Her name is synonymous with powerful singing and moving ballads. Since gracing the local music scene back in 1996, Dayang Nurfaizah Awang Dowty has been thrilling fans through her memorable performances and songs that straddle the pop and R&B genres.
Having released over 20 studio, live and compilation albums, the 36-year-old songstress from Kuching, Sarawak, has also accumulated an enviable collection of music award trophies.
Blessed with a mellifluous voice that is both powerful and well-articulated for singing, it is no surprise that the uncharacteristically soft-spoken artiste was chosen as a finalist for the latest season of Muzik Muzik’s annual song competition Anugerah Juara Lagu (AJL32).
No stranger to the prestigious event, Dayang made her AJL debut in 2001 when she won Best Ballad for Seandainya Masih Ada Cinta, which was written and composed by Ajai.
STRING OF HITS
More recently, Dayang has won AJL’s Best Vocal award three times in a row — for Di Pintu Syurga (AJL29 2015), Tak Pernah Menyerah (AJL30 2016) and Lelaki Teragung (AJL31 2017), which also won the top award of Best Song.
Fans will get to see her perform Separuh Mati Ku Bercinta on AJL32 this Sunday.
The tune, which is a track from her latest, self-titled album, is in competition with 11 other songs. As seen in the AJL32 TV promo spots on TV3, the finalists for the event were all decked in futuristic-looking attire, ready for a heated musical showdown, with a sci-fi feel.
In line with this year’s theme of “Fashion And Music”, the two elements are expected to come together to produce a positive vibe that will certainly entertain and dazzle.
Reputable designers, such as Rizman Ruzaini who also came up with the stylish AJL32 trophy, were roped in to set the benchmark for a highly chic presentation.
VISUAL CHIC AND MUSICAL FEEL
Always one to shine on stage not just in terms of her vocal prowess, Dayang also aims to impress with her impeccable dress sense.
Who could forget her performance last year of Lelaki Teragung on AJL when she was dressed in a 1940s European-inspired garb, dramatically accessorised with a long men’s coat that perfectly fit the emotions of the song?
“I will be working with Datuk Rizalman Ibrahim again. He is my go-to designer for major events since he knows what I like best and what suits me,” she says in an interview.
Having met the famous fashion designer beforehand to discuss on her upcoming “look”, Dayang adds that she puts her deepest trust in him and leaves him to work his creative magic. “Let’s see this Sunday,” she says teasingly.
As for the visual concept or graphic styling, the little pocket dynamite reveals that it’s certainly not her modus operandi to feature any gimmicks. With great looks, boosted by a heavenly and healthy set of pipes, no one would be able to resist her natural talent.
“My main focus will be on my vocals and the music arrangement,” says Dayang succinctly. Adding that she’ll also concentrate on her feel and delivery since her upcoming performance is of a poignant ballad, Dayang’s ultimate goal is to move the audience at the live event as well as TV viewers.
Last year’s performance at AJL31 saw Dayang being accompanied by a pianist on a grand piano with a string section to boot, which made for a powerfully intimate feel. She promises to give her very best this Sunday for the sake of her fans but modestly adds that: “It’s really not about winning.”
“To be able to perform on the final stage is really already an honour in itself,” says Dayang, who also hopes that her rendition of the song will be worthy enough for its creator Ajai.
THE BEST FOR FANS
Music and singing is definitely a lifelong passion for her and is something she does best as reflected in the acknowledgment through her many awards, ongoing relevance in the industry and most importantly, her loyal fan base.
“To be honest, I don’t think about having to win,” says Dayang when asked if she is pressured since she has already won three Best Vocal AJL awards in a row so far.
“Sure, the pressure is always there, especially of people’s high expectations. To me, as long as I know I have given my best and that it’s a performance I can be proud of, which my fans have really enjoyed, then that’s all that matters,” she says, adding that she still gets butterflies in her stomach before a performance.
RANGE OF TALENTS
One of the highlights of the latest edition of AJL is its concentration of youth. About half of the finalists are twenty-somethings, such as Ara Johari, Wany Hasrita, Haqiem Rusli, Syamel and Khai Bahar.
“I’m actually very happy that we have so many talented newcomers. It’s certainly a positive things for our industry and we need new blood,” says Dayang.
“Each of these young finalists is unique in their own special way. It’s hard for me to name a specific standout. All I can say is that we’ve got great and fresh talent for the finals,” she says.
One of the finalists, Hael Husaini, has enchanted local music lovers with his hit song, Jampi, which is also in the running for Best Song in AJL32.
The up-and-coming 30-year-old singer and composer from Kuala Lumpur had previously co-written a song for Dayang, titled Dia.
The petite songstress was all praise for Hael. “He’s very talented and I’m very happy for all the success he has now. Very well deserved and I look forward to working again with him on future projects,” she says, without revealing too much on new possible material.
In an interview, the artiste, whose real name is Hal Husaini Razmi, describes Dayang as a living legend. “For me, she is certainly in a class of her own and a very respected individual in the industry. The fact that I got to compose a song for her recently is truly a special and personal achievement for me,” says the singer.
He adds that he has plans to put out a collaborative song this year and Dayang is certainly on the top of his list.
Initially Hael only had dreams to become a singer but after his efforts to compose tunes were received positively, what more sung by other top artistes, Hael was motivated to pursue that creative avenue as well.
