The singing doctor
Article from the Sun daily by S. Indra Sathiabalan (posted on 20 Mar 2019)
KLANG girl Meroshana Thaiyalan, 26, hails from a small close-knit family. As she puts it: “Family is number one to me and nothing comes above it.”
Her father is a businessman and her mum is a retired teacher, while her younger sister is currently in university.
This talented young lady is not only an award-winning singer (she won the SKOWT-VIMA Best New Act for her song Hearts Of Steel), but is also a medical doctor and an Indian classical music teacher.
Meroshana has loved singing since she was a child, putting on impromptu concerts for family and guests. When she was 15 years old, she participated in Yu Hua Idol, a school-level singing competition, and emerged as first runner-up.
With her newfound confidence, she started posting cover songs on social media, took part in singing shows like MTV Twisties Superstars, and started dabbling in songwriting.
She recently got hitched and she credits her husband – whom she met in college five years ago – for being someone who loves her unconditionally and who understands her career demands.
She describes him as “someone who’s always excited to co-manage my shows and an endless source of encouragement.”
Did you have formal training in singing?
“My formal training was the countless hours of singing in the shower.”
Tell us about your Indian classical music background.
“I started learning veenai (traditional Indian stringed instrument) under Shri Lalithalaya, with my coach Prakash Nambiar about 12 years ago.
“He was the best teacher anyone could ask for, and the veenai is such a beautiful instrument, that I knew I would have a lifelong bond with it.
“I graduated with a distinction in both my junior and teaching exams, performed in many cultural shows with Shri Lalithalaya, and joined in teaching veenai with Master Prakash, before I moved to Malacca for my housemanship.
“[When I return to] Kajang, I plan to continue teaching veenai again.
Did you want to be a doctor who sings, or a singer who treats people?
“I am a doctor who wants to, one day, treat people with my singing and my music. I never want to separate both.
“I am a doctor, and a singer, and in both ways I’m able to treat those who are in need of it. Music heals, and I can’t wait to implement that into patient care and medicine someday soon.”
Music and medicine demand 100% commitment. How do you balance things out?
“I won’t lie, sometimes it does get tough to balance the best of both worlds. Being a doctor can be really demanding both physically and mentally, and sometimes it can be tiring to focus on two things at once.
“But at the end of the day, I’m reminded of how much I love both music and medicine, and subconsciously it all falls into place. I wish I could give better advice on balancing careers, but I’m human and still learning too.”
How did you feel when you were bestowed the VIMA award for Best Newcomer?
“I was ecstatic! Never in a million years did I think I would make it up there, among all the big names!
“I’ve always struggled with my self confidence and insecurities, and winning the VIMA award really gave me the boost I’ve always needed in the music industry.
“I’m so happy my first single, Heart of Steel managed to get the recognition it did, because I truly wanted it to reach to more people, as I wrote it with the intention to spread self love and awareness.”
As a young person, what advice would you give another person on career choices?
“Choose what you love. Choose what you see yourself doing 100 years from today. Choose a career that makes you happy, and work from there.
“From then on, never stop working and striving, and build yourself an empire! The sky’s the limit and it’s not wrong to dream as many dreams as you want.
“People will always have things to say, they will always try to choose for you. There will be countless people trying to knock you off your pedestal, but never stop fighting for what you love –in this case, your career.
“I believe if you choose a career that you love and it makes you happy, you’re set for life. It all depends on what your life goal is. My life goal is to be happy. What’s yours?”
Young & musically-restless
Article from the Sun daily by Marion Fernando (posted on 08 Jan 2019)
MALAYSIAN-FILIPINO singer/songwriter Yazmin Aziz has been performing in singing competitions since she was 11 years old.
Managed under hurr.tv, the now 17-year-old recently debuted her studio single Lihatlah in October, after competing in her latest competition, Bakat Malaysia Ohsem (BOM).
All these accomplishments, and the passionate performer who speaks English, Tagalog, and Bahasa Malaysia has not even obtained her SPM exam results yet.
