Mohammad Shahfiq was instantly mobbed by his fellow competitors when the cameras stopped rolling, but as this shot was being taken, I could hear him tell them in Malay, “Hold on for awhile, I would like to meet my parents first…” Just look at where his eyes were looking at and you will realise the humility, gratitude and class that he possess. The judges truly crowned a deserving winner…
As the title above suggests, I am not doing any reviews at all for this particular entry, as I still have 4000-odd photographs that I still need to edit from last Tuesday‘s penultimate episode. In case anyone is waiting for me to speak about the final results or summarise the competition as a whole, well you just have to wait a wee bit longer as the fourteenth instalment of Pesta Perdana, happening this coming Friday, takes precedence. This entry is more of a filler to bridge the empty void between last week’s Grand Finals and Pesta Perdana. Here are some miscellaneous photos from the night whereby Mohammad Shahfiq became the latest winner of the Anugerah competition. These shots were taken pre-show, during the commercial breaks, post-show as well as the dinner reception afterwards. Enjoy!!!
Hosts Suzairhe Sumari and Huda Ali explaining what was to be expected at the start of the show…
Gosh I am pressed for time to complete this entry. This past week has been so busy, I only managed to complete editing photographs I snapped of last week’s episode of Anugerah 2017 at the stroke of midnight. Since I am on a bit of a rush, I’ll just keep this entry short and sweet and do away with the usual individual analysis of the contestants’ respective performances. As we all know, last week’s special Wildcard Round episode saw the return of five earlier eliminated contestants for a chance at redemption and entering the competition back again proper for the semi-final round (or is it rounds???), which will begin later tonight. Last week’s episode was also the first and probably only time in this year’s competition that the judges had full autonomy over the contestants’ progress with voting by viewers suspended till the semi-finals begin.
Nadia Nadhirah justified her top spot position that night with Dayang Nurfaizah‘s “Langit Cinta“…
We were told at the start of the show that only two contestants would advance to the next round and the songs that they performed were those that they had sung earlier during their audition rounds, so it was more like a repeat performance but with a wider audience this time round. Somehow I had my doubts before the show that only two would advance, just like how they had announced the number of contestants entering the Wildcard Round (four initially, which eventually became five) the week before last. To cut the story short, by the end of the show and after some apparent acting by our esteemed resident judges, the night ended with three contestants progressing to the next round. I personally felt the acting was deliberated just to keep the suspense going and probably to kill some time as the show was under-runned. I was chuckling to myself seeing them trying to keep a straight face amidst the audience cajoling them on to make a prompt decision.
Sharizal Suwandi‘sperformance was not enough to keep him in the competition…
So were the eventual results justified??? I would think so, though I personally felt it was slightly harsh on Sharizal Suwandi. He actually gave a good account of himself that night singing Merah‘s “Cintaku“. This song is quite a hot favourite with Anugerah contestants over the years. In fact since 2007, this song has been sung at every Anugerah competition. I remember Kassreeal Alfi (2007), Kamsani Jumahat / Sunny Jackson (2009) and Syazani Rahim (2011) singing this popular song during their competition years. If I were to make a comparison of Sharizal‘s performance with the others before him over the past decade, I would rank his just behind Syazani‘s. I do not quite agree that this song is not a competition song as pointed out by Najip Ali, because this song was supposed to bring out the zest and energy of the contestant, which is still sorely lacking in some of the performances by the others I’ve seen this year. Credit to Sharizal for at least wanting to enjoy himself onstage and putting some moves as he grooved along to the music.
I noted a slight improvement by Abby Nabila but sadly, it was not enough for her…
As for Abby Nabila‘s elimination, it was more or less expected given we have seen the same mistakes being repeated on an almost weekly basis. I have to give her credit for her performance this past week though, in that her usual errors which I had pointed out in previous weeks were minimised to some extent, even if it was not enough to keep her on the show, with others doing much better. I was a bit disappointed that Abby did not build on the momentum of her first week’s performance. Back then she showed that she was a very strong contender for at least a semi-final spot. Somehow the performances in the weeks that ensued just went off the rails. Like I pointed out before, there was only a certain limit of goodwill dished out by the judges. I remember 2011‘s eventual winner Rahayu Ridwan singing the same song, Adira‘s “Aku Ada Kamu“, also in the Wildcard Round back then. Unlike Rahayu, Abby did not get the same rub of green to progress to the next round.
The judges killed some time over making their final decisions by putting up a suspense show for the viewers and audience…
As for the three who advanced to the next round, Nadia Nadhirah, Azhar Aziz and Nor Shafiq Ridzwan, you would have expected any two of them to progress had the initial schematics of the competition been applied. But Taufik Batisah let slipped the most crucial comment that Azhar was needed in the competition. That was where I knew there and then that eventually three would progress. Forget the fact that the judges made a last minute decision to switch Azhar and Nor Shafiq‘s eventual positions. That was merely for show. The fact was the initial final standings that night before that last switch was already justified based on each of their respective performances. My complaint for the two young gentlemen would be fear and nervousness creeping into their minds and selves and translated henceforth into their performances as witnessed last Tuesday. They only have the semi-finals and Grand Finals to give their all. They need to come out of their shells or risked being outperformed by the other five competitors in this crucial semi-final stage.
