Shila Amzah is riding high with her first self-produced album, writes Dennis Chua
WHILE she may not have penetrated the United States market as Yuna did, Shila Amzah is China’s most recognisable singer of Malaysian origin today.
She is now a permanent resident of China, having chosen to expand her fan base to the world’s largest nation following her crowning as Asian Wave 2012 champion last year.
She divides her time between the republic’s two largest cities, Shanghai (where Asian Wave was held) and Beijing, and has just recorded her first self-produced album in her second home country.
The self-titled album is a production of Shila Amzah Entertainment, a company she co-founded with her parents, Amir Amzah Salleh (ND Lala) and Fauziah Sarman, and her manager Ong Peng Chu. Containing five new songs, which are all her personal stories, the album is produced by Aubrey Suwito and Helen Yap.
Shila and Amir Amzah are executive producers. All of the songs are written and composed by Shila.
“Two bonus tracks are in this album. First is Patah Seribu, my award-winning, self-composed and self-penned hit of last year. Second is its Mandarin version Xia Yi Bu,” she says. “While Xia Yi Bu sounds the same as Patah Seribu, it is actually richer in terms of lyrics and more anthemic than the original song.”
Xia Yi Bu, she says, was produced by Tan Boon Huat and performed for the first time during Chinese New Year. “Like the original, it is a song about loss and how we should be strong to overcome it and move on.”
The new songs in her album are Sedar, Masih Aku Cinta, Cinta Hati, Tulus and Maaf.
“Sedar is about infatuation, a trait every youngster including me, seems to have, while Masih Aku Cinta is about loving and caring for the people who have been kind to you,” says Shila. Her first single in the album, Cinta Hati, is a milestone in her singing career because it contains her first attempt at singing hip-hop style.
“It’s a song about being in and out of love, and it won’t be my last attempt at hip-hop, because hip-hop is fun.”
There is also Tulus, specially for fans and friends who support her and Maaf, a witty song about a man whom she once knew and who kept apologising for the mistakes he kept making.
“All of these songs are based on my personal journey. On the whole, this album is about me finding my niche in music and striving to break out of my comfort zone.”
It took the album five months to complete, and Shila wrapped things up in late June. “It’s a joy to team up with Aubrey and Helen. They are my sifu in many ways, as they were among the musicians who discovered me during my pre-teens.”
Having always dreamt of singing with an international icon, Shila had her wish come true in Beijing last month when she opened for legendary Spanish singer Julio Iglesias’s concert.
“Julio sang his famous duet, All Of You, with me that same evening. I really admire him because his voice is timeless.
“He is a groovy grandpa who maintains his voice and looks,” she says.
Iglesias was all-praise for Shila, too, and described her as Malaysia’s superb songbird. China recently honoured Shila too, naming her the country’s most popular reality talent show graduate.
“There have been more than 200 reality talent searches in China, and I’m so honoured to be named the most popular contestant. I dedicate it to all of my mentors ...Aubrey, Helen, 8TV and most of all, my loved ones.”
Come August, Shila, 23, will be singing the theme song for the reality talent show Chinese Idol in Shanghai.
Shila recently returned to Kuala Lumpur for a week to promote her new album. She held a listening session for the media in Red Box Karaoke at Pavilion in Kuala Lumpur.
The session was also attended by her parents, Yap, Ong and Tan.
“For Ramadan, I’ve recorded a musical special with Datuk Siti Nurhaliza, Alyah Abu Hassan and Najwa Latif. It’s my first major showcase with them.”
Shila admits that while she does feel homesick in China, she sees it as a sacrifice worth making because she is determined to take Malaysian music abroad in the Malaysia Boleh spirit.
“I am a great fan of Yuna and Najwa Mahiaddin, besides Amanda Imani and Amirah Ali. They are gifted singers and songwriters who carry Brand Malaysia around the world, and I’m following their footsteps in my own small way.”
Shila, who also admires Faizal Tahir, Aizat Amdan and Forteen, says being a songwriter and lyricist is not a bed of roses but she is determined to challenge herself and be a world-class musician. “I believe in aiming high in life, because I want to achieve my fullest potential as a recording artiste.”
Early this year, Shila was hot news for a less than positive reason — she broke up with dashing actor Sharnaaz Ahmad. They had been dating for a year.
“Sharnaaz is still my friend even though we are no longer together. He is a talented actor and I pray that he will be successful in his career,” she says, adding that she enjoys watching his dramas, especially those with actress Siti Saleha Baharom, their mutual friend.
Shila has chosen to stay clear of acting, because singing has always been her dream, passion and priority. Nevertheless, she might want to try her luck in musicals someday, and admires her close friends Mila Jirin and Dafi Ismail Sabri who excel in musical theatre.
Yap says she has always believed in Shila, and saw greatness in the singer when they met 13 years ago. Shila beat 32 singers from seven countries to win Asian Wave 2012 in Shanghai, China. At the two-week-long contest, Shila sang Adele’s Set Fire To The Rain, Jaclyn Victor’s Gemilang, Bruno Mars’ Grenade and two Mandarin songs — Na Ying’s Zheng Fu and Wang Lee Hom’s Forever Love.
She greatly impressed the contest judges, including Malaysia’s Eric Moo and Hong Kong singers Hacken Lee and Alan Tam, who eventually proclaimed her the winner.
Shila has been singing for 13 years, and has three other albums to her credit. She had her big break in 2008 when she won second place in 8TV reality talent search One In A Million 2.