Closer to herself

EVEN though singer/songwriter Julia Duclos grew up her whole life revolving around music, she never really planned a career in one.

Her first “gig”, according to the local talent was a Teacher’s Day performance that her mom helped choreographed when she was in Standard One.

She eventually began singing at skate parks for acoustic nights.

“[Big groups of friends] and I would gather at the skate park in USJ in Subang, and we’d just perform acoustics.

“I was always hanging out around musicians because my brother was in a band – all his friends were musicians– and then I made friends in the music scene.”

Two months after graduating two years ago, the 23-year-old psychology graduate was approached by Sony Music Malaysia, and in July this year, she released her debut single, Further.

How was it like working on your debut studio release?

It was so fun, honestly. It was my first time really doing something from myself … because I’ve lent my vocals to my friends, so I’ve done songs before in the studio.

It was so nice to finally sit in the studio and then at the end of everything, listen to it and be like that’s from me, that’s mine, you know, that is my baby.

My first baby.

The producer that I worked with, Charlie [Lim], he really guided me in a sense where I realised I was a bit of a perfectionist and so that was holding me back a bit.

He helped me get over that perfectionism.

Is that why you produced and recorded the track in Singapore?

I was looking for producers for a very long time because I found it difficult to find someone who could merge the two worlds of genres that I love, which is pop and indie – like indie electronic, R&B.

It’s really hard to find producers who can go 360, in terms of creating music, because a lot of them – who I know as well– sometimes are so used to doing what they [already] know.

My boss came up to me one day and [told me about] Charlie, and it was ironic because I had heard of him early in the year.

It was my first time listening to his music, and I was like wow, this guy is so good.

I was so proud that there was a South-east Asian representing us in that way.

When I got the opportunity to work with him, I just grabbed it, pretty much.

I didn’t waste any time.

Can you tell me what you surrounded the track on?

I was going through a few things in my life that were changing.

When I wrote the song it was about coming out of things stronger and not having this idea of constantly feeling sad and constantly feeling like nothing is going your way or that you need to be in love to be happy.

I wanted to send the message that women can be strong on our own without needing to depend on other people, so that was the backbone for the whole song.

Obviously, it came from a personal place but I didn’t want to leave that relationship with negativity because I just hate carrying negativity around with me, so the whole song was also about just learning about one another and taking the good from one another, and just leaving it at that.

There’s no need to hate each other just because it didn’t work out and I think our society could use a little maturity in that part of life.

As long as you grow as a person. I guess that’s what relationships are about at the end of the day, right, you want to grow and be a better person with your other half.

What are your thoughts on the local music scene as a young Malaysian musician?

I love it. I think out music scene is growing so much.

There’s more youth out there today who are coming out and supporting their local scene, which is great because we have a lot of great independent artists who deserve the attention I feel – like Pastel Lite, Bil Musa, Anamida, Enterprise.

These are all great indie acts that I think people should go out and watch whenever they can because their music is soulful and not meaningless.

I know some of them personally.

It’s not that I’m here to up my friends or anything, but if they’re good, they’re good.

I really want to create a community where everyone can just support each other, and not feel the need to be competitive with one another because yes, it’s a competition, we all know that, but at the end of the day, shouldn’t your competition be only with yourself if you want to grow and be better.

What do you think someone should do at least once in their lives?

Travel. Travel anywhere.

Travel anywhere outside of your country, not because it’s fancy, not because it’s Instagram-worthy but travel to open your mind and to realise that people live differently in different countries.

I love travelling, and the only reason why I love travelling is because to put yourself in an unfamiliar situation and to come back and gain something from that experience is one of the best feelings ever.

Trivia

First concert ever? “Oh my god, Pussycat Dolls!”

Current musical influence: Noname Gypsy and Kimbra.

Current favourite albums: Sweetener by Ariana Grande and Woman Worldwide by Justice.

Who would narrate your life’s story?: “Can Batman narrate my life? Batman would be awesome!”

A true underdog story

HOW DO you like throwing balls at someone as a mean of sports?

Think of it as a way to channel your frustration or anger and you might actually be really good at it after going through professional training.

Jokes aside, it’s not as simple as it seems.