The semi-finalists (from left): Syakirah Noble, Nadia Nadhirah, Liwani Izzati, Elza Rahim, Mohammad Shahfiq, Azhar Aziz and Nor Shafiq Ridzwan…
I am not sure if the semi-finals will be split into two episodes or just one with next week being a rest week for the finalists to prepare properly for the Grand Finals. If it is a two-legged semi-final round, tomorrow and next week will either see two eliminations or they will forgo elimination for this week and do a mass culling the next. Speaking of the Grand Finals, till today, I have not been told if it will be graced by three or four contestants. I guess like the Wildcard Round, it all depends on the judges’ to make a decision on the night itself. Tonight sees the contestants performing with a live band for the first time in the competition. I understand there is a difference in feel between performing with an accompanying band and singing with a minus one track, so hopefully the contestants will up their game tonight. You know the drill, the show’s going live on Mediacorp Suria at 8:30pm from Studio One at the new Mediacorp Campus…
Where should I begin with this entry??? A lot has been said and observed on social media the past few days with regards to this past week’s Anugerah 2017 episode featuring the Group A contestants. I had wanted to post this a day or two after the episode was aired, but it felt like it was going to be a knee-jerk reaction to all the negative comments I saw in the aftermath of Hakim Halim and Azhar Aziz‘s respective eliminations from the competition. From Twitter to Facebook, you could see the uproar and vile words being thrown towards Mediacorp Suria for letting them be ousted over other more deserving contestants. Before I continue further, let’s just recap the performances of each contestant and how they fared on the night where the theme was of the Rock genre.
The night began with Azhar Aziz performing Akim & The Majistrate‘s “Mewangi“. From watching some of his past performances on social media, I noted that Rock is not one of Azhar‘s forte and it showed in this performance. This fact was also brought up by music arranger and mentor Syawal Kassim in the preceding video clip before his performance and echoed by judge Indra Shahrir afterwards. His low notes were a bit suspect and his voice came close to cracking after he had screamed his lungs out at the point where he was supposed to hit the highest part of the song. However, where he lacked in feel and emotions, he made up for it in determination and gumption. He was initially placed at number two, but I would have preferred to put him at number three. No doubt he has the package – the looks, height, voice and quite the well-mannered boy, but the genre didn’t do justice to his strengths. Still it was an admirable performance and he answered the challenge as best he could.
I found the way Mohammad Shahfiq entered the stage area and strutting slowly like that of an old man a bit queer for a young guy. Not sure if it was him getting into the mood of the song or just following the opening beats. When he sang Lovehunters‘ “Sambutlah Kasih“, I observed there were two phases to his performance, the first part where he went really low with his notes and was almost slightly off key before redeeming himself for the chorus and end. If I were to compare his performance and his earlier one in the first episode where he looked unsure and all at sea, this was a markedly improved and definitely more confident display from him. I would not have hesitated to put him at number two at that point of time as he showed more verve than Azhar.
The first episode’s champion, Liwani Izzati, was up next singing her own rendition of Search‘s haunting hit, “Fantasia Bulan Madu“. The day before her performance, I tuned in to their interview on RIA 89.7FM where she revealed that her version of the song was different than the one we have been used to listen to. I must say it was a risk worth taking, even though the traditionalists on social media have cried foul. Her take on the song that night if my interpretation is right, was an opera rock version, arranged by herself and her undisclosed personal vocal coach. I thought it was a breath of fresh air from the melancholic versions I’ve heard before this from other singers. Liwani though she made one glaring mistake when her voice cracked, should be applauded for willing to plunge into uncharted waters. This astute move in trying to be different sets her apart from her fellow group competitors. Though I would have ranked her second behind Shahfiq, I think overall her confidence and assured performance, complete with theatrics and drama, won the judges over, who eventually placed her at top spot once again.
Before the show I had high hopes that Hakim Halim would at least get one of the top two or three spots in the night’s competition. Listening to his radio interview the night before, he did say he was going to sing his killer song, May‘s “Cintamu Mekar Di Hati“, which has brought him a lot of luck in other external singing competitions prior. The judges felt that his performance was an overconfident one which I felt was slightly harsh on him, as his demeanour and body language did not show that he was. However, I felt his overall output was a complacent one, in that he knew he was in his comfort zone and when he tried perhaps to do something out of the ordinary whilst hitting his high notes, he could have overstrained his vocal chords, resulting in him squeaking twice. As the competition dwindles down, small technical issues like that could scupper their chances and it was to be detrimental for him when the night ended.