Yasmin even creates sweet music with boxer Manny Pacquiao’s son - her beau - Michael Pacquiao on her own YouTube account.
Having spent some time in the Philippines before returning to her birthplace of Kuala Lumpur she grew up listening to “oldies” on the radio.
She said: “My grandmother would put on the radio and I’ll just be listening. The first one was My Girl - so I listen to a lot of old songs and Broadway.”
M Zulkifli - known for his work with Siti Nurhaliza, and even her vocal coach Vince Chong - translated the interpretation from her original track in English to Malay.
While the powerful lyrics to Lihatlah can be applied to any romantic relationship, the strength of her voice does not waver as she sings about rising through the hurt caused by an absent parent.
How did you want to approach the writing process of Lihatlah with the intention of having the song as your debut single?
Honestly, I wanted everyone to know my life story first because Lihatlah is basically about my father. My father who left when I was really young.
I wanted to show everyone that through singing, I basically tell my story because all the songs I wrote are really about my life and everything [in it].
So when I wrote Lihatlah, I think it’s to just really show how through music I can pour my heart and soul out about my dad and everything.
I wrote that to tell people that look, I was once a weak girl. I was this because I was left and everything but in the end, I showed everyone that, you know, I can do it.
I can still continue whatever I’m doing, even if I’ve been through a lot.
Vince Chong co-composed and produced Lihatlah, on top of being your vocal coach. What is the most valuable career advice you received from him?
He’s always told me to not listen to what other people think. You do you. For him, it’s like look, if you want to reach that note, if you need to go up, on top of a hill, let’s go. That’s him. If you can’t reach that note, what will help you? What will help you reach that note?
We actually tried many ways [and] that hill story is actually real. We actually went up on top of a hill and I actually belted out that note. To him, it’s just you do you. What you think suits you, what you think people would like. Just make sure you have your own mindset.
You’re not only in a relationship with Michael Pacquiao, but the two of you have collaborated on a track titled Heart & Soul. How did the musical aspect of your relationship come to be?
I was honestly really shocked because when I met him, I was just like hey, I wonder what this guy can do, right. He started beatboxing and I thought ouhh, okay, let’s try and do Stolen. So I said look, I’m gonna sing a song, you just go with it, okay. He said wait, it depends on what song. And I said no, no, no. Just go with it. That was our first one. It was Stolen. He did the beatboxing and I thought okay, this guy’s cool.
When he went back to the Philippines, and you know, we started having our normal lives again, he told me to listen to his track, and I said what track are you talking about. The first track I listened to was Heart & Soul. So I was like, you didn’t tell me you could produce music and everything! We should try and do something.
He came up with different tracks until we found that particular track for my lyrics with Heart & Soul. The day he sent me that track, was the same day I wrote the lyrics. Even though we are far apart, to us it’s just like, look, let’s just email whatever we have to each other.
What do you plan to focus your creative energy on after Lihatlah?
I think my plan after Lihatlah is to really produce more of my originals. I already have a lot of lyrics stacked and some songs composed. All we need to do is to clean it up and make music from it.
I’m really hoping that one day someone will call me to do an acting project as well cause I love musicals. I’ve acted in one, which is The Fortunettes, [where] I played Diana.
Article from the Sun daily by Jason Lim (posted on 2 October 2018)
LITTLE did Cheryl Koh know what the future had in store for her after leaving Malaysia for the US to complete her tertiary education in Los Angeles, a journey which would land her in the Hollywood 'hall of fame'.
One day, the 22-year-old singer and songwriter from Shah Alam heard about a worldwide casting call put out by Warner Bros. and director Jon M. Chu for a chance to act in the movie Crazy Rich Asians.
Koh, better known as Cheryl K, had nothing to lose. She did not think the organisers would notice her among the thousands of audition tapes from all over the world, yet she tried her luck anyway.
She read out the lines of a sample script provided to all respective hopefuls, and performed Mamma Knows Best by Jessie J at the end of her audition tape. That performance made an impression, and the rest is history.
Koh was eventually given the opportunity to sing the track Money (That’s What I Want) for the opening and ending credit scenes, in both English and Mandarin verses.