Team captain Muhamad Heidy bin Mohd Yusoff and his men’s team under the Malaysia Dodgeball Federation has once again bagged the silver medal at the World Dodgeball Cup 2018 for the second time consecutively.

They have defeated 10-year champion holder, England but unfortunately came short in the finals against Austria.

The 28-year-old who is a team-building coach by day and a dodgeball player by night said: “I’ve always been a sports person since I was young. I immediately got hooked when I was first introduced to dodgeball back in college.”

Please share with us your journey to the Dodgeball World Cup.

Our very first participation in the Dodgeball World Cup was in 2016 in Manchester, England took our opponents by surprise.

We went as underdogs because nobody in the European countries had a clue about us, they didn’t expect us to do so well in which we came in second in that year.

Even though we lost to England who is a 10-year champion holder, still meant a lot to us and it just means we can do so much more.

Two years later, we are back playing in the Dodgeball World Cup 2018 in the grandest stage of all in Madison Square Garden, New York.

It was a really tough competition because everyone stepped up their game to earn the title of world champion.

In the quarter-final, we came head to head with the host country (USA), and us being in a country surrounded by their supporters cheering for them, it was challenging.

We thought we wouldn’t stand a chance against them, but somehow we just knew we had to in order to make it to the next round.

We managed to pull through and advanced to the semi-finals against the world champion (England).

At this stage, the odds were against us but once again we made a comeback by one point and defeated them.

The feeling was really special, we knew we weren’t doing it for ourselves but for the country we are representing.

Were there any challenges throughout the journey?

It has never been easy because each of us is not full-time athletes.

Like any other person, we have our day jobs and only at night we are free to train, sometimes even until midnight.

The same routine repeats itself every day for the past two years.

A lot of people came up to us and expressed how impressed they are, but what they see are only the results, they don’t see past the surface into what we put ourselves through in our daily lives; the challenges and the sacrifices we have to make.

To train for two whole years just for that one short moment, it’s still worth it.

It’s an experience I would never trade for anything.

How often do you train?

We train six times a week including personal and team training.

Myself as one of the co-founders of Malaysia Dodgeball Federation are really serious about what we do, hence we tend to go all out when it comes to training.

We managed to score a partnership with Angkatan Tentera Malaysia in 2016 and after that with Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia to train with them.

Needless to say, it was an eye-opener for all of us to have the chance to train together, there is no one else in records that have done that.

How is the relationship like between each team players?

Even in corporate jobs, chances are we see our own colleagues way more than our families.

Its the same for us dodgeball players, we spent so much time together that we see each other as family.

And like all family, there will always be arguments but that aside, we truly are like a family.

You can have a fight with a friend and call off the friendship, but you can’t do that with family.

How supportive are your parents?

As you may know, the typical Asian parents’ mindset goes along the lines of study well and then get a job that is worthwhile, so it was really hard for my parents.

At one point, it took a toll on my personal business and possibly my health because I’m not only a trainer, a coach, a dodgeball player but I’m also the co-founder of Malaysia Dodgeball Federation so there is a lot of administrative work which needs to be done.

I do understand my parents’ worries, they are the one that pushes me and got me better, they are my driving force behind my success and I’m ever so grateful for them.

Strong body, stronger mind

FITNESS has always been an important element in Faeznur ‘Benny’ Farok’s adult life, but when she fell in love with martial arts in 2014, it turned into a way of life.

She has since picked up five different forms of the practice — boxing, Judo, Kali, Brazilian Jujitsu, and Muay Thai — and co-founded SheFights, a programme that aims to empower women to be all-around stronger through self-defence.

And the 27-year-old does not rest. Benny trains seven days a week, and even though she considers Sunday her ‘rest day,’ it appears fitness really is in her blood.

She said: “I do light training — active rest — swimming, hiking or rock climbing.”

On top of that, Benny is currently pursuing her masters in business administration at UKM, Bangi with the hopes of growing SheFights and in the fitness industry.

She’s also changing women’s perception of fitness and martial arts, one woman at a time, through her job as a resident trainer at HammerFist Fight Club, Cyberjaya.

While she has competed in four Brazilian Jujitsu competitions to date, Benny only competitively debuted in the art that started it all— Muay Thai — at a semi-pro fight in September, where she won gold.

How long were you practicing martial arts before joining your first Muay Thai competition?