Shalyza Rosly was up next, singing SLAM‘s “Tak Mungkin Berpaling“, which is one of my all-time favourite songs. If I have to sound critical with her rendition of the song, her start and end were imbalanced and her notes were pitchy. Plus she needs to get out of her singing style which is reminiscent to Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza. I will not add on my take on this as I had already brought it up when I commented on Elza Rahim in the previous entry. There were not many faults to her performance, however there were also not many positives I could derive as she was, in the words of the judges, still in her comfort zone. Shalyza needs to push herself further and sing songs which could challenge her vocal range. Her fellow competitors, not only in Group A, but Group B as well, are more adventurous and willing to take risks. I’ve also seen her perform outside with so much confidence but I have yet to see that level of confidence in this competition. She would do well to learn from her previous foray in the competition and do things slightly differently from now on and build on it.
Shafie Syed was the last to appear onstage, and he performed Sweet Charity‘s evergreen hit “Kamelia“. The one with the strongest band of supporters should have staged a performance that reflected the support given to him. His was a performance which was bland and quite a letdown even though his voice did not crack nor squeaked like Liwani and Hakim. Watching him perform that night was like watching David Arumugam (Alleycats) sing, which prompted some netizens to comment on his articulation. A song of this stature needed someone to understand the meaning and emotions associated with the song. Shafie failed in that respect to capture the essence of the song and was initially placed last, which personally I felt was a justified ranking for him. Even he admitted post-show that his singing was a disappointment that night.
Hakim Halim hugged Shafie Syed upon learning of his elimination…
We now come to the final results of the night. In what was quite a shocking move by the judges, Hakimwho was at fifth place was asked to switch with Shafie who we knew was initially placed last, signalling the end of his journey in this competition. But the one that created an even bigger uproar with the netizens on social media was the ousting of Azhar Aziz who got the least number of votes, even though he was ranked second by the judges. I did say last week, in a reality competition like this where audience votes matter, no one is considered safe, except the one who is ranked first and enjoys immunity. The uproar has been going on for days now, questioning the legitimacy of the judges and their decisions, blaming the television station for in-house politics and basically saying the competition is a farce in every aspect.
Azhar Aziz gave his respects to the audience when he exited the stage and competition…
Somehow, this is like a bad record that goes on and on whenever such competitions take place. The voting mechanics are not new. It has been there since Anugerah 2005, down to Anugerah Skrin, Anugerah Band, Anugerah V, heck even the three seasons of Singapore Idol and two seasons of The Final One. Twelve bloody years!!! And still people have not learned their lessons and keep blaming the television station for what they perceived as trying to milk as much money from the voters. From my conversation with trusted sources working behind the scenes, the ones that stand to benefit are the telecommunications company who administer the voting system. You know damn well the name of the game is to vote for those whom you feel deserved to go through, why didn’t you exercise your God-damn right to do so??? If there are fingers to point at, it is the blind and deaf voters themselves who deserved every bit of flak for being irresponsible, just because their favourites are good looking or they have some relations or ties with them.
To blame the television station is rich, to undermine the three judges is another serious allegation altogether as seen by some of the vile comments, some going as far as to say they had been bribed. I thought I will say this in much later entries but I guess my hands are forced on this one. I will go as far as to say the three judges this year are the best the competition has had in years. No matter how much Indra Shahrir sounds like a wet blanket and dampener to some, or Taufik is probably there as a token presence and tends to latch on to the other judges’ comments, all of them actually have valid reasons to have given their thoughts as truthfully as they could. Don’t get me started how I am a big fan of Najip Ali and his excellent command of the Malay language. All of us should take positives and learn from their perspectives, rather than comment and rant unnecessarily. There are substantial and valid reasons why these three are up there in the local music industry and icons in the community, whereas armchair critics out there are not. The decision to oust Hakim Halim was there for all to hear, he made two glaring technical mistakes as opposed to ShafieSyed, who was bland. Between blandness and technical errors, I guess the latter proved the deciding factor. As for Liwani‘s error compared to Azhar or Shahfiq, her overall performance and bravery in risk-taking won the judges over. Deal with it!!!
Hosts Suzairhe Sumari and Huda Ali…
Too many allegations going round these past few days online, most of them unsubstantiated and just empty rants for the sake of ranting. Most of those who ranted I doubt cast their votes and just followed the crowd in venting their frustrations. These are the same people who keep on blaming Mediacorp Suria for what they perceive as airing boring programmes / content, but still continue watching because their lives are equally empty. Or those who do not watch, yet still have the cheek to pass off comments as though they have stakes and shares in the station. In times like these, the dirty and irrational sides of the community rear its ugly head. I question sometimes the rationale and sanity of these people. Some even claimed they heard from so-and-so in the industry about the ongoing politics behind-the-scenes. Hearsays and rumours are all fine and dandy when it’s one-sided and what your ears would like to hear. Why don’t you start by asking the right questions with the people who actually work inside, rather than those on the periphery and then jump to conclusions???