She recalled: “When you hear your own voice on the big screen and see your name appear twice when the credits roll... that’s when you know you’re crazy dreaming!”
What was the most memorable experience during the entire process?
"I think it was when I first got the call from Warner Bros. telling me that I booked the job. I will never forget my very first words in response to that was: “Are you going to make me cry?”
"I was jumping and screaming all over my room followed by multiple spam calls to my mom who was probably still sleeping at the time because of the time difference between Los Angeles and Malaysia."
Did you feel a particular connection with the song Money?
"I was familiar with this classic Motown Money song before and knowing that it’s been popularly covered by The Beatles and Bruno Mars, I am so thankful to be able to put my own spin on it for the world to hear, even with the inclusion of some Mandarin lyrics.
I am ethnically Chinese and I feel represented by not just the movie but the soundtrack of this film. When I first heard that this was the song Warner Bros. wanted me to sing, I knew it was a perfect fit for me because I loved it and thought it completely suited my vocal capabilities.
Why do you think ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ resonates so deeply within the Asian community and possibly even beyond its audiences?
"It’s the first movie to feature an all Asian cast in 25-years since Joy Luck Club. This makes Hollywood movies refreshing and opens a lot more doors for Asians to be in the spotlight - no longer be stereotyped or type-casted.
"It’s also the most successful rom-com movie in 9 years, topping the U.S. Box Office for at least three weeks straight now at No. 1.
"I strongly believe that this movie does not just resonate with Asians feeling represented but beyond that. This story is about love, sacrifice, and the challenge that comes with family, something a lot of people can relate to and identify with, regardless of whether we share the same skin colour or not."
Do you think it’s hard to get recognized when the music industry at large is rather saturated right now?
"Yes, getting recognized is definitely challenging because there are so many talented people all over the world working incredibly hard to improve their craft and be noticed.
"While there is also an increasing opportunity in today’s digital media age to showcase one’s talent, there are videos and songs being uploaded every second.
"However, I always believe that with the right determination and humbleness, any artist is on their own journey to success. Someone once told me: 'It doesn’t just take talent to make it in this industry, you must also be at the right place, with the right person, at the right time'.
"I believe we’ve got our own timing and if it’s meant for us, it will come."
What’s the next best thing you could be doing besides making music?
"I want to be an entrepreneur. This is also why I majored in business with an emphasis in entrepreneurship. I want to provide solutions to a problem, possibly related to the music or entertainment industry since my passion will always be somewhat tied into that.
"My end goal is to do something that can inspire and help others – to make a difference in the world.
Music is her life
Article from the Sun daily by Jason Lim (posted on 3 July 2018)
ACCORDING to her mum, Lunadira was already singing That's The Way It Is by Celine Dion before she could even speak English properly.
Lunadira herself said: “Maybe she’s just glamourising the past, but I’d like to think it’s true.”
Regardless, the talented lass has gone from singing effortless, stripped down cover songs, into becoming a trailblazing artiste in the local music scene, all in the space of two years.
“Not to be cliché, but music is life, music is everything, and it’s what I need in every aspect of my life,” she expressed.
“Music is the soundtrack of my life.”
Following the trajectory of her debut single, Forever’s Not Our Thing, which has garnered over 280,000 streams on Spotify to date, the 24-year-old has released another soft and melancholic track to tug our heartstrings, Stuck With You.
Rumour has it to be a slow-burning lover’s anthem that everyone needs in their life.
How did you find your sound?
I don’t want to say I’ve found my sound, it’s more of [how] I present myself as an artiste, and who I am currently. I really believe in the evolution of music, so I’m not making music for the sake of it.
It’s not just the aspect of sound, it’s also asking myself how am I going to implement music in my life. Whenever I do push out music, it’s a certain aspect of me that I’m confident about, it’s a representation of how I felt at a certain time.
I would like to think that my personality is not just one straight line. People always say Geminis are two-faced, but I can’t agree with that. I’m more than two-faced; because if I were to say I belong in R’n’B or Pop, there are lots of people who are way better than I am.
