What’s Cooking, Khadijah?

4 Sep

Khadijah is looking forward to her two-day performances at DFP.

Khadijah is looking forward to her two-day performances at DFP.

Evergreen crooner Khadijah Ibrahim speaks candidly to HAFIDAH SAMAT about her life and the music scene these days.

Khadijah (right) with the late Sudirman Arshad and Noorkumalasari.
Khadijah (right) with the late Sudirman Arshad and Noorkumalasari.

THE walls on the restaurant are adorned with framed black-and-white photographs of celebrities she has worked with – from national icon Datuk Ahmad Nawab, rock veteran Ramli Sarip to crooner Jamal Abdillah and pop entertainer Sheila Majid.

The entrance to Khadijah’s Kitchen, which opened its doors in June, boasts the intricate Malacca-inspired staircase with plants of all manner in pots and vases. It is apparent that the interior and exterior reflect her diverse creative influence.

As you enter, the friendly and affectionate personality that its owner – veteran singer Khadijah Ibrahim – exudes create a welcoming air in the cosy 144-square-metre premises housed at a 48-year-old shophouse in Petaling Jaya.

The walls are green where her carpenter-friend specially made the large dining tables and chairs she designed. Another prominent feature is the sturdy and charming frames and wall decor that add life and colour to the restaurant’s ambience.
The restaurant is Khadijah’s second outlet. Back in the early 1990s, she operated an outlet in Christchurch, New Zealand, for 10 years with the assistance of her adopted Chinese mother, Khoo Siew Gaik.

“New Zealand was my home. I was constantly shuttling between Kuala Lumpur and Christchurch for my shows almost every weekend. I’d normally take the Sunday flight back to New Zealand and attended my classes,” said Khadijah, who pursued interior decoration and obtained a diploma from Peterborough Fashion Design College.

The veteran reminisced how she would entertain her former classmates – largely made up of multi-nationalities students – with her home-cooked Malaysian dishes.

“They were in their late teens and I was the oldest in my class. I cooked so much that I created a “mini-Bangsar late night stalls” of sorts at the restaurant.

“Some of them were too familiar with my cooking that they could tell if my masak lemak cili api was not spicy enough,” she laughed.

When met for the interview recently, Khadijah was milling around delegating work to her staff. With her thick mane bunched up, the entertainer was seen rearranging the furniture in the restaurant to cater for the Ramadan crowd.

“I’m expecting a big turnout during the fasting month. On Monday (the second day of Ramadan), I catered for a birthday party and cooked for 30 people. The restaurant is packed so I’d constantly remind my regulars to make reservations,” she said, smiling.

Looking at her, you could tell that Khadijah has led a comfortable life though her songs – considered by many as insightful and heart-tugging – dwell on hardship and loss.

The charismatic and versatile entertainer revealed that compliance is the key to survival.

She enthusiastically talked about her various projects. There is the restaurant, another to be set up sometime next year at Wall Street in New York. Then there is the two-night concert at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas in November, and the list goes on.

“Alhamdulillah, from day one of my showbiz career, I have been blessed by Allah and my fans. I couldn’t have asked for more,” she said.

For someone, whose achievements include being one of the top-selling female artistes, the voice behind the melodious theme song, Malaysia, Truly Asia for the Visit Malaysia campaign, you’d think that Khadijah would carry “diva baggage” everywhere she goes. But no she doesn’t.

Having worked since 1978, churning out 18 albums and producing a legacy of timeless tunes coupled with an enviable talent, the singer who popularised her anthem title track, Ku Pendam Sebuah Duka (taken from her 10th album released in 1987), Khadijah had certainly proven her resilience and versatility.

Arguably, Khadijah has beaten the odds and emerged as one of the most sought-after singers. Jumping from singer to proprietor with nary a problem, the 48-year-old entertainer seemed focused in each chosen path.

When showbiz suffered from the “dead formula” malady, Khadijah persevered and survived. There were one too many sacrifices and compromises but it all worked out well in the end. She even attributed her success to the “union” with her like-minded manager-cum-show promoter and organiser, the late Mike Bernie Chin (who at that time also had the late Sudirman Haji Arshad and Noor Kumalasari under his wing).

“Mike was like my big brother. He was vocal and hardworking. There were times prior to my regular TV and club stints that I travelled extensively to the kampung but he (Mike) made sure that everything went smoothly,” she said, adding that Mike laid a strong foundation for her to advance in her career.

Khadijah also stressed that good artiste managers are sorely lacking in the local music scene. Every performer should engage a manager who will ensure the staying power of the artiste, she added.

“A manager is the key person who knows how to tap on your talent, skills and strength. A manager should be familiar with the goings-on in the industry and believe in your capabilities.”

A manager’s job is not always that clear cut. Most managers stay in the background, sweating over unpaid or late fees and royalty cheques, dealing with lawyers, record companies and public relations people, coordinating tour dates, pushing for better recording deals and pacifying temperamental artistes.

Khadijah added that the partnership between a performer and manager should result in providing a good future for the artiste.

“It’s a win-win situation. What’s important is the vision – whether the artiste can sell or not. Not many managers have that sight or feel but it’s really up to the artiste to chart the career. If you aren’t serious about what you do then it won’t work,” she said.

Khadijah voiced her concern about the current state of the local showbiz. She said, there’s a huge pool of newcomers who are largely clueless of their musical direction.

“It’s been a good sign for the industry. Almost everyone dreams of becoming a singer but at times I wonder about their standards as performers. Even if you don’t possess good vocals but have managed to get a good producer, an arranger and composer, half the battle is won.”

Khadijah should know. To date, she has collaborated with a slew of luminaries in the music industry. Her partnership with Ramli Sarip spelt success and their evergreen duet Doa Buat Kekasih (which was featured in her Khadijah Ibrahim ’88 album) was a knockout.

Subsequently, the duo who was rumoured to be romantically-linked in the late ’80s, released Ihsan their debut duet album produced by Ramli Sarip in 1990. The album spawned the hit tune Ihsan Mulia.

She had also successfully collaborated with Ahmad Nawab, her mentor, composer-producer-singer-actor-director, M.Nasir (who produced her album Terbang Pulang), musician-arranger Mac Chew and award-winning composer, Adnan Abu Hassan.

The last couple of years, Khadijah has staged 60 performances locally and abroad. One of her memorable concerts was a charity concert hosted by former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf in March, 2006.

“It was awesome and Musharaff had a blast at the show. I also presented him a songket which I brought from KL,” said Khadijah.

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of her illustrious career, Khadijah is performing in a two-day concert at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP) starting Nov 17.

Backed by a 10-piece musician led by Mac Chew, the show features guest artistes Ahmad Nawab and Ramli Sarip. The musicians include keyboardist Jenny Chin, Steve Thornton (percussion), Jamie Wilson, and Aji (guitars), Andy Peterson (bass) and Thomas Theseira (saxophone).

Note: Tickets, priced at RM50, RM80, RM100 and RM120, are available at DFP box-office. Call 03-2051-7007 or go to http://www.malaysianphilharmonic.com

New Straits Times

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