From fan to friend
Providing creative input into a singer’s career.
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
More than a manager, Zalli ( right) sees himself as an elder brother to singer hafiz.