TWENTY-YEAR-OLD singer Shalma Eliana took some time out of her hectic schedule to talk about her music, and how she moved from singing in her bedroom, to being known for her songs Janji Terindah and Mahukah Kamu.
Shalma is currently juggling between college, where she studies Mass Communications, and her career as a Universal Music Malaysia recording artiste.
She is optimistic about her music career despite receiving some criticism. She shares: “People say that I don’t deserve to be a singer, or that I don’t have a bright future in the music industry.”
Shalma adds: “They want the old generation of singers, but now [it] is different, you know? Different singers create different music, fresh music. You can’t expect people to sing [the] way old singers do. As a singer, I like to create music that reflects who I am instead of doing [mainstream] music because it doesn’t last.”
Describe yourself in three words
“Outgoing, shy, and a food lover (especially Indian food).”
How did you start singing?
“I did not realise that I could sing. I was singing in my room. Then one day, my sister randomly told me that I had the ability to sing.
“From there, I gained confidence and started to sing at school events, and recorded my singing on SoundCloud (an online music sharing platform) and shared it with the public.”
At what age did you realise that you wanted to focus on music as a career, instead of just a hobby?
“When I was 16, I was approached by music labels but I did not layan (entertain) them because I was in school.
“I focused on school and finished my SPM examinations. Then, when I was 18, Universal Music Malaysia approached me and that was when I realised that I [had to take music] seriously.”
How do you manage to balance your education and your career?
“It’s not that hard because for college, I attend classes in the afternoon. Then, it also depends on my schedule. I will inform my manager if I am busy [and may] have to skip certain events. I like to challenge myself sometimes. It [multitasking] is definitely [possible].
“But when it comes to college assignments, that is one thing that I have to sacrifice my free time in the evening for, which I have [otherwise] allocated for my music.
“There are days where I need to stay up late to complete my assignments before I do music, either on the same day, or push it to the next day.”
Has being a singer changed your life in any way?
“For me, there are so many things that I have yet to learn, and want to learn. Being a singer has taught me a lot.
“I am better at talking to people because I have been very, very shy before this, as I’ve mentioned earlier. So when I started meeting new people, I learned a lot from them, despite being awkward at first.
“The knowledge that I’ve picked up through meeting new people is what helped me to gain more confidence to interact with other people.
“It has been fun but also challenging, because it is not easy to get to where you want to be. Then, you have competition. I prefer to collaborate instead of compete with others.”
Do you have any role models that have inspired you to be where you are today?
“Personally, I am the type of person who gets inspired by the person’s music instead of the person itself.
“There are a few, but one would be Yuna. She is very inspirational, because it is not easy to get to where she is today in her music career.
“People say: ‘She’s rich, that’s why she gets what she wants’. But for me, I think she deserves to be where she is today due to her tremendous effort.”
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
“I don’t know because I could be doing anything … However, my wish is to be a more successful singer and expand my music career internationally as I will be furthering my studies overseas. I might attend a music academy or an art school there.
“Maybe I could connect with producers out there – who knows, right?”
Any advice for young inspiring singers in Malaysia?
“Always believe in yourself and never give up, [even though you may] feel like giving up because of external competition.
“You will have haters [who want] to bring you down, and you yourself might also bring yourself down.
“But, keep going. At the end of the day, just do what you love, because there will always be people out there who will enjoy your music.”