There are even those who questioned the presence of the two mentors or buddies to the contestants (Hyrul Anuar and Syawal Kassim), and how they are not helping them much behind-the-scenes. Excuse me, did you actually sit with them in their sessions to know what basically went on to comment like that??? All I can say is their time and what they are able to share with the contestants are limited and are meant to guide them on general aspects of the competition, not spoonfeed them. The rest is still up to the contestants to do their respective homework, research and preparations. Some of these contestants have their own personal vocal coaches. They should be working closely with them instead to up their performances for the upcoming episodes, not just rely on their buddies or mentors to lay the foundations for them or do the dirty work for them.
Congratulations to Shalyza Rosly, Liwani Izzati, Mohammad Shahfiq and Shafie Syed on their progress to the next round…
It is not the end of the road for those already eliminated in the competition. Many before them have gone on to have singles and chart-toppers in the local radio charts. Some of the comments made by their ardent supporters, or even armchair critics, sometimes can be overboard and too defensive, when we all know that winning a reality competition is not the express ticket to stardom nor sustainability in the long run. Will there be a Wildcard Round as asked by many online??? I certainly hope so as nothing has been mentioned nor confirmed. This Tuesday 7 February 2017, sees the return of Group B on our television screens. We have seen the last time they appeared on our television screens how volatile the SMS voting system could be. I seek and appeal to voters to be responsible, not only to the competition but in helping to raise the standards of our local music industry. There are some very good talents left in this competition. I hope the voters will play a part, even those that did not before this, but passed excessive comments as though they spent hundreds or thousands voting. You know what to do. The ball is in your court…
Thank God for the long holiday weekend that I am able to post this up much earlier than usual. This past Tuesday 24 January 2017, saw the debut of another eight contestants of the new season of Anugerah, this time under the banner of Group B. Continuing from the previous week where the contestants sang a song of their own personal choice, the eight contestants had the opportunity to upstage their Group A counterparts, having had an extra week to prepare and study their performances during the first episode. Looking at the make-up of the eight contestants this week, there are several who have had experiences performing in various competitions before this and even before listening to them, I more or less expected them to progress, bar any hiccups via the SMS votes by the audience in the studio or at home. So without further ado, let’s start off with the first contestant.
Elza Rahim kicked off the night’s competition by singing Wany Hasrita‘s “Menahan Rindu“. Truth be told, I have not heard this song being played on our local airwaves before and had to rely on a friend to inform me on the identity of the original singer and listened to it again afterwards. But the first time I watched Elza‘s performance at the studio, I noted that she has a very rich and classical tone of voice. However that tone and style of singing also tend to sound like a certain top notch Dato’ across the Causeway. Elza has to be mindful not to sound like Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza, as many singers before her who tended to go this route, ended up being forgotten as quickly as they appeared. She already has a nice voice to begin with, she should hone it in such a way that she does not become another clone or copycat. A very composed performance which was slightly let down by one part where she went flat. Though I thought it was a decent start to the night, I also agreed with judges Taufik Batisah and Indra Shahrir that it was at best, an average performance, with Elza being more in her comfort zone.
Zul Nor should be applauded for his bravery in singing Sufi Rashid‘s “Kisah Dua Muka“, a song which is not easy to sing to begin with. However that is as far as I can go to rate his performance. It was a bit too dramatic for my liking with all his hand gestures and movements, it felt more like watching a musical theatre performance than an actual singing one. I thought I was alone in thinking he was trying too much to channel Sufi‘s style of singing into his performance, but this was also brought up by judge Indra, who noted that he was seeing two different personalities in the song, one of Zul Nor and the other being Sufi‘s. Najip Ali also brought up a pertinent point in that a song of such varying dynamics should also have a certain softness injected into it. Upon reflection and watching the performance again, I realised that Zul Nor pressed more on the intense and rage associated with the song.
I last watched Syakirah Noble performed live at the launch of Fiza O’s Ritabella collection five years ago at Joo Chiat Complex. She was only 12 then but it was easy to see that this girl, with the right attitude, practice and application, can go far. She is one of those I had mentioned earlier who loves to enter singing competitions and I am glad to see that she has made it this far. Syakirah sang Agnes Monica‘s “Rindu“, another tough song to sing with all the varying notes and the challenging high ones. I was afraid she might buckle under pressure, but there was nothing of that sort, as she gave an accomplished performance, which bothered a bit on overconfidence and this was cautioned by Najip Ali. Personally I felt it was a bit too much of Agnes Monica‘s soul and style being put into the song. I wanted to see more of Syakirah‘s. I think this is where she can work on, to infuse her own identity into the songs she sings. Take nothing away however, I had goosebumps listening to her, my personal indicator on how much I loved her performance.
Other than knowing Raja Zul‘s background as quite the model student in school, being in the Top 5-10% cohort, I did not know that this relative from my missus’ side, actually has a talent for singing and playing the guitar. When I chatted with him after the first episode ended, he said that he was going to perform Jaz Hayat‘s “Dari Mata” in his own style and adding new lyrics of his own into the song. I thought then that it was a good, yet risky move since he said he wanted to portray his personality to the audience. While I cannot fault his showmanship on Tuesday night, his singing was everywhere. He sounded quite nervous and pitchy at the start and there were times during the short pauses in the song where he could be seen strategically catching his breath. The judges loved his falsetto though and like Najip, I too liked that he chose a song which was concurrent with the times, even if Taufik had said the song was not quite suited for a competition.
