From fan to friend

Pro­vid­ing cre­ative in­put into a singer’s ca­reer.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SHOWBIZ - By KEN­NETH CHAW en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

LONG be­fore Fauziah Ab­dul­lah be­came Linda Onn’s per­sonal as­sis­tant, she was ac­tu­ally an ar­dent fan of the ra­dio dee­jay.

Fauziah, also known as Kak Gee, first be­came a fan of Linda af­ter watch­ing her host a show on TV3 back in the late 1990s.

“Si­nar aired around mid­night once a week and I would wait and made sure I watched the show,” re­calls the 49- year- old, adding that she was drawn to Linda be­cause of her host­ing skills.

Later, she con­nected with her idol af­ter com­ing by her e- mail ad­dress while read­ing a mag­a­zine. Kak Gee, who was work­ing as an as­sis­tant ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer at the hu­man re­source depart­ment of De­wan Ba­hasa Dan Pus­taka at the time, would of­ten e- mail Linda, who was helm­ing a ra­dio show.

“I would lis­ten to her on the ra­dio ev­ery day af­ter work and I would e- mail her my com­ments,” she shares.

One day, Linda, who had a seg­ment on proverbs and po­ems on the ra­dio show, needed help with get­ting re­sources on the sub­ject.

“Since I worked with De­wan Ba­hasa, there were a lot of books and re­sources around and I told her I could get them for her. So I met her at her of­fice and passed the books to her,” she re­mem­bers.

That marked the first time Kak Gee met Linda in 2002, around six years af­ter she first be­came a fan. The two ex­changed phone num­bers and quickly hit it off.

Kak Gee started hang­ing out with Linda and her three child­hood friends who had been help­ing her out as per­sonal as­sis­tants. But when Linda’s friends started hav­ing other com­mit­ments, Kak Gee stepped in and be­came her PA tem­po­rar­ily.

In 2005, she re­signed from her job and be­came Linda’s PA full time.

Kak Gee ex­plains her role as a PA is to take care of the finer de­tails in or­der to let Linda – who not only helms a ra­dio show on Suria FM but em­cees at cor­po­rate func­tions and shoots TV shows – fully con­cen­trate on her job.

“When she’s em­cee­ing at an event for ex­am­ple, she has to fo­cus on her work, the script at hand, on en­gag­ing the au­di­ence. All the other things, she doesn’t have to think about any­more – that will be the PA’s re­spon­si­bil­ity, ” she says.

Or­gan­is­ing and briefing her on the day’s sched­ule, li­ais­ing with clients, reach­ing out to make- up artists, hair­styl­ists and fash­ion de­sign­ers to make sure Linda looks her best at an event or a pho­to­shoot and run­ning er­rands are just some of Kak Gee’s re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Ad­di­tion­ally, as a PA, Kak Gee ac­com­pa­nies Linda and keeps a watch­ful eye on her at all times in case things get out of con­trol, for ex­am­ple if fans get ov­er­en­thu­si­as­tic.

And in this dig­i­tal age, she also keeps tabs on Linda’s so­cial me­dia ac­counts, al­though the ra­dio per- son­al­ity up­dates them her­self.

“I have to look through the com­ments on her Face­book and In­sta­gram. I don’t re­spond for her but I will in­form her es­pe­cially if there are any neg­a­tive ones,” she says.

Be­sides be­ing a PA, Kak Gee works as an ad­min­is­tra­tion and hu­man re­source man­ager, over­see­ing Linda’s restau­rant ven­tures My Mom’s Chicken Rice and My Asam Pedas Shop.

Asked if it was dif­fi­cult work­ing for a boss who is also her close friend, she re­sponds: “It’s eas­ier ac­tu­ally, I know her heart, she knows mine. I know when she will get an­gry, I un­der­stand her moods.”

Hav­ing known Linda for so long, Kak Gee lets us in on a lit­tle- known trait of the dee­jay: “When­ever there is a lion dance per­for­mance, she will run far, far away. She looks tough but that’s one thing she’s afraid of.”

Kak Gee never ex­pected she would be work­ing with Linda for over a decade now. “When I was a fan, I thought ,‘ Wouldn’t it be great if I could get to know her per­son­ally? But surely it’s im­pos­si­ble, she’s an artiste.’

“It was a bless­ing. It turned out that when I lent her those books, we be­came close.”

DID you know singer Hafiz had ini­tially brushed aside the award- win­ning song Awan Nano?

Shaz­a­lli Mohd Rashid, or Zalli, 42, shares that his role as Hafiz’s man­ager in­cludes pro­vid­ing cre­ative in­put into the singer’s mu­sic ca­reer.

“When some­one e- mails me a song, I lis­ten to it and de­cide if it’s suit­able for Hafiz. If it is, I bring it to Hafiz and my boss ( at the Astro tal­ent man­age­ment depart­ment). If I think it’s a good song but he doesn’t like it, we don’t pro­ceed with it,” he ex­plains.