I guess I’m at the middle ground between both genres.
What is the story behind your latest single Stuck With You?
That’s the only song I’ve written that is not based on my personal experience. It stems from the relationship with my best friend. There was a time when she was seeing someone, and every night she was complaining to me about the guy.
So I channelled that frustration through the song. Thank God she liked it when I told her about it, but I don't know about the guy though.
I don’t want to say that the song is strictly about the guy. It’s about people who are in that similar situation ... A few of my friends [were] all in what I like to call ‘situation-ships’.
There was an influx of that at one point, so I asked myself: ‘Why don’t I write a song about it since it’s happening all around me’.
As you are writing a song, how do you know when it is finished?
I don’t. That’s why I’m so thankful that I have my manager Jin, Airliftz, and people from my record label to help. Because if you listen to a song so much and you think it’s ready, then when someone else listens to it and give you a second opinion, you’ll ask yourself: ‘Why haven’t [I] thought of that?’.
It’s a very tedious process, at the end of the day I feel that maybe the song might not be finished, but the only way to find out if it’s good or not is to release it.
What are your thoughts on the current music scene in Malaysia?
It’s improving tremendously. Around the time when Alextbh was popping everywhere, a lot of people started paying attention to the local artistes. I remember [saying] that [this] year is going to be a good year for Malaysia music, and indeed, it is going really well.
Do you think it’s hard to get recognised when the music industry is rather saturated right now?
It’s true. There are so many people doing the same thing, I’m not saying that I’m different, because I’m [one] of those people [trying] to make it.
It’s not an unknown fact that social currency is something important to get recognised. [It’s] a struggle [even] for someone my age, and if you’re willing to push yourself and push the boundaries, you have to really start caring about social media; look at what is trending, study it and just keep doing it.
If [you’re] at a certain point where you’ve done everything, but you feel like you’re still not getting recognised then maybe there is something wrong.
What are some lessons you’ve learned throughout this journey?
Believing in yourself, which is something I’m struggling with.
Know what you really want, because if you [don’t], no one is going to believe your image and the message you’re putting out.
I’ve also learned to self-analyse a lot, in order to be the person I want to be.
Honestly, just carry your own weight and choose to be with people you can trust to create a positive, or at least a conducive environment around you. It’s essential to being the best person you can be.
Legendary Jazz Diva
Shaheila binti Abdul Majid (born 3 January 1965 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), popularly known as Sheila Majid is a Malaysian female pop singer who is best known for her 1986 song, "Sinaran". Her musical prowess especially in the genre of jazz music has led her to be dubbed as "Malaysia's Queen of Jazz".
Sheila Majid was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 3 January 1965. Her mother is a native of Kuala Lumpur of Mandailing descent whose great-great grandfather was a friend of Yap Ah Loy. Her father was a Javanese, whose great grandfather had settled in Malaya after surviving a shipwreck en route to Java from a pilgrimage in Mecca. Her paternal lineage can be traced back to Raden Hussein, brother of Raden Hassan, the first Muslim sultan of Demak; both were princes of Probowo Wijoyo V of Majapahit.
She attended schools at Convent Goodshepherd Kindergarten, Methodist Girls Primary School and Methodist Girls Secondary School, all in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In 1989, she was married to Roslan Aziz, who was the producer of her previous albums. They have two children from this marriage, Wan Nur Khaleda (born 1991) and Megat Abdul Majid (born 1993), but has since divorced him in 1996. Her daughter, Wan Nur Khaleda also follows her mother’s footsteps as a singer, though more into hip hop music under the stage name of 'Kayda'.
Achievements and career highlights
1985: Debut album Dimensi Baru
1986: Second album Emosi locally in Malaysia and also in Indonesia.
1987: First non-native to win Indonesia's BASF award for Best Female R&B Artist.
1988: Third studio album Warna
* Wins America's International Star Search Award for Best Female Vocalist.
* Performed at the Tokyo Music Festival.
* First Malaysian artist to break into Japan with her albums Emosi and Warna, as well as her single "Sinaran"
* Fourth studio album Legenda
1991: Legenda concert at Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur.