Abby Nabila is another one who has had experience in a reality competition, and hers has been a very fruitful one when she entered the first season of Indonesia‘s reality Dangdut singing competition D’Academy Asia in late 2015, under the stage name Abby Tinara. Even though she was eliminated early, her learning experience and rubbing shoulders with some very good performers as well getting valuable mentorship, put her in good stead on how to be an accomplished performer and own the stage. So it was no surprise that Abby put in a performance befitting of her experience on Tuesday night, challenging herself to sing a male song, Hazama‘s “Ku Relakan Jiwa“. Her performance, like Zul Nor‘s, was filled with theatrics and hand gestures, but hers felt like they had more of an impact because she knew which parts were suitable to include them. Off-stage, she is quite the bubbly personality, just that sometimes she needs to curb her exuberance and dramatics, so as not to rub others the wrong way. Someone with her personality, you will either love her or feel she’s overacting. In a reality competition where viewers votes matter as well, it would be best to find that middle ground to win over the doubters or haters.
I think even without saying it here, if you had watched both episodes of Anugerah since its return on our television screens, or if you had caught the clips via the Mediacorp Suria Facebook page, you will agree with me that Nor Shafiq is the best male contestant so far with his soulful voice and measured performance. I could not detect a single flaw when I watched him sang Hafiz Suip‘s “Ku Akui” live, but when I watched his performance again, there was one minor part when he went slightly off as he was hitting the high notes. But it did not matter much. Shafiq immediately installed himself as one of the favourites in this competition with that performance, another one that made my hairs stood. 376 shares of his performance clip on Facebook to date, is a good indicator that he has made his presence felt.
Nadia Nadhirah was up next with her own rendition of Dayang Nurfaizah‘s “Di Pintu Syurga“. For someone who is majoring in music at LaSalle College of the Arts, her standard of performance was to be expected as it comes with the territory and expectation. Just like how I was expecting last year’s Anugerah Skrin winner, Syaiful Ariffin, a theatre undergraduate then, to perform much better than his competition rivals. Though I would not categorise her performance amongst the Top 3 on Tuesday night, there is a certain strength in Nadia‘s voice that sets her apart from the rest. Not many can sing low notes in measured degrees and in control without going flat. However she did give away her uncertainty at various points sounding as though she was unsure how to end off her lines. I also felt the performance was empty and lacking emotions needed for a song of this magnitude. I remember how much it moved others when the original singer herself performed this song at Anugerah Juara Lagu two years ago. The judges might have said they loved it, but I did not quite like it.
Sharizal Suwandi rounded off the night with The Sally‘s “Jauh“. For some reason only known to the audience, the whole studio erupted and were in raptures when he came onstage. It felt as though he had everyone on his side, even though the audience was also made up of supporters of the other seven contestants. There was a certain unexplained appeal and likeability factor about the oldest contestant in the competition. However he needs to translate that into a performance worthy of the support he was given in the coming weeks ahead. His performance was at best, average, flat and pitchy in many parts, but one thing I cannot fault was the feel-good factor he gave everyone who watched him in the studio. Even his fellow contestants were seen swaying and clapping along to his singing. But feel-good factors usually do not last long and as the competition wilts down, standards and expectations are raised even higher. He was placed at eighth position right after his performance had ended and I felt it was a fair position.
A dejected-looking Raja Zul smiled as the reality of his elimination sunk in…
However, there was a twist right after the final commercial break, as upon doing their final consultations and counsel with one another, the judges decided to play musical chairs once again and switched the positions of Raja Zul and Sharizal. I dunno if the judges “feared” the possibility of the audience baying for their blood had they eliminated Sharizal, but it certainly felt that way. No I am saying this not because of my relation ties with Raja Zul, but I initially agreed that their original positions were more than justified according to the performances they gave and in comparison with all the other contestants that night. Maybe the judges also took into account the support that Sharizal had and how he connected with the audience, which was probably why they decided to give him a second chance to prove himself the next time out. If I was the judge for the night, I would have had Abby Nabila at second position, followed by Syakirah Noble, Elza Rahim, Nadia Nadhirah, Zul Nor, Raja Zul and Sharizal Suwandi as my final ranking positions.
Zul Nor became the fourth contestant in total to be eliminated from the competition…
As for the second elimination of the night by virtue of the least number of votes, Zul Nor who was ranked sixth by the judges, was the one who made way and exited the competition. What struck me the most when his name was announced and just before he made his way off the stage, was his polite unwillingness to shake the hands of his fellow female counterparts and kept his arms to his chest and bowed at them. A rare sight in the entertainment scene that earned him my respect. Was his elimination to be expected??? I would say yes and no. Yes because it was a toss-up between him, Raja Zul and Sharizal had it been solely the judges’ decision to eliminate two out of three. No, because throughout the night we were informed from time to time that Abby Nabila, Syakirah Noble and Raja Zul had the least number of votes, so it could have been just about anyone who could have been eliminated in that respect.