“I started my fitness journey back in 2012, and ever since 2014 I fell in love with martial arts.

“The first martial arts that I picked up was Muay Thai. I love it because it’s high impact and really good for weight loss. I wanted to compete but my parents didn’t allow me to.

“This time I said please, I’ve been training for so long, then they said okay, you can go. So [it took] four years.

“From my parents perspective, Muay Thai involves punching, and you punch straight to the face. Brazilian Jujitsu doesn’t involve punching at all, just grappling. My mom used to do Judo, so she knows.”

What drew you to Muay Thai?

“I think Muay Thai is one of [those] great exercises [and] sports that combines all body parts [including] the upper and lower body.

“Muay Thai is an art of Eight Limbs. It uses the elbow, punches [with your fists], knees, and [legs for] kicking.

“You get to express yourself. You get to release stress with Muay Thai. You get to build your confidence with punching and kicking [because] it drives you to be more focused.

“The coordination, especially, because we women [tend to have] poorer coordination, so Muay Thai is one of the [better] sports to actually practice our coordination and our focus.”

What is the story behind SheFights?

“SheFights is a ‘women empowering program’. We specialise in self-defence for ladies and children. We believe that self-defence is a state of mind and not just about the physical aspect.

“I mean, before you engage with the predator, before you engage with the potential danger, you have to know how to avoid it. We teach pre, during, and post harassment, meaning the action.

“Pre-action, for example, you have to have four things in mind. First, awareness; second [is] focus; the third is alertness, and last one is avoidance.

“The first thing that we teach in SheFights is avoidance. Always avoid possibilities that will lead you to danger. We teach martial arts as a form of self-defence against harassment.

“We include Kali, a form of self-defence art from the Philippines. It uses sticks and knives, and we incorporate that in SheFights like … how to defend yourself with a pen.

“So Kali, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jujitsu. That last one is also great for self-defence because Brazilian Jujitsu uses ‘little’ moves … little force with maximum impact, so there’s efficiency.”

How does martial arts empower women?

“I like to encourage women to take care of themselves. I mean, these days we always hear about women getting beaten [among] other dangerous situations. I personally wanted to help and bring awareness [through] self-defence and self-protection.

“For me, number one, martial arts empowers women [through] emotional intelligence, in the sense of being strong. Not [only] physically strong but it’s emotionally and mentally strong too.”

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about martial arts that you address through SheFights?

“Women tend to think that martial arts is too rough. They would say like ‘tak nak lah, ganas sangat’ (no, it’s too violent).

“[And] then I will explain how it helps in your physical fitness, in your mental alertness.

“But we are starting to get more people encouraged, especially women with kids.”

Like any fitness routine, consistent training in martial arts is necessary to grasp the skill. How do you encourage your students to train consistently?

“I currently have 40 students — the ones who are active. I monitor their weight and their inch loss every [two weeks]. They’re motivated by the results.

“I also [communicate] with them. I send all my clients daily motivation, simple messages like ‘don’t quit’. I always tell my girls, don’t quit. You have to be proud of yourself, that you can do this.”

»Trivia

Motto in life?

“If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

Your favourite post-workout meal?

“Oats, banana, and nuts. I use cold water or milk. It tastes like ice-cream!”

Current favourite read?

“Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. With this one, I can understand my clients when they react negatively to workouts or their fitness journey.”

Culinary intuition

FOR most people, the passion for food ends at consumption or after a photo is posted online. However, for 27-year-old Tatiana Abraham, it was this love of food that led her to a career in culinary.

A graduate from the first batch of students from Berjaya School of Culinary Arts, Tatiana has honed her skills professionally over the years while winning many awards along the way.

To Tatiana, food and cooking are personal to each individual, and it is this attitude that has led her not only to appreciate cooking more but drove her in both her passion and her career.

How did the journey into the world of culinary begin for you?

I have always been a poor eater as a kid. However, it was in high school that I began to be adventurous with food. After tuition, I used to go out with my friends to try different foods in Jalan Petaling.

When I got Astro in my house, that’s when I began to see being a chef as a career option. The media always glamorise how it is to be a chef, and it made me think that it would be cool to be a chef.

I actually had two options when to further my education. Either take English Literature or Cooking. I had my heart on cooking. It was always my first choice. However, at the time, cooking was not in high demand.

