Known for her soulful style, Malaysian singer Dayang Nurfaizah has been singing professionally since she was just 18 years old, with dozens of albums and accolades under her belt. Her clear passion for music and her fans is why she has remained a darling of the local music scene, even after two decades. Going Places catches up with the veteran singer on her journey and experiences. 

How did your love for music come about, particularly for the R&B genre?

I have been singing since I was in school, and I loved doing it even at home! In fact, it was my neighbour who entered me in my first singing competition. That was a turning point, as I realised how much I love being on stage and performing. While I’d like to describe my music as pop and R&B, people tend to associate me with the latter because of my singing style.

Describe yourself as a singer in 10 words or less.

I’m just a singer who loves sharing my music.

With a career spanning two decades, what are some of the challenges you have faced?

As the new kid on the block in the early days, the biggest challenge was to catch a big break, to get the industry to recognise the talent I had to offer. Maintaining my brand and staying relevant were challenges that came after. Not everything that one does in life will be a success. I have gone through all these phases, and it makes me appreciate the little things even more. The key is to never give up and keep going!

With many new and younger singers being discovered all the time, how do you adapt to ensure you remain relevant to your fans?

The Malaysian music scene has certainly evolved greatly. I think it’s a great thing that new talents are being discovered. As for me, I try my best to release new material and songs for my fans. I’m very fortunate to have amazing, loyal fans who have been with me through the years. They are the reason I’m still here, and I’m grateful for the bond my music has created between us.

Of course, in terms of music production, I try to keep up with what’s current, but the roots of my style and genre have not changed. For me, singing and music come from the heart. The important thing in a song is the melody and lyrics, so if you’ve executed these well, your fans will embrace it!

What has been your most memorable moment in your 20-year musical career?

There have been a few! One that comes to mind is winning the award for best vocals at Anugerah Juara Lagu 29, one of Malaysia’s largest annual music events. I was happy enough to be a finalist after a 10-year hiatus from competing, so the win was unexpected. When the judges announced the win, I was ecstatic. It felt like they recognised my talent and hard work, so it was a priceless moment for me.

Who are some of your musical icons, and what is it about them that you admire?

There are many, but two come to mind right off the bat. The first is the late Saloma. Her singing was so honest and from the heart – just good music in the whole sense of the word and what makes her so memorable. Another musical icon I look up to is Whitney Houston. She was my go-to reference when I first started singing and was developing my own style. I believe that until this day, no one comes close to the beauty and power of her voice.

What do you think of the Malaysian music scene?

I’m extremely proud to be part of it! We have so many amazing talents in all genres of music, and everyone has their own uniqueness. I learn from new artists too. Times have changed. Back in the day, you had to be signed to a record label. These days, you can even make music from home and share it on social media platforms.

How has the advent of social media impacted the local music industry? Is this a good thing, and how different was it compared to when you started out?

I started 20 years ago, when music promotion was done through traditional means. With social media today, it’s much easier to reach out to an audience, get noticed and build a fan base. There are many platforms available, so I’d say it’s a good time to be in music.

How do you react to criticism, be it online, print and even verbal?

Criticism is part and parcel of a singer’s life, especially in the era of social media. I prefer to focus on the positives! I take everything as an opportunity to learn and move forward. I’m also fortunate to have a solid team that not only supports me but keeps me focused and grounded.

What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself in the near future?

I will be having a concert called Dayang Dua Dekad in July at Istana Budaya, to celebrate my 20 years in the music industry. This is a concert specially dedicated to my fans who have been supporting me through the years. As for the future, I hope to keep sharing and making music.

What advice would you give to aspiring singers?

I have a song called Tak Pernah Menyerah (Don’t Give Up). I have learned throughout my years in the industry that the business can be tough. You must believe in yourself and just keep going. Every star has a time to shine, and your time will come. You just need to know what you want and stay focused and true to yourself.