The six who progressed from Group B(from left): Sharizal Suwandi, Syakirah Noble, Elza Rahim, Abby Nabila, Nadia Nadhirah and Nor Shafiq…
So far even with an equal amount of gender elimination on the opening first two weeks, I observed that the female contestants are technically more astute than their male counterparts and will not be surprised if eventually there will be a lop-sidedness to the competition, much like the last one in 2011. This coming Tuesday 31st January 2017 sees the return of Group A on our television screens. We were told before the night ended that the coming fortnight’s theme for both groups would be the Rock genre. This would be right up the alleys of the likes of Hakim Halim and Abby Nabila, who have shown that they are able to carry the genre, even if a lot can still be improved in terms of their delivery, execution, style and showmanship. Who knows, others might just up their game and prove that they are also no pushovers??? We shall see when Anugerah returns on our television screens this Tuesday at 8:30pm…
My goodness, how long has it been??? Three months I reckon since my last post and I have still yet to edit those 3000-odd photographs I snapped during Anugerah Planet Muzik 2016. Not only that, but some other events I attended in between like RIA 89.7FM‘s 26th anniversary bash or the radio station’s search for The Owesome Voice, not to mention the Anugerah 2017 auditions held at Kallang Wave Mall, amongst others. Been undergoing some busy schedules and commitments on the personal end that I simply lost the verve to do up entries on this domain. Now that the new year is in its infancy stage, it is a good time to start afresh and what better way to start than to speak about the return of the Anugerahsinging competition, back after a six-year hiatus. Oh in the case of my long-awaited APM2016 entry, we need to revisit that another time. Or perhaps not at all??? We’ll see, I don’t want to make empty promises again…
Huda Ali and Suzairhe Sumari are tasked to helm the reality competition this year…
Part of the reason there was a distinct gap in the years of competition (six), was because the competition became a bit saturated at one point of time. It doesn’t help that our market and local entertainment industry is small with the same faces coming for auditions, even if their journey became shortlived before they actually began. In between the years, we’ve had reality competitions like Anugerah Skrin and Anugerah V, catering to a different niche or skill set, and the memorable TeRaSeh programme that spanned for two years and pitted radio and television personalities against each other, to raise funds for their selected charity organisations. I will not talk about the audition rounds of Anugerah 2017 till a latter date and just focus on what transpired on our television screens this past Tuesday 17th January 2017.
Resident judges: Indra Shahrir, Taufik Batisah and Najip Ali…
For starters, Anugerah 2017 comes with a fresh new concept. Not only a fresh concept in terms of competition mechanics, but hosting and judging line-up, save for Huda Ali, who was the host back in 2011 along with Fauzie Laily and Nity Baizura. Even the premise (Studio One in the spanking new Mediacorp campus situated at Stars Avenue) where the live telecast is held weekly, is new. Those who had caught the first episode would have noted that there is now a ranking system where the judges will rate the contestants’ performances and rank them from 1-8. The lowest unfortunately will be eliminated and that is not all. The viewers also play a part in determining who advances to the next round and who gets eliminated via the traditional SMS voting system, so there is not only one elimination per week, but possibly two.
Anugerah alumnus Fauzie Laily, Rahayu Ridwan, Hyrul Anuar and Hariani Hassan Bakri opened the show…
I am unsure of the actual numbers of votes cast, but I think it might be better if the voting system is tweaked in such a way that more people are able to participate and vote without having to pay a certain amount of money. I mean, there are online polls and voting via other means which are free out there. Putting a price tag would turn would-be voters off or those with a younger support base not able to vote in without prior adult consent. We have since moved with the times and through technological advances on social media. Even radio stations are now reading dedications or granting song requests off their Facebook pages and no longer relying on the age-old SMS system. But I do note that this is possibly basic commercial revenue which the television station stand to gain. I might be wrong on this aspect, but the revenue will probably help to cover costs along the way, hence maybe the need to retain these mechanics.
All 16 contestants were introduced to the watching audience in the studio and at home…
Being the inaugural episode, it was a special two-hour programme last Tuesday, beginning with a first half-hour slot dedicated to featuring what transpired during the audition rounds down to the announcement of the Top 16. The episode also included footages from the masterclasses the contestants had to attend to prepare themselves before appearing on stage as well as filming their short video montages and having their photoshoots, all that happening over a period of five weeks leading up to the actual competition proper. Rather than the usual rushed one hour show we’ve had in the past, it was a 90-minute affair afterwards where the first eight contestants who formed Group A, duked it out. This year’s competition is hosted by Suzairhe Sumari and Huda Ali and the resident judges are Najip Ali, Indra Shahrir and Taufik Batisah.