Two colleges offered the course, Taylors and KDU. Fortunately, in the same year, Berjaya School of Culinary Arts was opened. The timing was perfect, and it helped that it was located near where I live.

Is there a style of cooking that you like?

I have tried many styles of cooking like Italian, Japanese, French, Indian, Malay, and Chinese. I am up to trying any style of cooking. But these days I like to cook Asian foods, especially Indian foods. I usually cook Indian food for my staff meals.

Most food is very subjective. My dad would cook it differently, I will cook it differently. It could be the same ingredient, but somehow it would be your own.

When it comes to cooking, I do not follow recipes. I like to know what is in a dish, and approximately how much ingredient is in it, but I always make it taste better. I don’t strictly follow ‘instructions’ given by recipes.

What is the best way for someone to learn how to cook?

For me, it is easier if you have someone to teach you. They will be able to tell you what you are doing right and what you are not doing right. That’s why I felt college was an essential part of my culinary journey.

My dad teaches me how to cook as well. However, I find it easier to learn from a stranger than to learn it from someone you know because you bicker and you do not feel pressured to impress, and in turn, I think that I learn more.

My dad does criticise my cooking once in a while, but that is just to tease me.

What is your occupation exactly?

I am a sous chef here at Kenny Hills Baker, Waterfront. That basically means I am second in command. While the head chef handles the management side of things, I get hands-on with the work.

I am very hands-on in the kitchen. It is essential to learn the management side of things as well, but I became a chef because I like to cook. I will always want to be in the kitchen.

I heard that you have a passion project going on.

My passion project is called Hunger Management. It is a platform for me to do something different apart from my everyday work. I take pictures of food I write about it, and I do cooking demos.

Cooking demonstrations are what I do the most right now. I am collaborating with another company, and together we teach others how to cook nutritional foods.

We work with clients to hold interactive cooking events where people can participate and cook along healthy foods.

Nutritional cooking is challenging. You cannot just throw in ingredients that you like. We need to know what is the benefit of each component in a dish. It is also a learning experience for me. We do learn nutrition in college, but, it is fundamental. Here it is specialised for example, what would good for a diabetic?

What do you think of food trends in Malaysia?

We have many trends that come and go throughout the years. We had a burger phase, a fried chicken phase, and a Korean barbeque phase. We have a salted egg phase right now. The salted egg has been here for so long, but, why is it gaining popularity now? It’s because of social media.

There are pros and cons when it comes to social media. It certainly can boost your profitability. But at the same time, people have a say in every single thing you do.

When you go to a restaurant, this is how we do our dish. But, they come and comment, there’s not enough salt, this is how you should do it, and when they post it up, everyone has an opinion on your food that you want to serve.

They don’t get that you choose to dine at our place. This is how we do it. You either respect how we do it, or you don’t come again. But no, they post it up they demand to be heard and to be acknowledged. It is difficult for us as it kills our creativity.

Making everything count

A WONDERFUL mix of intense civic consciousness, love for storytelling, and clever entrepreneurship is what led Fadzlie Musthafa to set up his two companies, Telltale Studios and Twentytwo Hub.

The former is a full-fledged production house, and the latter a creative branding agency he co-founded with friend and business partner, Luqmal Hadi.

Always championing for the underdog and the overlooked, the 28-year-old filmmaker has managed to combine his skills for telling meaningful stories with a business that keeps his creative wheels spinning.

Considering your background in filmmaking, what made you want to run a startup like Twentytwo Hub?

“[It’s] every film student’s dream, you know, to graduate and have their own production house, but it’s not as easy as that.

“You always start from the bottom, you know, [as] project assistant, crew, and then you build up a career.

“That is one career I’m really interested to have a future in, but also … I always have this kind of thing [where] I want to give back.

“By having Twentytwo Hub, I can share the knowledge, not just [in terms of] videography but also marketing, advertising, branding [with] small business owners.

“The kind of people that don’t have the budget, or cannot really afford bigger agencies.

“I want to give the platform to them, [and] filmmaking kinda pioneered it, like oh, I can help tell good stories [that] inspire people.

“‘Hub’ means everything. So I can do video content. I can do marketing.

“I can do branding. Then there’s business process improvement, which is to analyse an existing business, their problems, and how they can grow out of it.”