“But some­times when he doesn’t like a song, I have to ex­plain why he should sing it, per­haps it’s ‘ in’ now or it’s a strong song for com­pe­ti­tions, and some­times, he agrees.”

Zalli re­veals when Hafiz first heard Awan Nano, he didn’t like it. Af­ter dis­cussing it with him, the singer even­tu­ally recorded the song.

Awan Nano went on to win the cov­eted Anugerah Juara Lagu ( AJL) grand prize in 2012, launch­ing the for­mer Akademi Fan­ta­sia win­ner’s ca­reer.

Hafiz would go on to win an­other grand prize at AJL two years later for Ba­ha­giamu

Der­i­taku and nab Best Al­bum for Lua­han Hati

Anak Seni at the Anugerah In­dus­tri Muzik in 2013.

“It’s a group achieve­ment, it’s not just me. It’s my boss and the Astro man­age­ment team. They all lent their sup­port and gave him what­ever was best for him,” he says of Hafiz’s suc­cesses.

Zalli is one of the man­agers un­der Astro’s tal­ent man­age­ment depart­ment as­signed to groom and de­velop Hafiz’s ca­reer.

Be­fore join­ing Astro, his foray into the mu­sic in­dus­try be­gan when he worked as an op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer at the Record­ing In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion of Malaysia in 1994, where his du­ties in­cluded go­ing to mu­sic stores around the coun­try check­ing if al­bums were sold within the rec­om­mended price range.

Af­ter that, he joined Datuk M. Nasir’s record la­bel Lun­cai Emas, and as a pro­duc­tion man­ager, he was ex­posed to the var­i­ous aspects that went into mak­ing mu­sic.

“Even though I was do­ing pro­duc­tion, as there weren’t many staff, I picked up on my man­age­ment skills there in­di­rectly. I had to ar­range their sched­ules, bring artistes to press in­ter­views and pho­to­shoots. I learned a lot there,” he says.

On his own, Zalli says he also did a lot of read­ing on the topic: “In Malaysia, there isn’t a univer­sity or col­lege that teaches how to man­age artistes. So I bought a book from the United States and I ap­plied it to the Malaysian in­dus­try.”

Later, he left Lun­cai Emas and along with a few friends, started a tal­ent man­age­ment com­pany which lasted a few years.

“I re­alised that a lot of artistes back then had no man­agers, they didn’t know which di­rec­tion to go. If they had a show sched­uled that day, they would have to iron their own clothes and bring them there. So I thought I needed to do some­thing.”

In 2011, Zalli joined Astro’s tal­ent man­age­ment team where he took care of a few Astro artistes be­fore Hafiz was placed solely un­der his care.

“As a man­ager, I come up with a yearly plan of his ca­reer. Ev­ery month, he must do some­thing, he can’t just sit down,” he says.

On a day- to- day ba­sis, Zalli’s other du­ties range from find­ing a band for an up­com­ing per­for­mance to ne­go­ti­at­ing fees with or­gan­is­ers.

Of course, Zalli is a big part of the cre­ative process too, as men­tioned ear­lier. “When it comes to find­ing good mu­sic, the longer you are in the mu­sic in­dus­try, you’ll know what kind of songs sound good. You’ll know what sells, what doesn’t. What can go for com­pe­ti­tion, what can’t,” he says about sourc­ing for the right songs.

As a man­ager, Zalli adds it’s im­por­tant for him to know ev­ery­thing about Hafiz. “Ev­ery­thing,” he stresses. “From head to toe, I have to know ev­ery­thing about his fam­ily, his per­sonal life, be­cause if I don’t know, those things may af­fect his ca­reer.”

So what can Zalli tell us about Hafiz’s per­son­al­ity that we don’t know?

“Hafiz is some­one who’s ac­tive, he doesn’t like sit­ting still,” he shares. Once, a day be­fore a show, Zalli had told him not to take part in any ag­gres­sive phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. Hafiz bought him­self a pocket bike.

“He played with it and he fell down,” he re­mem­bers. “We per­formed at the show the next day any­way. We had to wrap up the in­jury and his long pants cov­ered it up so peo­ple didn’t know.”

“But I un­der­stood. I was like that too when I was young,” he says, adding that he re­gards him­self as the 26- year- old’s older brother.

Asked about his most mem­o­rable mo­ment man­ag­ing the singer’s ca­reer so far, he goes back to Hafiz’s first AJL win for Awan Nano.

“It was one of the sweet­est mo­ments for me be­cause not many peo­ple knew him back then and I had to look for de­sign­ers to spon­sor his clothes. I had to con­tact peo­ple who could train his vo­cals. It was quite a strug­gle for me,” he re­calls with fond­ness.

Be­sides be­ing a PA, Kak Gee ( right) also helps out with Linda’s restau­rant ven­tures as an ad­min­is­tra­tion and hu­man re­source man­ager. — rAy­MOND OOI/ The star

— rAy­MONd OOI/ The star

More than a man­ager, Zalli ( right) sees him­self as an el­der brother to singer hafiz.

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