This will be a familiar sight in the weeks to come, the judges observing intently on the contestants’ singing, stage presence and showmanship…
Before the contestants in Group A took centrestage, four of the Anugerah alumnus which included 2005 and 2011 winners, Hyrul Anuar and Rahayu Ridwan, opened the show with this year’s theme song “Mengejar Impian“, composed by Reyza Hamizan. The other two who performed the song were Fauzie Laily and Hariani Hassan Bakri, both incidentally coming in 3rd in their respective Anugerah competition years, 2005 and 2002 respectively. I saw self-styled online critics wondering about the identity of Hariani or even the likes of Kalysa Aziz, whose brother, Azhar, is in this year’s competition. Maybe a little bit of homework or immersing one’s self in the local music scene would stand some way in answering those questions. Kalysa by the way, has had her collaboration single “Bila Kau Tiada” with Ryan Sufiyan and Lefttool topping the local music charts over the past year. Start listening to more local songs on radio to know and get to know our local talents through their songs and interviews on air, or follow them on their social media accounts.
Reyza Hamizan (left) with Anugerah 2009 alumnus Hydir Idris, seated amongst the audience that night…
I also noted people lamenting on social media about the standard of singing by the four Anugerah alumnus, most notably our 2011 winner, Rahayu. To be fair to her, she has not been actively singing for the past two or three years due to family commitments. Like many who have not been active, taking baby steps to get back into the groove and scheme of things, expect teething problems like lack of vocal stamina and rustiness to set in. Even during the popular Gegar Vaganza competition done by our next door neighbour, if you had watched and noticed, you see experienced singers struggling to find their rhythm and needing weeks to get back into their stride. That too if they were afforded the chance to progress by the judges. Granted as a winner, she should be setting a good example to the new generation, but weighing in the circumstances and possible reasons, I think we should not be too harsh on her. The focus is afterall still on the new batch.
Speaking of new batch, Fatihah Izyan had the unenviable task of kicking off this year’s competition. She sang 3 Suara‘s “Beribu Sesalan” much to the discomfort of my listening ears and probably the judges as well. It is not easy to sing a song with three different vocal tones and ranges intertwined into one. While her bravery should be applauded, her naivety in picking the wrong song to perform did not help her case. The strength of the original singers is the injection of their souls into the song giving it much life and exuding so much emotions. However, there was no feel whatsoever when Fatihah sang. Personally, I felt it wasn’t fair also to put the youngest contestant in the competition as the first, as it put unnecessary pressure on her young shoulders. She was a bundle of nerves based on her facial expressions and it showed.
Shafie Syed was up next and he sang Imran Ajmain‘s “Seribu Tahun“, a song which was also co-written by resident judge, Taufik Batisah. It is clear to see that Shafie has a passing resemblance to the guy on the judging panel and on certain parts it looked as if it was Taufik himself singing the song. Even the man himself jokingly admitted their resemblance to one another when it was his turn to comment on Shafie‘s performance. This is where Shafie needs to strike and build his own identity, and not to be seen as a Taufik Batisah clone. As for his performance, I’ve seen comments saying he sang better than the original singer. I disagree because judge IndraShahrir brought up a relevant point about his falsetto, which I also felt was inconsistent and certain parts where he went a bit off. But he looks like one of the safest bets to progress further in the competition due to his strong support base.
Long time readers of this blog or even my own social media accounts will note that I usually don’t have much nice things to say when someone sings a Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza‘s song as they usually tend to copy her style or fail to live up to her lofty standards. So it was a nice surprise when I heard Liwani Izzati performed “Dialah Di Hati” with such maturity that belied her young age (she’s only 17!!!). During the introductory clip, music director Syawal Kassim had said he was surprised that someone her age could understand and distinguish technicalities and switch keys with ease. Those who watched her that night would have had no qualms with her final standings by the end of the night. When she sang, my hairs stood. That itself is a benchmark and one that won me over. She will easily be a shoo-in for the Grand Finals if she can keep this up and challenge herself further.
19-year old Mohammad Shahfiq continues a family legacy with his involvement in this year’s competition. As a trivia, his aunt, Liza Sanat, was a contestant ten years ago in the competition that introduced us to the likes of Aliff Aziz, Maiya Rahman and Nurun Nuwarrah. If my memory still serves me right, her journey ended at the quarter-final stage. It remains to be seen how Shahfiq, who sang Cakra Khan‘s “Harus Terpisah“, will progress in this competition. He was a bundle of nerves, uncertain with his movements and his darting eyes gave away his discomfort. Something was absolutely bothering him that night. For him to progress, he has to quickly learn to overcome his fears and gain some much-needed confidence.
Some of you who watched Anugerah 2011 would probably remember Shalyza Rosly, then a raw 17-year old contestant. I certainly remember her as she was my favourite contestant back then. She had bags of potential and only her lack of confidence and maturity on stage hampered her progress further. Fast forward six years later, expectations have naturally increased as she is now a more confident performer having had experiences performing at showcases, private functions and expo events. Along with Liwani, she was amongst the night’s two best performers. I felt she was more composed than Liwani when she sang Agnes Monica‘s “Tanpa Kekasihku“, but her performance lacked the challenge to sing higher notes and play around with the song dynamics like Liwani did. She was more in her comfort zone and this was touched upon by the judges. She would do well to heed their advice to choose a song that will raise her levels further.