Small scale businesses are your target audience. Why?

“Of course the bigger [businesses] like GLCs, MNCs, are our target as well, but we focus more on [smaller businesses] … in Malay there’s [a saying], ‘whatever I have is not mine’.

The knowledge, the skill is not mine. It’s only being lent to me.

“Entrepreneurship is very lonely (laughs).

“This I can tell you, it’s very lonely and it’s a struggle, because I don’t have a BBA or an MBA.

“I have no [formal] business background at all. I’m a film student.

“From that, I grew to have my own company. And I want to help people build companies.

“It’s knowledge that I’ve learnt through, of course, from reading, and from courses.

“Big companies already have money to spend, so it’s just a day-to-day kind of operation for them, but for small businesses, they’re struggling, just like how I struggled before.

“You need money to sustain [your business] that is true, but it’s a different kind of satisfaction [than] what I get from it.

“You’ll need money to sustain. You need all these big clients as well, but it’s the same mindset I have when I create my stories.

“I like to make stories that inspire people, you know, move people to do something.

“Stories that have a deeper meaning that can connect with the audience. That is my favourite kind of content.”

How do you combine your passion for telling stories, and running a creative branding agency?

“In every decision that I make, it’s always based on creative decisions.

“So [with] Telltale, it’s more on creating content, videos, story boarding, all those things.

“But [with] Twentytwo Hub, it’s more [like] how do you elevate this business.

“You have to think creatively. Okay, [the client] has this huge stockpile, how do I sell it?

“So you’re still creatively thinking of doing that.

“It’s the same method, different application.

“Sometimes I need to come up with a campaign, which relates back to Telltale.”

What’s most instrumental for a young entrepreneur to turn an idea into a business?

“I think perseverance and passion. If you don’t like what you are doing, you will not follow through. I cannot [count] how many times I wanted to quit doing what I want to do.

“A lot of people don’t really want to go big right away. The way I started it … boom, I got a premise –[rent] is very expensive – then I got staff. So I skipped a few phases.

“You have to put [on] a few different hats so you have to be multitasking.

“There was a point whereby, it was so hard to survive, because to [sustain] this kind of business, you need income [but] it’s not just about the money, it’s about the hard labour, the time …

“It’s our decision whether we want to do it or not.”

TRIVIA

A film that changed your outlook on life? The Road Home by Zhang Yimou.

Favourite director? Wes Anderson.

Favourite book that should be made into a movie? “I don’t have a book actually but I have an event which is, our latest general election. It reminds us what the true power of unity can really achieve.”

Weaving their magic

IF YOU think running around with a broom between your legs is funny, try doing it while swerving past your opponents, handling tackles and attempting to score a goal at the same time.

Those are the challenges of playing quidditch, the fictional sport from the Harry Potter series that was adapted for the real (or ‘muggle’) world by US college students in 2005.

While the idea of playing quidditch in the real world may seem comical, players are deadly serious about the sport. And none are more serious than team Quidditch Malaysia.

Founded by Andrew Kasimir and Charmaine Goh in 2013, the
team is among the first quidditch teams to be established in Asia.

This year, the team made its debut at the Quidditch World Cup, and placed 18th out of 29 teams from around the world.

The team has roughly 20 members, a coach in the form of Muhammad Hakim Syed Munif, and team captain Farhana Farhan Menon.

How is quidditch played in the muggle world?
Hakim (H): “The game is played with six players on the field and involves positions called the Keeper, Beater, Chaser, and Seeker.

“Players in these positions wear different coloured headbands, like the Keeper wears green, Beater wears black, and Chaser wears white.”

Farhana (F): “The Beater is basically the defence, and each team has two Beaters with three bludgers (dodgeballs) on the pitch.

“The Chaser’s main objective is to > Local quidditch players are determined to turn the fictional game from Harry Potter into a serious sport score with the quaffle (volleyball) and to defend if the other player is on offense.

The Seeker ends the game by catching the snitch, while the Keeper saves the goals.

The game ends when the snitch is caught and the team with the highest points wins.”

Goh (G): “The snitch in the muggle world is a person dressed in yellow who has a tennis ball in a sock secured to his back which players have to pull off.