1996: First Malaysian artist to stage a solo show in London's West End at the Royalty Theatre Performs at the Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London.
* Performed at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas in Kuala Lumpur to commomerate her fifteenth anniversary in the music industry.
* Sixth studio album Ku Mohon is named Best Pop Album and its title track won Song Of The Year at Malaysia's Anugerah Industri Muzik.
* Invited to represent Malaysia in Jakarta, Indonesia for a concert entitled Diva S.E.A.
2004: Seventh album Cinta Kita, produced by Warner Music Indonesia, topped the Indonesian pop charts
2006: Re-release of Legenda XV XX album under EMI Malaysia.
2012: Received "Anugerah Khas Planet Muzik" (Notable Award) in the 11th Anugerah Planet Muzik at the Max Pavilion, Singapore in recognition of her 27 years in music industry.
2013: Regional brand ambassador for Reckitt Benckiser's Strepsils since 1 February.
2017: First new studio album in 13 years Boneka released.
Starlet in the making
Article from the Sun daily by Yee Jie Min (posted on 14 March 2016)
SWARNA Naidu is truly a jane of all trades. The Astro SuperSport host, who is also the third runner-up in last year’s Miss Universe Malaysia pageant, holds a diploma in hotel management and has been modelling since she was 12 years old.
“I have always been into sports, and being on Astro SuperSport has upped my game because I have to know my stuff, which is great. Everyone here is so passionate about what they do that it is not just another job; it is very motivating. There is a lot of room to put your personality into, which I love,” quipped the 18-year-old.
The multitalented lass describes herself as an arty person, and it shows with her background in (classical Indian dance) Bharatanatyam and ballet. She even had a segment to showcase her vocal prowess on hurr. tv, a Malaysian online lifestyle channel and video-streaming platform.
“I personally don’t think you can be good at anything you don’t want to do. I never asked for any of this. “And I am spiritual so I do think the universe works itself out for you. You just need to have conviction in what you want, and it will work out as it has for me,” said the Penangite.
What is it like to be a female sports host?
I have big shoes to fill because they expect you to be something. It is tough, but it pushes me to do well. At the same time, you get a lot of respect being a female in the industry.
Name a challenge of the job, and your approach to overcome it.
There are a lot of impromptu interviews with important people. They keep me on my toes, but I like that I’m always learning. It’s like sitting for an exam – it doesn’t work if you study only the night before. You have to keep revising. Knowing a little about the person makes me feel more comfortable so I know where to go and what to ask.
Who is your sports icon?
Sachin Tendulkar, an Indian cricketer. He used to live really far from the training grounds, but every morning he made it there because he’s so passionate about the sport. I think he is the best cricket player in Indian history. Cricket is one of my first loves, and he really shaped my character.
Tell us about your beauty pageant days.
I liked it, but I wouldn’t do it again. It was very stressful, and there was a lot of criticism the whole time over things that I cannot change. Getting fourth place was good, and honestly, I’m glad I didn’t win first place. But I am glad I did it and I am lucky to get a lot of opportunities from it. It really was a launching pad, and I am happy doing what I am doing now.
What are the key lessons that you picked up from your experiences?
It is important to stay grounded, especially when you are young and getting into the industry. A lot of people tend to lose track of where they are going. Know your values, and never sell yourself short.
When you are young, you want to try everything to get yourself out there but it is not all that simple. You have to be careful in this industry. If you know you have what it takes then you shouldn’t stop trying.
Lastly, care to share your ultimate dream?
I plan to make it huge in Hollywood; to be the next Priyanka Chopra. I want to act and sing. I just need to make the right decisions and take the right steps to get there. Hopefully, I can do it with a little polishing.
It is my dream to be an accomplished actress. Believe it or not, I have not tried acting, but I want to be an actress ever since I can remember. I like to throw myself into my art and acting is perfect as you get to be different persons.
Meaning of Swarna: Gold in Sanskrit.
Favourite make-up products: Laura Mercier’s Translucent Loose Setting Powder and Kat Von D’s Tattoo Liner.