Hakim Halim is another repeat contestant with his previous foray in the competition in 2011 ending with a first round elimination. Back then he sang a rock ballad, Fiq‘s “Tiga Malam Tanpa Bintang“. This time he stayed loyal with the genre, singing Kristal‘s “Memburu Impian“. I find him a unique contestant in that he is the only one so far, with a rockish voice and best suited to the genre. He certainly knows where his vocal strengths are but in this kind of competition they need to show that they can sing a variety of songs, from the slow to the catchy, the melancholic to the high energy. He also needs to shed his inhibitions and let loose a bit on stage. Having a voice is one thing, having stage presence and showmanship is another. I’m hoping this time round his luck would be much better than in 2011. He needs to work harder on his showmanship and own the stage.
The downside to having a sibling who is already established in the scene is that people will have high expectations of them and expect them to be as equally accomplished as their brother or sister. Undue and unnecessary pressure naturally will work its way through somehow. This is probably true in the case of Roziana Cindy, who is the younger sister of singer / songwriter, Didicazli. For a start, I personally feel that she has the physical package to be a prolonged contestant – the height, the sweet-saccharine looks, the ability to play a musical instrument. Unfortunately her voice brought her performance down. Though her performance singing Sherina‘s “Pergilah Kau” was not entirely bad, she could have done better by picking a song that required her to vary her vocal range. I dunno if the lack of playing the guitar might have hampered her performance, but her voice tone itself sounds like those already established female singers who perform with guitars, like Najwa Latif, Nanasheme and Ainan Tasneem, just to think of three. Too ordinary and did not captivate the judges and yours truly.
Rounding of the night’s competition was Azhar Aziz. Followers of the recent Final One reality song competition on Channel 5 will definitely remember him for his soulful voice and boyish good looks, as would judge Taufik Batisah, who was also on the judging panel in that competition. A different language medium than the previous one, but he is equally at ease singing in English or Malay. Not many in the audience and at home knew, but he was very ill that night, but he gave off his best. I felt his performance, singing Afgan‘s “Bukan Cinta Biasa” was worthy of Top 3 or 4 at least. For the guys, I feel that he has the package to rival Shafie Syed and the one that girls will have no problems voting for with his voice and dreamy looks. Let’s see how he will kick on when his health is much better in the coming weeks.
Roziana Cindy could still afford a big smile when she learned of her elimination…
The night ended with two eliminations, Roziana saying goodbye due to her being the lowest-ranking contestant by the judges and Fatihah by virtue of getting the least votes. Roziana took her ousting in her stride and was all smiles afterwards but the experience was a bit too hard for the young Fatihah to digest. I was actually partly surprised that the judges would let Roziana exit the competition so early, given past competitions have showed how the judges and voters, knowing or unknowingly, tended to hold on to the good-lookers slightly longer for viewership sake. Not this time. Finally I feel it’s time we are brave enough to put talents over looks. Also with a 100% power given to the judges, you can rest assured that talent will no doubt be at the forefront of their judging criteria. Anyway I do not believe we have seen the last of Roziana if her brother’s Instagram post afterwards can be interpreted correctly. In fact I think he should compose a song for her and bring out her strengths for us to appreciate better. One failed TV outing perhaps didn’t do her talent justice.
Though she was smiling as she exited the stage, Fatihah broke down and had to be consoled by the other contestants afterwards…
For Fatihah, though I had expected her to exit the competition just by observing her performance, I was expecting her elimination to be more via judging decisions, than based on SMS votes. I said in one of the earlier paragraphs that the voting system could be a disadvantage to some of the contestants and this was possibly true for Fatihah. I observed her supporters in the audience were no more than 16 years old, and would definitely have needed their parents’ consent to vote for her. She was at a disadvantage right from the start. Reality competitions can be a bit harsh when you do not have a strong support base and those with deep pockets. Anyway she is still young, she can learn from Shalyza‘s previous experience in the competition and work on her singing, confidence and showmanship. Who knows you might see a confident and more polished contestant in future editions? You’ll never know.
The Top 6 from Group A who advanced to the next round…
This season’s competition is already shaping up to be much better than the previous edition in that they did away with the hosting segment and concentrate on just the singing aspect. Which should be the way. Other than Shikin Imran, the previous competition’s runner-up who was given a hosting role in an info-ed show in the past five years, I struggle to think back which of the other Anugerah 2011 contestants who were fortunate enough to co-anchor or host a programme. The rubrics for this year’s competition look a bit haphazard with the contestants playing musical chairs with the rankings throughout the show, but I like it already as it keeps them all on their toes to do well. The $500 incentive and immunity from being eliminated via viewers’ votes, or lack thereof, that come with being placed first for the week should give them that motivation. Tonight, it is the turn for Group B to take centrestage. I cannot wait to see what the next eight contestants have in store for us. Can they perform better than Group A did last week??? We shall see…