Winners After Losing

9 Oct

Saiful Bakeri enjoys singing cover versions of foreign songs in Bahasa.

Saiful Bakeri failed to make the cut in Malaysian Idol 1 and Farah Anuar did not make the grade in Akademi Fantasia 2. But the duo have moved on to carve out successful careers, writes DENNIS CHUA.

DESPITE not winning their respective reality talent contests, Saiful Bakeri of Malaysian Idol 1 (MI1) and Farah Anuar of Akademi Fantasia 2 (AF2) have since then enjoyed success releasing albums, hosting television shows, starring in movies and “scoring little firsts”.

Saiful, 22, of Kuching, Sarawak, and Farah, 23, of Sungai Petani, Kedah, have a lot in common.

Both are fans of Ziana Zain, Misha Omar and Dayang Nurfaizah, and admire actress Sharifah Amani whose family members were involved in their respective shows.

Saiful and Farah gained nationwide fame in 2004 when they finished fifth and fourth respectively in their contests.
They became acquainted through Saiful’s family friend, actress and TV host Nurullah Abdul Hamid, who is Farah’s AF2 chum.

Saiful is best known as the “pretty boy” of MI1, while Farah is best known for greeting her fans with “Breep! Breep!”.

They both believe reality talent shows foster national unity, bridging the geographical divide between West and East Malaysia.

Said Saiful: “I’ve learnt a lot about Peninsular singers through fellow contestants in MI1 and the judges. Above these, the late singer Sudirman Haji Arshad of Pahang is my all-time hero.”

Said Farah: “Through AF2, I’ve learnt that East-West exchanges in the arts are not uncommon. Sarawak has produced icons like Siput Sarawak, Anita Sarawak, Safar Ghafar, Dayang and Radhi of OAG.”

Saiful had always wanted to be an entertainer, with his parents supporting him all the way.

His father, Bakeri Ainie, was a one-time Bintang RTM contestant.

The second of five siblings, Saiful honed his skills by participating in talent contests in his hometown.

He and Nurullah entered TV3’s Sinaran Paspot Kegemilangan in 2001, but came away empty-handed.

He also auditioned unsuccessfully for AF2 before making the cut in MI1.

Then his debut album in 2005 scored a major hit with Ku Juga Mencintaimu, a Bahasa Malaysia cover version of the theme song of Taiwanese series, Meteor Garden.

Saiful’s version has been downloaded in cellular phones over 80,000 times. He also sang a duet, Takku Duga with Misha that year.

A second album, Aku Ada Di Sini, followed this year. It contains several cover versions of Chinese songs such as Aku Ada Di Sini (originally by Sammi Cheng), Izinku Mengenalimu (Daniel Lee), Rindu (Ocean Yang), Sentiasa Cinta (Guang Liang) and Bukti Cinta (Ah Niu).

German pop group Trademark’s hit Only Love is re-interpreted by Saiful as Hanya Cinta.

“While I plan to compose songs in future, I’m happy to sing Bahasa interpretations of popular foreign songs, especially Chinese ones. It’s a very new concept and an exciting challenge,” he said, adding that he had also filmed music videos for some of the songs.

Saiful believes singing cover versions does not “devalue” an artiste in any way because many successful singers in the West have attained fame singing them, including Westlife, Jimmy Cliff and Pearl Jam.

Saiful appeared with Zizan Nin in the telemovie Cinta Terakhir two years ago. Last year, he joined comedienne Sharifah Shahirah as co-host of TV3 game show, Insomnia.

Saiful is also a businessman. With his family friend Datin Ezanoni Hadjeli, he runs the boutique Ezza Noni in Plaza Ampang City, Kuala Lumpur.

“I’ve always wanted to operate my own boutique, selling the latest designs for women. The shop also sells beauty products,” he said, adding that while he did not study fashion design, he always had a “passion for fashion”.

Farah, who grew up in Kuala Lumpur and studied performing arts in Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), Shah Alam, is currently the host of Astro Oasis documentary, Rasa Halal Orient.

She has also hosted the Astro Ria game show Fulus Mania, starred in the film Man Laksa with Amani’s sister Sharifah Aleya (Malaysian Idol 1 co-host), participated with Dayang in Ikon Malaysia and represented Malaysia in the Shanghai Asian Music Festival 2005.

Farah launched her debut album Antara Dua in 2005 which spawned the hits Tangisan Dalam Kerinduan and Antara Dua.

She won the Most Promising Female Artiste award in Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian 2005 and the Most Promising Artiste award in the 12th Anugerah Industri Muzik that year.

Farah, who is brand ambassador for Syahirah beauty products, Mamee and Power Root, is currently working on her second album, a collaboration with composers Ajai and Aidit Alfian.

“It will have a pop-rock theme and the songs include Lagu Aku Yang Liar, Kata-Kata Hatiku and 9 Langkah,” she said.

The third of six siblings, Farah described AF2, her first major singing contest, as an “orientation course” that prepared her for the challenges of the entertainment industry.

“AF2 was a training ground for the world of entertainment. I appreciate the lessons my instructors, especially Ramli M.S., taught me,” she said.

Farah (and Saiful) fondly recalled the advice from her UiTM senior, budding actress and Akademi Fantasia 1 contestant Suriati Abu Bakar.

“Fame can either make or break you. The best way to handle it is to be yourself and be moderate in all things,” Farah quoted Suriati as saying.

One can’t help but admire the spirit of these two, who did not take initial failure badly but used it as a learning experience to make a success of their future.

New Straits Times

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