Hati Hati by Amira Othman, Cemburu by Nabila Razali and Nisan Cinta by Siti Nordiana and Jaclyn Victor are some of his hitmaking handiwork.
“I guess as long as it’s related to music, I’m pretty alright with it,” he says of his preference for singing and composing.
As for his performance this Sunday, Hael says that he has two outfits to showcase —one for the red carpet and another for the actual stage performance.
“It’s going to be sharp and elegant for the red carpet and a ‘high fashion’ concept for the stage. But I’ll only reveal the two designers who specially made the attire for me on the night itself,” he says cryptically.
Hael also didn’t want to reveal much about the visual aspect but let on that it will have some digital elements and props to accompany his performance.
“It’s the culmination of all my previous performances with a bit of a ‘surprise’ factor thrown in. But I can’t deny the high expectations from fans and supporters,” says Hael about his time on stage for AJL32.
SELF-BELIEF AND PERSEVERANCE
Although Dayang doesn’t see herself as a veteran in the industry after over two decades of entertaining and moving music fans, she certainly has achieved a whole lot of success in her astounding career.
Staying relevant might be an element to longevity. But so is persistence. “I have learnt throughout my singing career that the business is super tough,” says Dayang.
She adds: “You have to believe in yourself and your talent, and to just keep on going and not give up.”
Her advice to those who want to follow in her footsteps is a simple, “you have to be prepared to work hard and also to fail.”
On recent rants by older artistes that younger talent are gaining popularity through online platforms quickly rather than by sheer ability and sweat, Dayang says that: “Times are changing. Social media, YouTube and such provide multiple platforms for artistes to be seen and heard. We must accept this change.”
She adds: “At the end of the day, you must have something the market is looking for to last. Personally, I think if you have talent, then it will speak for itself. That is the key to sustain yourself in the industry.”
Hael gives his two sen. “I have no problem with digital technological advances in creating songs and music. It’s in line with the times and on an international level too. As long as it provides impact and results in quality productions, I don’t see why people shouldn’t use it,” he says.
“As for the social media platform, it’s advantageous for artistes since it lets them have a personal medium to communicate through and inform people of what they’re up to,” he says.
REALLY GOOD START
Dayang, who just had a concert in Singapore at the beginning of this year on Jan 1, hopes that there will be an opportunity for her to stage a major concert for local fans sometime this year.
As for what’s next in the pipeline for 2018, the pint-sized diva says joking to: “Call me the queen of OSTs!”
She says that seven songs out of her 10 tracks that are from her latest self-titled album, which was released last year, have been picked up to be the theme tunes for TV dramas and films.
These include Dia for TV3’s current TV drama series of the same name, which stars Janna Nick, Izara Aisyah, Irwansyah and Adi Putra. She adds that her song Takdir is the OST for the TV drama series, Syurga Yang Kedua, and Layarlah Kembali will soon be an OST for a movie yet to be released.
“So my focus will be to promote these songs. I’m very grateful that my album was well received and many of the songs are taken as soundtracks. I’m truly blessed!” says Dayang.
Hael says: “This year has been very positive for me so far. I’ve already gotten a few music projects on the horizon.”
Aside from Datin Alyah’s Jutaan Purnama and Amira Othman’s Mimpi Indah, which was released last month, Hael and frequent collaborator Ezra Kong, will release singles for Stacy and Ayda Jebat in the near future as well.
He adds that his own new single, also done with Kong, is very close to completion and will have a concept that’s slightly different from Jampi.
SET TO IMPRESS
As for the AJL32 event this Sunday, may the best performer and song win!
The two-hour competition, co-hosted for the first time by singer, actor and host Alif Satar and comedienne Sherry Al Hadad, will be broadcast live on TV3 from the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur.
Guest artistes who will enliven the event on that evening will include Stacy Anam, AG Coco, Edrie Hashim, Waris, Datuk Awie, Siti Sarah Raisuddin, Datuk A. Rahman Hassan and Datuk Jeffrydin.
AJL32 is sponsored by Nivea and Samsung Galaxy, with Samsung coming up with the Choice Artiste Award.
Catch AJL32 live on TV3 at 9pm on Sunday.
Anugerah Juara Lagu 32
The following are the songs competing in the finals:
1. Akhirnya, Cinta - Salma (Ajai/Slen)
2. Aku Cinta - Syamel and Ernie Zakri (Syamel)
3. Aku Yang Sebenar - Hazama & The Penglipur Lara (Datuk M Nasir/Ad Samad)
4. Amboi - Altimet (Navigator/Altimet)
5. Bayang - Khai Bahar (Alam Harry Khalifah/Patrick Anohada)
6. Jampi - Hael Husaini (Ezra Kong/Hael Husaini)
7. Lebih Sempurna - Syamel (Syamel/Edry Abd Halim/Boy Anaz)
8. Menahan Rindu - Wany Hasrita (Ibnu/Gouffran)
9. Sejati - Azmi of Caliph Buskers (original singer Faizal Tahir) (Faizal Tahir/Mike Chan)
10. Separuh Mati Ku Bercinta - Dayang Nurfaizah (Ajai)
11. Tergantung Sepi - Haqiem Rusli (Ibnu/Gouffran)
12. Warkah Untuk Mu - Ara Johari (Hang Nadim/Laq)