Favourite phrase: Tat Tvam Asi (Sanskrit) meaning thou art that or you are that.
Flying over the radar
Article from the Sun daily by Peony Chin (posted on 7 March 2017)
ACTOR Alvin Chong was once an opportunist. At a young age, the Penang-born started working in fast food joints to earn extra pocket money. One day, he found out that he could earn more per hour by singing in cafes.
“That completely blew my mind, then I started looking for those singing gigs,” Chong recollected.
Together with a few friends, he joined the Astro Star Quest singing competition when he moved to Kuala Lumpur to further his tertiary education. He got into the fifth placing, and later on received an offer from a recording company where he would begin his career in show business.
Tell us about your venture into acting.
Back then, I was really reluctant to do anything else other than singing. My company would ask me to try hosting, or acting in dramas, films, and commercials, but I was reluctant. I emerged from a singing competition – the only thing I knew how to do was sing! I didn’t think I was capable of hosting a programme or acting. I never went for any classes and I had zero experience in acting. That was why I suffered for the first few years. I didn’t get a lot of jobs, because frankly speaking, I wasn’t really that good in singing either. I wasn’t properly trained.
After several years, I realised that I cannot depend on just singing, so I started accepting cameo roles in films to get a hang of things. Somehow I managed to find interest in it, and from there I ventured into films and commercials. I even did a radio hosting gig for a while, talking about K-pop.
How did you land the role of Johan in Suri Hati Mr. Pilot?
I started venturing into the Malay drama scene last year. Before that, many of my peers told me to try my hand at the entertainment scene in Taiwan or China. But I told them, how could I survive out there if I cannot survive in the Malaysian entertainment scene, in a country I’m familiar with and where my family and friends are? I knew nobody in China.
I told myself that I needed to have a stable fan base in Malaysia before I venture overseas. So even if I don’t make it out there, I can always return home. Hence, for the past year I have been meeting directors and crews, to convey my interest to try out in the Malay drama sector.
One of my goals is to break down the walls between races, especially with all that’s going on in our country right now. I wanted people to look at us as Malaysian artistes instead of at our races. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to achieve that, but joining the cast of Suri Hati Mr. Pilot was a good start. My role in the drama is very small; I had roughly 30 scenes. But somehow, people liked my character.
Have you thought of exploring the opportunities outside of showbiz?
I think in a few more years, I will go further into entrepreneurship. I don’t want to just sing and act. But I can’t deny that I love performing onstage and the attention I get. However, in the long run, I know for a fact that I would want to settle down, build a family and spend time with them. As an artiste, you can’t predict your free time. When jobs come, you have to take it. Otherwise, you don’t get paid. That’s the catch.
How is entrepreneurship treating you so far?
For starters, I’ve released merchandise in line with my character in Suri Hati Mr Pilot. My character Johan is known as the ‘love doctor’, hence I worked with a friend to create a fragrance called Dr. Love Fragrance. I am also my own talent manager, and I hope to sign more talents in the coming years.
Currently watching: The Originals(TV series).
All-time favourite movie: The Blind Side (2009).
Actor he looks up to: Johnny Depp.
Preferred music genre: Pop.
A role he wants to portray: “A paralysed character who’s unable to talk; similar to Stephen Hawking.”
Persevering in passion
Article from the Sun daily by Peony Chin (posted on 10 January 2017)
AS a self-professed nerd, Emily Kong never thought she would make a living in the entertainment industry. Not until the producer of Meteor Garden fame Jovi Theng picked her out from a church choir group and told her that she could sing.
Kong came from a family who stressed on academic excellence, and she was indeed a star student who finished her ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) studies faster than her peers. However, after fervently praying, she decided to join the entertainment industry at the age of 20.
Other than singing, she was the lead actress in Love Endures, a Chinese movie produced by Theng. She has since joined a new entertainment agency and will be starring opposite JC Chee in upcoming movie Lamentations of the Wind.
You said that you were dubious when Jovi Theng told you that you could sing. Why was that?
