Fac­ing the mu­sic

> For the record, Rozella’s not let­ting any­thing hold her voice back any­more

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

SER­E­NADES FOR THE SOUL Al­though not all of these re­ac­tions were ill-ad­vised, they have in one way or an­other, hurt her self-es­teem tremen­dously. Rozella was con­di­tioned to stay away from any­thing that would put her in the lime­light, and nat­u­rally, that meant sup­press­ing her gift of singing.

Which is un­for­tu­nate, be­cause the Saba­han was brought up in a house­hold filled with mu­sic, by a fa­ther who used to be in a band when he was younger. She at­tended or­gan lessons with her sis­ter, and spent her for­ma­tive years lis­ten­ing to ev­ery­thing from The Jack­son 5, New Kids On The Block, to Björk, Télépop­musik and Aaliyah. She rem­i­nisced, “We’ve al­ways had mu­sic at home. I had my first cas­sette when I was five, and my first CD at 11. I sung and hummed melodies in my head, and wrote songs just for fun. “Mu­sic has al­ways been my cop­ing mech­a­nism,” she re­it­er­ated. Alas, Rozella was sub­jected to hu­mil­i­a­tion in school over her very pen­chant for mu­sic. When she was nine, a teacher made her per­form in front of the class af­ter she re­turned from a singing com­pe­ti­tion. “Kids be­ing kids, ev­ery­one started laugh­ing. I was al­ready very shy, awk­ward and in­se­cure. So I got so trau­ma­tised by that,” she re­counted. Be­lieve it or not, it wasn’t un­til five years ago that Rozella touched a keyboard again. In fact, it was her nephew’s toy in­stru­ment that she was play­ing with! Two years later, she gath­ered enough guts to per­form at her first open-mike in Kota Kin­a­balu. “I re­mem­ber shak­ing and on the verge of tears be­cause it was so scary. There were like 30 peo­ple, and ev­ery­one was sit­ting qui­etly. “But I told my­self, if this is what you want to do, this is part of the process that you have to go through. I haven’t looked back since,” said the for­mer mag­a­zine ed­i­tor.

RECORD­BREAK­ING MOVE In May last year, Rozella took a leap of faith and re­lo­cated to Kuala Lumpur af­ter elec­tropop maven Dar­ren Ash­ley re­cip­ro­cated her in­ter­est to col­lab­o­rate mu­si­cally. As fate would have it, Ash­ley was se­lected to coach Rozella (her band) in Tiger Jams, a com­pe­ti­tion for bud­ding mu­si­cians – which she won, by the way! At the time of writ­ing, the duo is work­ing to­wards an EP.

“Mov­ing here was prob­a­bly the best de­ci­sion I’ve made. There’s not a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties in Sabah be­cause the scene is re­ally small, and the bands there are more cover-cen­tric.

“Here, there are many open-mikes and venues which sup­port orig­i­nal mu­sic,” she re­vealed.

Like a domino ef­fect, Rozella’s in­volve­ment in mu­sic led her to face her fears and em­brace her true self, prompt­ing a so­cial photography project called True Com­plex­ion (www.fb.com/ true­com­plex­ion). The page fea­tures in­di­vid­u­als with phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tional char­ac­ter­is­tics that chal­lenge so­ci­ety’s view­point of beauty and nor­mal­ity.

“The idea of True Com­plex­ion came about be­cause I fi­nally came to terms with how I look. Grow­ing up, I of­ten asked what I did wrong to be given this birth­mark. It hit me one day, that maybe it is so that I can chan­nel it for a good pur­pose.

“It has been in­sane in­ter­view­ing these peo­ple, be­cause what I’ve been through is noth­ing com­pared to the ob­sta­cles they over­came and how they’ve thrived so well. If read­ing True Com­plex­ion gives some­one the strength to go through his or her strug­gle, that makes my day,” beamed Rozella, who also free­lances as a writer and voice-over tal­ent.

As for her re­la­tion­ship with cos­met­ics, the elec­tron­ica songstress does doll up for shows. A feat, con­sid­er­ing the fact she’s fi­nally able to ap­pre­ci­ate, lever­age and have fun with some­thing that used to taunt her with might-have-beens. And like most of us, she still does oc­ca­sion­ally wake up feel­ing unattrac­tive – but it doesn’t bother her so much any­more.

“If there’s any­thing, health – tak­ing care of your­self in­ter­nally, spir­i­tu­ally and men­tally – is more im­por­tant than how you look,” she said with a smile.

NOR­MAN HIU/THE­SUN

Rozella cooks her own meals, and stays away from pro­cessed food. She thinks it’s im­por­tant to pur­sue a diet with your own well­ness in mind be­cause it’s more sus­tain­able.

PIC­TURE COUR­TESY OF ROZELLA

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