Shila-Amzah-Malaysia

Malaysian born artist Shila Amzah brought her “Colourful World” tour to Perth recently and our own Jocelle Koh got to speak with the star who is currently residing in Hong Kong and making waves in the Chinese music scene.

Initially starting off as a Malay-language artist, Shila Amzah shot to Chinese stardom when she made her sparkling debut on Asian Wave and I Am A Singer 2. When asked her about on her thoughts of Perth, the naturally excitable singer was full of nothing but praises for my humble abode.

“Yes this is indeed my first time in Australia, I am so surprised that Perth is such a nice place with beautiful weather and friendly people, yet a stones’ throw away from Malaysia. What surprised me is (that) there are a vast choice of Malaysian and Halal food and some of these are even as good as the ones back home!”

And its no surprise how easily the chirpy singer has adapted to her surroundings, given her courageous debut into the Chinese music scene. When asked why she initially decided to go into the Chinese music industry as a singer with no Chinese heritage, her answer reflected upon the multicultural and diverse perspectives her family had ingrained into her.

“My dad had a plan for me to enter the Chinese market ever since I was a child, hence it didn’t happen as an accident. As mentioned before, China is a very big market with a vast acceptance of a variety of music so I will never get bored to perform in China as I always like to try different types of music” says Shila.

But of course, her journey was not without its obstacles. Shila cites language as the biggest barrier towards her debut in the Chinese music industry. “I guess the biggest obstacle for any new market is the spoken language. I can manage mandarin but I am still (having trouble) grasping Cantonese. Luckily I have a great team in Hong Kong and China which helped me all these years to learn the culture and teach me insights; enough to get around with no major trouble.”

A naturally optimistic person, Shila takes nothing for granted and glows with appreciation for each of the opportunities she’s received so far during her time in the Chinese music industry. She speaks of Asian Wave and I am Singer 2 as platforms for her to showcase her passion for singing.

“Asian Wave and I Am A Singer 2 definitely marked the pinnacles of my music career, enabling more Chinese audiences to know about me. As much as these are competitions, I actually took them as a platform to showcase my passion in singing…so that I can enjoy the moments every time I was on that stage. At the end, winning was not the key; both competitions helped me to make so many friends I met regularly even years after the competitions, which is priceless.”

One such friend she has made is Hong Kong singing sensation Gem Tang, the runner-up on I Am A Singer 2 who has been making a splash recently with her attempts at entering the US market. “G.E.M. is a great singer and I always embrace her performances. I guess the fact that we both are similar age and speak the same language it is not hard for us to be close to each other, and remain friends even after the competition.”

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Of all the celebrity shoulders she’s brushed with in the industry, Shila picked Hong Kong singer and actress Joey Yung as the artist she’d most liked to collaborate with. In explaining her decision she says “I would really hope I can collaborate with Joey Yung, because I think she is truly a very hardworking singer and performer with many beautiful songs I admire.”

But of course, the humble singer continues to dedicate her efforts to fans and audiences, no matter their race or heritage. When asked how Chinese audiences differed from Malay ones, her reply was akin to that of a mother-unbiased and sweet! “Chinese and Malaysian audiences are both great audiences, without their support, my music will not be made possible. I guess if you ask me to compare the two, I think the Chinese are always very passionate to me even if I am offstage, where my Malaysian fans will be a bit more discreet with the emotions towards me; I love them both and I can always feel them surrounding me, and that is one of the major drives to keep me going!”

Shila even shared one of her favourite fan moments with us.

“I remember there was one show where it was an outdoor venue with no cover. During my performance, the temperature was below zero and was raining heavily, but they still stayed behind to enjoy my performance and even cheering me on, I was overwhelmed.”

During her Perth performance, she also launched one of her new songs from her upcoming Mandarin album, which she says includes self-composed works, as well as collaborations with well-known industry figures. For now, she drops a few hints about the album. “This new album is my very first Mandarin album. It took almost 2 years in the making and comprises of songs written by myself, as well as collaborations with well known producers such as Khalil Fong, Jun Kung and Kelvin Avon. I would not say I want a theme to the album, but rather it is all about me and my love for music.”

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Certainly, Shila’s love for music has driven her to unimaginable heights. She is one of the only singers of non-Chinese heritage in the industry, something that takes great courage and persistence. “I guess one of the magical things about music is that it has no boundaries and good music can be shared among people of different ethical background, age and interest. My advice for any young dreamers is, don’t dream, just let the world to listen to your voice. It is so easy these days to upload your work on social platforms and let others appreciate your work. Nothing is more important than the people poll, and you can learn so much from it. The next step is of course, persistence and hard work, there is no shortcut to any success!”

As someone who believes in the universal qualities of music and the importance of creating cross-cultural connections, I think that Shila is a pioneer in an industry which is changing rapidly. She shows that no matter what race or religion you are, as long as you are passionate about what you love and have the heart to share it with the world, no matter where you are there will always be people willing to listen. And the fact that she is so well-received in Asia is testament to that fact.

Special thanks to Chinatown Cinema.

Keep updated on all things Shila Amzah on her official Facebook page