It is released at the same time in every game which is at the 17th minute, and the Seeker goes out on the 18th minute.

“On average, a game lasts between 20 and 30 minutes. At the World Cup, the average time was between 45 minutes to an hour.”

Andrew (A): “The person who is the snitch is not allowed to touch the tennis ball, but he or she is allowed to tackle you to the ground or pull the broom from under you. \

Basically whatever it takes [to stop] players [from catching] the snitch.”

How do you plan to promote this sport?

F: “Some are afraid to join because they don’t want to be branded as a nerd, or weird.

If we can show that it’s not a kid’s sport but a competitive one, we will be able to bring it up.

When you see how athletic, agile, competitive, and smart quidditch players can be, they might be more aware.”

G: “Our plan is to get acknowledgement from the government.

The last time we spoke to them, they weren’t too supportive as it is not well-known and not a part of the Olympics.

“Now we are trying to get an audience with Youth and Sports minister Syed Saddiq to get us recognised.”

H: “To be fair, we didn’t have any World Cup or tournament experience then, but with that added bonus now, we hope we can go further.”

What’s next?

A: “Next year, there will be a friendly in Vietnam in January, and the Asian Quidditch Cup (AQC) in July.

The AQC will be held either in Hong Kong or South Korea, and we are aiming to bring back the gold.”

F: “We are also going to have more fantasy tournaments so we can show what quidditch is all about and there’s the next Quidditch World Cup in 2020.

G: “What I really hope is for the team to play more like a unit instead of against each other.

“You don’t improve much from opposing each other. We want to play as a unit so we can improve from there.”

H: “For that reason, we want to encourage other people to start their own teams so we can help each other improve to form a better Malaysia team for the international stage.”

TRIVIA
Injuries that players risk: Dislocated shoulders and ankles, broken fingers, fractures and scratches.
Positions: Hakim – Keeper; Andrew and Charmaine – Beater; Farhana – Beater, Chaser or Seeker.
Which house do they identify most with: Andrew – Slytherin; Farhana – Gryffindor; Charmaine – Ravenclaw; Hakim – Hufflepuff.

Doing it her way

MUSIC is her life. That is best way to sum up Kirstie Maximus. The 28-year-old lass from Petaling Jaya is a singer, a rapper and a songwriter.

So far, she has produced three solo singles. Five years ago, she began deejaying and has since become one of the city’s most sought after deejays.

When did your passion for music start?

“I’ve been exposed to music since I was in my mother’s belly. My mother put headphones on her stomach and let me listen to music. The moment I could speak, I began singing.

“When I learnt to write, I wrote words that could rhyme. My first words were ‘Michael Jackson’. He is my biggest inspiration in the music industry.”

Did your parents object to your dreams to be in the Malaysian music industry?

“My father worked for a logistic company while my mother was a [special needs] teacher, teaching dyslexia and autistic children. They are the typical Asian parents who want me to be a lawyer, a doctor and an engineer. But they were never against my musical ambition.

“They did say [the] Malaysian music industry can be challenging. I do not blame them for saying that. They were just stating the truth. They wanted me to have some paper qualifications to fall back on in case my music ambitions did not take off. So I took a diploma in sound and music to please them.”

What has been your biggest challenge in the music industry?

“I am one of the few female rappers in Malaysia. As a female rapper, some people expect you to dress in a certain way and I do not believe music has a dress image. I do not listen to their suggestion. I stand on my own ground.

What advice would you give to youngsters who want to make music their career?

“Never sell yourself short. When you know what is your worth, set your price and stick with it. I wished somebody had told me [this] when I started my career.

“I had to learn to swim the hard way, otherwise I would have sunk. You must never stop learning. I took short radio production course in London, four years ago. I stayed in London for six months. I checked out the London’s music and night scenes to enhance my knowledge on music. “

What are your future plans?

“It is the dream of every singer to take their music internationally and I am no different.

“[But] I won’t put a time frame on [my] dream. I always believe in living one day at a time.”

What motivated you to become a deejay?

“People have this misconception that being deejay is all about putting your finger on a play button. But there is a lot of art involved in deejaying.

“You have to get the audience immersed in [an] atmosphere where they will enjoy themselves. You have to make good song choices and you can only do that when you understand the history of the music. You also need to be passionate about the music and passion is something you cannot teach. What I like about my job [is that] I have freedom of expression. But you have to be ready, there will always be people who [may not] like what you spin.”

