Anugerah 2005 winner Hyrul Anuar leaves MediaCorp to create debut album on his own. Will his gamble pay off?
By Juliana June Rasul
July 27, 2010
AFTER four years with MediaCorp since his Anugerah win in 2005, singer Hyrul Anuar has struck out on his own.
TNP DESIGN: PRADIP KUMAR SIKDAR
PICTURES: GUMBIRA, SURIA RECORDS SDN BHD
Hyrul was only 19 when he was crowned the winner of Anugerah, edging out hot favourites Syed Azmir and Fauzie Laily in that year’s hotly contested inaugural reality singing competition on Suria.
Now, at 24, he finally has a debut album – all thanks to his own sweat and tears.
He left MediaCorp last year to pursue the project after being ‘frustrated’ with how long it took to get an album out.
‘People kept asking me when I was going to put out my debut, but I didn’t have an answer,’ he told The New Paper.
The year he won Anugerah, there was no recording contract offered.
This is unlike the last two seasons when winners Aliff Aziz and Sarah Aqilah were offered contracts with established labels.
Not that Hyrul had expected his career to be smooth sailing once he’d won.
‘Honestly, I joined just because I wanted a laptop,’ he joked. ‘I had no expectations for my career at the time. But when I did win, I thought, hey, this could be something.’
His only hurdle to success, he thought, was the two-year National Service (NS) stint he had to do before he could devote himself full time to being a recording artiste.
But even when NS was over, things moved at a snail’s pace.
He released three singles in those four years, including Tanda Kasih (Sign Of Love) that stayed on the local charts for 18weeks.
‘I performed at a lot of shows, I still had my fans, but my dream was always to have an album. Without it, I felt like I wasn’t a complete artiste,’ he said.
And now, he has one – titled Sesebuah Perubahan (A Certain Change), the result of almost a year’s work by Hyrul himself.
He travelled frequently to Kuala Lumpur, where he recorded the album with Malaysian studio rafikoncept and with support from local singer Imran Ajmain, whose company Gumbira is handling the distribution of the album here.
And he did all this while juggling schoolwork – he’s a student at UniSIM – and performing at events on weekends.
Hyrul will perform at Cinta – Puisi Berlagu alongside Adi Rahman, Kalysa and Roze Kasmani this Saturday at the Esplanade Recital Studio.
It was exhausting, but Hyrul says he ‘had to do it’.
His contract with MediaCorp ended last December. But he discussed his exit with his management before that, which gave him time to start work on his album earlier.
‘I felt scared at times because I thought of what might happen if I couldn’t get things off the ground,’ he said.
He was also candid about fears that a split with the company that had given him his major break would affect his future on the local entertainment scene.
That’s why, he said, it was important for him to pursue his independence ‘respectfully’.
According to Hyrul, there is no bad blood between him and his former management.
The split from MediaCorp, he says, was ‘amicable’.
The four years he spent being managed by MediaCorp weren’t a waste of time, he stressed.
He made important contacts in the media industry that he has since linked up with again.
‘At first, it was a bit daunting because I had to re-establish contact with so many people to inform them that it was just me now, with no manager,’ he said. ‘But thank God, people have been extremely helpful.’
The contacts were especially useful when it was time for Hyrul to plan his album launch in June.
He also had to cold call companies seeking sponsorship.
He has to constantly run around trying to fit things into his schedule without the benefit of having a manager.
‘It’s difficult, but I like doing it,’ he said.
‘I like knowing exactly what I’m going to be doing, what my plans are for my career.’
Hyrul added that he is comforted by the support he gets from Imran and the fans, friends and family members who are always there to help.
‘Even at my album launch, it almost felt like my family was helping me out with my wedding,’ he laughed, describing how family members and fans turned up to help with press kits and to set up the ballroom.
Asked if he felt he should have joined a later season of Anugerah so that he could have won a recording contract and avoided four years of waiting, Hyrul disagreed.
‘I think everything happens for a reason,’ he said. ‘It’s definitely an uphill task for me now to strike out on my own, but I feel much happier.’
New album, new look, new dreams
THERE was no four-year wait for Sarah Aqilah.
Just a year after her Anugerah win, the singer is already armed with a self-titled debut album and a cool new look.
But despite being the latest artiste in Suria Records’ stable – which counts Siti Nurhaliza and Liza Hanim among its stars – the road has not been easy for the former secretary.
Two months after emerging victorious at Anugerah, Sarah’s younger sister, Ms Shaffadina Jamil, died after contracting a mysterious virus on a trip to Kusu Island.
Only 20, Shaffadina left behind a husband and a two-year-old son.
Sarah, now 26, was in the midst of preparing to perform at the President’s Star Charity when her sister was admitted to the hospital last October.
‘I don’t think anybody would have wanted to be in my shoes at that time,’ she told The New Paper.
It was the incredible support of her family that kept her going through that difficult period.
At her parents’ behest, she continued with rehearsals for the show.
Her sister died three days later.
‘I had to choose between work and family. But my parents would ask me to go work because they knew it was important that I carry out my duties,’ she said.
Sarah took a personal break for only a few weeks before she was back to the grinding schedule of travelling back and forth between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to record her album.
While the album plays on her strengths of belting out ballads, she faced the challenge of singing an upbeat pop song, Jatuh Cinta, which is likely to be her next single.
In the midst of all that, she also put herself on a strict gym routine to lose 5kg for her album cover.
‘I looked plump, so I knew I wanted to do this for myself, to look better for the album cover,’ she said. ‘I love food, but I had to lose the weight.’
The former Singapore Armed Forces FC women’s team player even took time out to organise a futsal tournament earlier this year for her fans and has plans to do more.
While she readies herself for the upcoming busy Hari Raya season, Sarah says she has not stopped dreaming about future possibilities – an English album and a duet with Malaysian heart-throb Anuar Zain.
She may even pursue an acting career; she had a stint on teen drama Cinta Ixora earlier this year.
‘I’m not going to say no to anything. I never know what other talents I may have,’ she said.