Why Malaysian Muslim singer Shila Amzah had to move to China

Why Malaysian Muslim singer Shila Amzah had to move to China
Spot on Hunan TV talent show 15 months ago propelled 25-year-old to stardom. Now she’s mastered Putonghua and is learning Cantonese with an eye to Hong Kong market

Jean Lin


Malaysian Muslim singer Shila Amzah talks to SCMP. Photo: Vicky Feng

Her signature look – the hijab, or Muslim head scarf – may draw instant recognition, but her voice, back story and hard work are what have won Malaysia-born singer Shila Amzah (known to her fans as Shila) millions of fans all over China.

After appearing on Hunan TV’s popular singing competition I Am a Singer last year in February, Shila became an overnight sensation. Later in the year, she was hired as a mentor on the TV programme Let’s Sing, Kids and today the Muslim singer has almost 2.5 million fans on Weibo, China’s micro-blogging platform.

Shila started singing at the age of 10 and has a celebrity father – N.D. Lala was one of Malaysia’s most popular singers. However, she wanted to be a singer in her own right rather than being known as “N.D. Lala’s daughter”.

So, in 2012, Shila went to China to develop her career.

Listen to Shila sing…

Being a Muslim already makes Shila, 25, stand out in a crowd. “To create curiosity is the best part,” she says.

But not knowing much Putonghua beyond ni hao (hello) and xiexie (thank you) was problematic at the start. Even during last year’s I Am a Singer, her skills were still minimal.

“After I sang my song and went into the room full of performers, I had no idea what they were talking about … I nodded when they called my name. When people laughed, I laughed too,” Shila recalls.

I have to work harder than I did in Malaysia … This brings out the best in me SHILA AMZAH
So she began taking lessons, and her hard work has paid off. From her rendition of The Night I Was Missing You, you’d have thought she was a native Putonghua speaker. She can now distinguish regional accents and is, reportedly, also learning Cantonese as she wants to break into the Hong Kong market, according to local entertainment reports.

Shila says relocating to China was the right decision for her. She has received more respect and encouragement from mainland audiences. But with that, she also feels the pressure.

“I have to work harder than I did in Malaysia – pushing myself to become a better person, a better singer, a better performer. This brings out the best in me,” she says.

Shila has also become a cultural ambassador. She sang for President Xi Jinping in October 2013, when he visited Malaysia. In December 2014, the Chinese government gave Shila an award for her “special contribution to building friendship between China and Malaysia”.

As a Muslim, she is aware that her religious beliefs and practices may be a sensitive issue in some parts of China. For example, in one city in Xinjiang, citizens with head scarves, veils and long beards are banned from public buses. Some view this as discrimination against Uygurs; the authorities think the ban strengthens security especially when major events are being held in cities.

Shila has a different view. “There are a lot of things in our religion that are really simple. It’s not the religion that makes it hard, but it is the people who make it hard.

“Religion is about trust, about believing in yourself. Whatever your religion, it’s really beautiful to have something to believe in. All religions teach us to be nice, to be kind and to have courage. Those are the values I want my fans to have.”

Now that she has established herself in the mainland, a triumphant return to Malaysia is on the cards.

“If someone becomes famous abroad, they will also become popular back in their own country … Don’t people think that way?” says Shila, looking forward to the day when she will no longer be just N.D. Lala’s daughter.

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 May, 2015, 6:24am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 May, 2015, 1:43pm

#ShilaAmzah   #IAmASinger   #NDLala

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Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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