like fuse atoms and stuff –a new element. I guess, that’ how I see love.
A song that never fails to get you grooving: Ode to Viceroy by Mac Demarco. “Anything from Mac Demarco, in general.”
Dream stage: Coachella.
Favourite ice cream flavour: Vanilla.
Current favourite album: Oddments by King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizzard.
Which TV/movie character would narrate your life: Jim Carrey from The Truman Show.
Sing it for the world
Article from the Sun daily by Jason Lim (posted on 28 May 2019)
WITH lyrics like: “You can be the one to bring me down but I will be just fine,” 16-year-old budding songwriter and producer Rufus Sivaroshan’s music blends upbeat electronic soundscapes, soulful blues and acoustic vocals with an understated melancholic charm.
His debut single Fine strikes a chord with most people, with relatable lyrics that flood our hearts with emotions and memories from our teenage years, and remind us that everything will indeed, be fine.
The self-taught guitarist started off performing in his bedroom, posting short covers of songs on his Instagram @heyimrufus, and later venturing out into performing gigs in front of large crowds.
Rufus then became the first Malaysian artiste to sign with British distribution company and record label AWAL, and even caught the attention of international musicians Wrabel, JP Saxe, and Sara Diamond.
He shares: “I just want to see people happy with my music and I hope that they would make something out of it.”
What is music to you?
“It is a form of universal expression. I’ve always had difficulties with speech ever since I was younger, I was never able to form perfect sentences correctly, especially when I’m under pressure, and it got really difficult on top of being bullied in high school.
“Music is this medium for me to express myself, without any barriers preventing me from saying what is on my mind, so it becomes really therapeutic in that sense.”
How did you find your genre?
“The story of how I found my ‘sound’ has been all over the place. When I started producing music, it was all EDM, with influences from Martin Garrix and Avicii, then it came to a point where I decided that I was pretty bad at it.
“As time progressed, I found myself listening to pop music, but not the typical kind you hear on most radio stations. I was listening to niche pop on Spotify and music from up-and-coming artistes.
“I slowly realised I was able to write and sing in the same [vein] ... it is something that I enjoy making.”
What is the story behind Fine?
“When I started writing it, I had just gotten out of a really toxic relationship, and at the same time just started my A-Levels, with a lot more things going on.
“I wrote Fine as a way to console myself that things will be alright, and that they’ll resolve [themselves] eventually.
“I wasn’t supposed to release Fine initially, but my friend Daniel who co-wrote the song with me really liked it, and said that it should totally be my debut. The song took me three months to complete, from drafting to perfecting it.
How did you manage to sign with AWAL?
“On the day I was about to submit the song to Spotify, I got an e-mail from AWAL saying that they really liked the demo I sent, and they would love to invite me onto their platform.
“One of the reasons why I was so stoked was that AWAL signed up so many artistes that I look up to, such as Lauv, Bruno Major, Rex Orange County, Verite, and [other] EDM artistes like Don Diablo and R3hab. It is just cool to be among that roster of artistes.”
Do you think it is hard to get noticed, when the music industry is so saturated right now?
“It is not difficult to build a fan base, because that can easily be done through word of mouth, but to break through as a professional is a little difficult.
“That being said, as long as you know what you’re doing, then it becomes a lot easier to go in the right direction and hopefully be where you want to be.
“Social media platforms are incredibly impressionable, and so easy for everyone to get around. We use Instagram to keep up with our favourite celebrities, so why not use that to learn about key people and have conversations with them.”
If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?
“Honestly, I don’t think I will be doing music full-time, which is ironically weird because everyone in the creative industry is so passionate about what they do, and want to do it with all their hearts.
“I’m planning to study politics in university next year (not political politics but developmental politics).
“I like comparing [progress made by] less developed countries and developing countries to the progress [made by] developed nations, seeing how they have succeeded, and how can we [use] the same framework. I’ve always been intrigued by that.”
Made for the spotlight
Tasha Aleia adds hosting to her resume, as the Sony Music Malaysia artiste prepares for her first single
Article from the Sun daily by Marion Fernando (posted on 21 May 2019)
AS a child as young as three, Tasha Aleia found what she loved to do in life, which was to sing. Through massive passion, talent, and supportive parents to boot, the now 23-year-old is looking to release her first single sometime this year after being signed to Sony Music Malaysia.