It was funny because we weren’t actually singing; we were just dancing and clapping with one microphone. When he told me that I could sing pretty well, I laughed because I wondered if he even heard me. I like singing, but deep down I don’t think I can sing. I was not confident, and I had stage fright as well. But I figured that I needed a breakthrough, so I gave it a try.
Did your family support your decision to join the entertainment industry?
My parents discouraged me, but I already made my decision and so, went with the flow. They were also unhappy that I did not make something out of my ACCA qualifications, instead jumping into an industry without relevant experience and from which I wouldn’t generate as much income.
This is why – even though I want to stay in the industry – reality kicks in sometimes and I wonder if I should give up and do something else. In the past few years, I’ve done a lot of side jobs such as modelling for online boutiques, selling clothes at the morning market, promoting for Chinese medicine halls, etc. I have done so many things just to survive in the entertainment industry.
Why do you choose to stay in the industry despite the many hardships?
There’s a Chinese saying that goes, “reality would consume your dreams”, which happened to a lot of my friends. They were actors but because they couldn’t survive in the environment, they looked for office jobs and told themselves that it’s okay because it’s only temporary. But they ended up staying there and giving up on their dreams. I don’t want that to happen to me; I want to hold on to what I believe in.
Which do you prefer: singing or acting?
To be honest, I enjoy singing but I love acting. I feel more comfortable acting. I remember locking myself in my room as a kid, and reenacting scenes of a particular actor in a movie. I felt a sense of satisfaction doing that; it’s weird but that was how I entertained myself.
Tell us more about Lamentations of the Wind.
The movie will be shot at Kenting in Taiwan, and Malaysia beginning March. It’s about an intelligent and tech-savvy six-year-old girl who’s searching for her biological father, a young and flirtatious man – played by JC Chee – who doesn’t know of her existence. I will play the role of her mother.
We’re still working on the script but that’s the gist of the movie, which is about discouraging people from undergoing abortions. I will also be singing and producing the movie’s soundtrack.
Movie that inspires her most: Titanic (1997).
Favourite actor: Tom Hanks.
Hidden talent: Drawing.
Pre-acting ritual: Listening to music.
Junk food for her soul
Article from the Sun daily by Peony Chin (posted on 15 November 2016)
JOCELYN TAN, or better known by her stage moniker Jocelyn Stemilyn, may have been around in the local scene for a little over a year but she has always been surrounded by music her entire life. Growing up near a sugar cane plantation in Perlis, Tan’s family played multiple instruments.
“My mother sang, and even my then domestic helper played the guitar!” quipped Tan, who also sang, played music and danced in church.
Then, she left for Kuala Lumpur to pursue her theatre studies in University of Malaya. It was here that she joined its music club, Yao Lan Shou Music Composing Unit and started singing and composing music.
She debuted last year with her song Junk Food, produced by Dae Kim, with whom she frequently performs. Tan, who veers towards electronica and ambient music, recently released her new single, Pedicure.
Can you recall the first song you ever wrote?
I was 15 years old when I realised I could write songs. I’ve forgotten the title, but it was a song of gratitude towards my friend. It was for a very close friend of mine who left the country to study. She was my closest companion in school and I felt very sad. Hence, I had the urge to write a song for her. I recorded and sent it to her.
How did studying theatre in University of Malaya open your eyes to the world of performing arts?
Those three years of my life were interesting. Perhaps we’ve watched too many Hollywood flicks or Broadway musicals, so we had a certain expectation towards performing arts. But in Malaysia, it’s way tougher – it’s not always like Broadway.
Sometimes, you have to do really raw, stripped down, and even traditional plays. In a way, it broadened my horizon because I always thought I wanted to be a musical actress, but then I realised that performing is not just about singing and acting. It’s a lot of other things – you need to know how to work the props, lighting, and all the technical bits.
How does your background in theatre influence your music today?
It helps in the way I express myself, especially during live performances. People have commented that when I perform, I have a certain persona with one song and a different one with another.
What’s your opinion on the local independent music industry, as a newcomer?
