From:The New Paperposted on 11 July at 9:18 AM
11 July at 9:18 AM

Malaysian singer Shila Amzah makes waves in China


On home turf, she was been second best.

Malaysian singer Shila Amzah fell short of winning Malaysian singing competition One In A Million in 2008.

Last year, she was eliminated from another Malay singing competition, Mania, a week before the final concert in May last year.

She finally broke her unlucky streak last year when she won the Chinese reality singing competition, Asian Wave, in Shanghai.

The regional contest for professional Asian singers included contenders like K-pop boybands Teen Top, ZE:A and Cross Gene.

Shila had performed her favourite Mandarin song Forever Love despite being barely able to string proper sentences in Mandarin.

Now, not only is she a successful artiste in Malaysia and Singapore, she is also making waves in China.

But she initially refused to join Asian Wave.

The 23-year-old Shanghai-based singer told LOUD when she was in Singapore on Sunday: "I was sick of being in reality shows because I didn't have good experiences, but my manager promised me it would be an amazing journey. I went without expectations of winning."

A Courts' Mega Raya Sale Ambassador, Shila took a break from recording her debut Mandarin album to make appearances at Courts Megastore Tampines and Courts Causeway Point on Sunday to greet her fans.

She is attempting to make a career for herself in China despite her weak grasp of Mandarin, which is improving, thanks to daily two-hour lessons back in Shanghai.

When she first joined Asian Wave, she knew a only smattering of Mandarin from her two years in a Chinese primary school and memorised the Mandarin songs.

On the show, however, she enunciated so well that the judges were impressed.

"Shila, you gave me goosebumps. You broke my heart," said Chinese composer-songwriter Gao Xiaosong, 43, an Asian Wave judge, after the Malaysian's rendition of Na Ying's ballad, Conquer, during the finals.

"She overcame the language obstacle. Despite not fully knowing the lyrics of the song, she could sing right into our hearts and made us feel her emotions... She really conquered us all."

Now Shila is putting her all into learning Mandarin.

"My management team is putting a lot of pressure on me to master the language. I'm only given a couple of months to be able to speak fluent Mandarin to anyone and everyone," she admitted.

She credits her knack for languages - she can easily memorise songs in Spanish and Korean - for helping her pick up Mandarin faster.

But the language barrier wasn't the only challenge. Initially, her hijab also proved to be a problem.

"They wanted me to change my image and remove the hijab, or compromise by removing the hijab sometimes. I gave them a hard time and was insistent that it wasn't about fashion, but religion," she recalled.

Later, Shila, who has been wearing the hijab for a year, gave them an ultimatum.

"I told them I'd rather not have this six-year contract (with Shanghai Media Group) if it proved to be a problem," she said, adding that since then, the Chinese management company has "researched on the use of hijab" and she is keeping it on.

Shila is working on her Mandarin album which will feature both covers and originals. One of the songs, a Mandarin version of Kelly Clarkson's A Moment Like This, has been selected as the theme song for the inaugural Chinese Idol, which premiered in May.

"I'm not even Chinese. Of course, I feel honoured being the chosen one. It's a huge responsibility," she said. "I've been told that I fool many into thinking that I can speak Mandarin fluently from the way I sing."


Shila has also gained a number of Chinese fans. "They communicate with my Malaysian and Singaporean fans too and share videos of my performances.

"Once, they sent me off at the airport with a banner that read 'Saya cinta kamu' (I love you in Malay) and I thought it was so nice of them," she said.

Aside from her Mandarin album, Shila is also putting the finishing touches to her fifth Malay album, due for release after Hari Raya Aidilfitri in August.

The singer could barely contain her excitement when talking about it. To be released by her own company Shila Amzah Entertainment Berhad, the album is her first attempt at writing and composing all the songs on her own.

"It's like my diary where I tell my own story and let people know my secrets. I think it's time for me to be more open about myself. I just want to be myself, whether people like it or not," she said.

But she was cryptic when asked about the real-life inspirations for the songs. It's anybody's guess if she wrote anything about her controversial relationship with ex-boyfriend Sharnaaz Ahmad, a popular Malaysian actor.

It was reported that the Shila's father, singer N.D. Lala, had disapproved of the relationship, which contributed to the split.

She said: "People tend to speculate, but I think I'm ready for all that and I face this head-on in the album."

 This article was originally published in The New Paper on Tuesday, July 9.

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