What is the best compliment you have received about your job?

“Someone had said to me: ‘You are the centre of a party. Without you, no party can happen’. But I have not always been successful.

“I have learned my lesson well. I should not mixed genres. I should stick to one genre. Success can only come from failure.”

What is something you hate as a deejay?

“I hate requests. I think all deejay hate requests. We comply requests because we want to make the people happy. Deejay have planned their routine before the night began and some requests can mess up their plans.”

What is your strength and your weakness?

“My strength is that I am a perfectionist. I always over-think. That is also my weakness. When you over-think, it can be stressful and that is not good for your health.”

What do you do when you are not playing music?

“I play futsal and go the gym. I do a lot of cardio and some weight training.”

Asian invasion

LITTLE did Cheryl Koh know what the future had in store for her after leaving Malaysia for the US to complete her tertiary education in Los Angeles, a journey which would land her in the Hollywood ‘hall of fame’.

One day, the 22-year-old singer and songwriter from Shah Alam heard about a worldwide casting call put out by Warner Bros. and director Jon M. Chu for a chance to act in the movie Crazy Rich Asians.

Koh, better known as Cheryl K, had nothing to lose. She did not think the organisers would notice her among the thousands of audition tapes from all over the world, yet she tried her luck anyway.

She read out the lines of a sample script provided to all respective hopefuls, and performed Mamma Knows Best by Jessie J at the end of her audition tape. That performance made an impression, and the rest is history.

Koh was eventually given the opportunity to sing the track Money (That’s What I Want) for the opening and ending credit scenes, in both English and Mandarin verses.

She recalled: “When you hear your own voice on the big screen and see your name appear twice when the credits roll… that’s when you know you’re crazy dreaming!”

What was the most memorable experience during the entire process?

“I think it was when I first got the call from Warner Bros. telling me that I booked the job. I will never forget my very first words in response to that was: “Are you going to make me cry?”

“I was jumping and screaming all over my room followed by multiple spam calls to my mom who was probably still sleeping at the time because of the time difference between Los Angeles and Malaysia.”

Did you feel a particular connection with the song Money?

“I was familiar with this classic Motown Money song before and knowing that it’s been popularly covered by The Beatles and Bruno Mars, I am so thankful to be able to put my own spin on it for the world to hear, even with the inclusion of some Mandarin lyrics.

I am ethnically Chinese and I feel represented by not just the movie but the soundtrack of this film. When I first heard that this was the song Warner Bros. wanted me to sing, I knew it was a perfect fit for me because I loved it and thought it completely suited my vocal capabilities.

Why do you think ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ resonates so deeply within the Asian community and possibly even beyond its audiences?

“It’s the first movie to feature an all Asian cast in 25-years since Joy Luck Club. This makes Hollywood movies refreshing and opens a lot more doors for Asians to be in the spotlight – no longer be stereotyped or type-casted.

“It’s also the most successful rom-com movie in 9 years, topping the U.S. Box Office for at least three weeks straight now at No. 1.

“I strongly believe that this movie does not just resonate with Asians feeling represented but beyond that. This story is about love, sacrifice, and the challenge that comes with family, something a lot of people can relate to and identify with, regardless of whether we share the same skin colour or not.”

Do you think it’s hard to get recognized when the music industry at large is rather saturated right now?

“Yes, getting recognized is definitely challenging because there are so many talented people all over the world working incredibly hard to improve their craft and be noticed.

“While there is also an increasing opportunity in today’s digital media age to showcase one’s talent, there are videos and songs being uploaded every second.

“However, I always believe that with the right determination and humbleness, any artist is on their own journey to success. Someone once told me: ‘It doesn’t just take talent to make it in this industry, you must also be at the right place, with the right person, at the right time’.

“I believe we’ve got our own timing and if it’s meant for us, it will come.”

What’s the next best thing you could be doing besides making music?

“I want to be an entrepreneur. This is also why I majored in business with an emphasis in entrepreneurship. I want to provide solutions to a problem, possibly related to the music or entertainment industry since my passion will always be somewhat tied into that.

“My end goal is to do something that can inspire and help others – to make a difference in the world.”