More and more people are doing music independently. There’s definitely more variety, more shows and it’s more interesting; there are new faces all the time. So far, I feel that everyone is very supportive; we usually talk to each other at gigs and have a good time. The circle is still really small and everybody knows everybody. But I’m glad that it’s expanding. People are also more open about cross-genre music.
What has been your most memorable performance to date?
When I performed with Dae Kim at Findars’ ELECTRIC DREAMS back in August. It was a small event, but the attendees were very relaxed and open-minded. When I jokingly asked everyone to stand up for my song, they actually did! They moved along to my song Pedicure and stuck around chatting with each other after the show. It was a very heart-warming show which we don’t get very often, to be honest.
Favourite coffee beans: Kuda Mas.
Musician you look up to: Little Dragon.
A purchase she’d make with her first million: A house by the beach.
Favourite beats per minute (bpm): 120.
No love songs for her
Article from the Sun daily by Jessica Chua (posted on 27 September 2016)
TAKAHARA Suiko aka The Venopian Solitude’s first attempt at writing happened when she was griping about her brother on her blog using metaphors. She was only 14 when she learnt how to mask her words. Little did she know, she was paving the way for songwriting.
“It’s a horrible way to start writing, but it taught me how to be creative,” said the 26-year-old.
Despite her growing interest in music, Takahara took up electronic engineering in Japan to appease her parents. But as she was about to finish her diploma, she concluded that studying engineering became a chore, and she just wasn’t cut out for it.
So Takahara returned to Malaysia to focus on creating music – producing a number of EPs along the way, and even released her first full-length album Hikayat Perawan Majnun in 2014. The singer-songwriter dabbles in various sounds and genres, but one thing’s for sure: she doesn’t write love songs.
“I tried to but I couldn’t. It’s just too personal. Even if I did, I wouldn’t put it out,” she said.
Takahara recently hit another milestone as she’s the first Malaysian artiste selected – among thousands from over 100 countries – to attend the esteemed Red Bull Music Academy in Montreal this September.
“I'm trying not to let the pressure of being the first Malaysian alumna get to me because it will definitely distract me from learning as much as I can, and to some extent, basking in Montreal while I'm there,” she divulged.
Could you recall the beginning of your affair with music?
I started composing music in standard two or three. I wanted to take up piano but my mother didn’t allow it. So I started making melodies using my father’s phone instead. That was when phones had monotone sounds you can play with. I never had any exposure to musical instruments except for the recorder in school. So it was either that or the phone.
How would you describe your music?
It’s really loud and annoying. I say that because I don’t know what kind of style it is. It changes from song to song. If you don’t agree with that and you happen to like it, then good for you. I scream a lot when I perform live – it’s necessary to convey the emotion that was written for that part of the lyrics or song.
What is music to you?
Music is something as natural as breathing and eating. I don’t pride myself in doing music because it’s like having pride in eating and breathing. Everyone does that. But it comes naturally to me that it doesn’t become a thing that I focus on. Like eating and brushing my teeth afterwards, music is something that I have to do, whether I like it or not.
The best piece of advice you’ve ever received.
There are several but the one that I really remember is by Fynn Jamal. She told me to make my own path, and that I cannot follow other people’s paths because I’m different. While everyone else walks down a certain path, it was actually easier for me to make something of my own because the other paths were already crowded. To me, that was a revelation.
What is your main goal?
I would like to experience a black hole. I guess that’s the metaphor of my dream; to understand something that I don’t understand, and to understand as many things as I can.
Where do you want to see this industry go?
All fields have to collaborate to make every field relevant to each other, which can foster appreciation. People are starting to appreciate some form of art now, like a nice-looking tudung or a locally made T-shirt. To me, that direction will head towards performing arts as well. For example, Yuna incorporated a silat artist and ballerina in her recent music video. But right now, it’s too early to say whether or not it’ll work. It will take time. But what matters is that we keep doing it.
Favourite time of the day: When she goes to bed.
Childhood ambition: Doctor.
Currently on repeat: Yuna’s Unrequited Love.
Where to find her: Takahara Suiko (YouTube), The Venopian Solitude (Bandcamp)