MENTOR Milenia’s incumbent mentor, Hazama Azmi, is not taking chances, despite the strong following his protege Saiful Muhammad Noor a.k.a. Usop has on social media. Usop, acknowledges Hazama is a crowd favourite because of his humorous nature, but popularity does not translate into marks in TV3’s reality talent show which sees its finals on Sunday.
“Usop may not have singing experience but he excels in 1990s pop and rock with his powerful voice. It’s his first time in a major concert, yet he carries himself with confidence,” says Hazama in an interview at Balai Berita.
“But Mentor’s winners aren’t determined by fans’ Short Messaging Service (SMS) votes. These only form 30 per cent of the proteges’ marks, the judges award 50 per cent.”
Hazama’s fear for Usop is over-confidence. “I tell him anything can happen in the finals. All four proteges in the finals have their strengths, and Usop’s is his consistency.”
Hazama knew that Usop would become his protege. “In the auditions for proteges, I was blown away by his performance of 1990s rock songs! He gives his heart and soul to music.”
Usop will be singing Bayang (made popular by Khai Bahar) and Datuk M. Nasir’s Malam in the final concert, the latter a duet with former Mentor champion Salma Asis.
Kulim-born Usop, 20, counts himself lucky to become Hazama’s protege, since he has always admired his mentor. “Hazama and I share a love of pop and rock and serving up a generous dose of humour.”
While Hazama gives his protege constructive criticism for his weekly performances, Usop says he does so in a witty manner.
“My mentor has always been nice. I’ve learnt so much from him and I’m glad he tolerates my horsing around!”
Tomok believes his protege, 20-year-old Kedahan Rozaimi “Along” Rosli, can win the grand prize of RM100,000. He says: “While Along was initially stiff, he gradually loosened up. His asset is his manly voice.
“Along can sing rock, pop and ballads and is eager to learn. This is why he’ll go far.”
In the finals, Along will be performing Datuk Sudirman Arshad’s Merisik Khabar and Memori Berkasih, a duet with Siti Nordiana. “Both songs are his forte as they are sentimental. I’m coming up with a single for him.”
Along, says Tomok, participated in the first season of Idola Kecil and his experience has come in handy for the competition. “He honed his baritone voice in the pre-teen talent search and his experience may bag him the grand prize.”
Alor Star-born Along has always aspired to become a successful singer and songwriter like his mentor. “While I’ve had singing experience in Idola Kecil, its standards were lower than Mentor’s.”
Along adds that he is lucky to have a mentor like Tomok because he is straightforward in pointing out singing mistakes, and offers good suggestions on how to perform better. Black, Akim, Tomok, Hazama, Syeera, Elica, Along and Usop.
Hanifah “Black” Hanafiah has cautioned his protege, Syaheera Aziz or Syeera, 19, from Johor Baru, to avoid screaming. “Syeera has been doing great, despite her lack of singing experience.
“She has learnt fast, despite being nervous in the beginning,” says Black.
Syeera will sing Sekadar Di Pinggiran (made popular by Francissca Peter) and Dayang Nurfaizah’s song Di Pintu Syurga, a duet with Misha Omar. Black does not pressure her to win because pressure will work against her.
“I want Syeera to perform her best. This makes her strive harder in the competition.”
Syeera, he says, excels in traditional Malay music as well as jazz, and he will give her second song a zapin-style arrangement. Syeera thanks Black for exposing her to various musical genres. “Black is a gentleman who encourages me to enjoy what I’m doing. He reasons that if I enjoy my work, I will strive hard to excel in it.”
Akim Ahmad’s protege from Tambunan, Sabah, Angelica Paujin, 17, is the vocal powerhouse and ballads are her forte. “She was a contestant of Idola Kecil 3, and while she has no problem with her voice, I’m occasionally disappointed with her lack of feel and focus,” says Akim.
He has advised her to rehearse with the show’s musicians and improve her posture. Angelica, better known as Elica, will perform Nicky Astria’s song Samar Bayangan and a duet with Mentor 3 contestant Hael Husaini Razmi.
“I’ve always wanted to get Elica to the finals. She is very consistent,” says Akim.
“I’m in the midst of writing and composing a new single for her.”
Elica describes her mentor as a knowledgeable “big brother”. “He gets annoyed if I repeatedly make mistakes, but apart from that, we get along great.”
The proteges will compete in the final showdown of the Mentor Milenia concert, to be aired live on TV3 at 9pm on Sunday.
It will be broadcast from Seri Pentas 2, Plaza Alam Sentral in Shah Alam and hosted by Marsha Londoh and Issey Fazlisham.
Datuk Hattan is the permanent judge and Fauziah Ahmad Daud is the guest judge.
In the auditions for proteges, I was blown away by his performance of 1990s rock songs! He gives his heart and soul to music.