And with about a year left before completing her business degree, Tasha, who is enjoying the best of her busy but fun schedule most recently expanded her foothold in the entertainment industry with a sweet new gig as one of the hosts of E! News Malaysia.
According to Tasha: “Obviously singing is my top priority but this is also really great exposure for me in terms of hosting - it’s really good exposure. I’m able to say yeah, I can sing, but I can also host.”
This comes after the singer’s brush as the host of local live trivia game show app Dooit Live.
How do you find performing live versus recording in the studio?
It’s completely different in a sense, recording in the studio, it’s just you and the producer, and everything has to be perfect, everything has to be very ...technical. Your pitching, your pronunciation even, and the feel. It’s not just about singing great, right, it’s about how you portray your emotions and feelings and people need to be able to feel your emotions through just listening to you.
When it comes to performing live, [whatever] energy the crowd gives me, I definitely would be able to give back. I’m thinking of my recent performance at No Black Tie recently. It was crazy. Everyone was cheering and singing along. That feeling of knowing people are enjoying what you’re doing and you’re making people happy and being able to sing your heart out - if you make a mistake you’re just oh, whatever, you laugh it off on stage.
In the studio, you can’t just like laugh it off ... I really love being on stage. I really, really love it. Especially when people are just like yeah, you’re amazing. I’m just like yes, this is why I do what I do because it’s amazing to know that you’re able to make people feel something. You’re able to make people feel good through your music and now that I’m in the process of making my own music, that’s like greater because now I can actually tell people the story through my eyes and not just other singers’ eyes.
What is the story or personal style that you want to tell with your music?
In general, I would obviously, love to be able to release an R&B song, because ... I love Beyonce, and I love SZA, and I love Ariana. They have pop and also R&B to it. That’s the direction that I want to take it to but in terms of like what the song is going to be about, it really depends but probably about love, love life. Don’t know if it’s going to be positive, if it’s going to be negative. I don’t mind because I’ve been through a lot these past few years when it came to my love life or whatever. I know, it’s kinda cheesy to say it ... like write a love song, but you know, it doesn’t have to be the cheesy Taylor Swift kind of love song, but yeah, I would love to write a song about love and my experiences with it.
Can you talk about your latest role with E!?
I’ve never done hosting, ever. It’s all been singing, singing, and singing, and then recently my friend, Bryan Foo, he’s the founder of this game show called Dooit Live, so he was like, hey, Tasha, like would you be interested to host this show, it’s a live game show. It’s an app on the phone. So I was like, yeah, I’ve never really hosted anything, so yeah sure. I tried it out and that was basically the start of my hosting career. I got noticed and people enjoyed it, I guess. My manager called me and they’re like hey, you need to go for a casting in TV3. They want to cast you for a hosting job for E!. I’m like, oh, interesting ... I don’t think I can do this ... I’m not a host, I’m not a proper, proper host. I went for the casting and everything went well. They were like, you and the two other hosts are gonna be hosting E! News Malaysia, and I was like, okay! So that’s been great. It’s pretty recent, so we had the launch recently. I’ve already recorded two episodes. It’s on Mondays and Thursdays on TV3’s and NTV7’s YouTube. It’s really exciting and really different from singing for sure, but it’s both as exciting. I really like it and I’m looking forward to what’s more to come.
How did it feel being the one to ask questions?
I was definitely nervous. I was yeah, okay, next question. I looked so stupid. Every time I was interviewing people - and I’m really small. I’m like a straight five-footer - I’m 150cm - so when I was standing up, everyone’s just like so, so, so tall, so that made me more nervous, so the first question ... everyone’s just like um what? Everyone had to bend down, so it was pretty nerve wracking but I think I’m getting used to it.
How are you juggling hosting and singing on top of school?
It makes it so much easier cause it’s fun. It’s something that I love to do. Singing is like second nature to me. And although I’m still warming up to this whole hosting thing, like I still have a lot to work on and brush up on, but it’s still fun Even though the days are very long, I still enjoy it and I’m so thankful that I am able to do something that I love. It’s always been my passion, so it’s great.