Singapore singer Sufie Rashid's fans will not see much of him here, now that he is based in Malaysia after winning the 12th season of Akademi Fantasia, the country's popular TV singing competition.
But they might spot Sufie - the first Singaporean to win the contest - selling shaved ice desserts at a bazaar here.
While the bachelor, who goes by the stage name Sufi, will be busy with his singing career across the Causeway in the next few years, he tells Life that he is still keen on developing the Ice Yolo venture, which was a success when it was launched earlier this year.
In June, he and some friends rented a stall at a Ramadan bazaar in Tampines to sell Ice Yolo. It was a hit, selling out a daily batch of 300 cups.
The 24-year-old singer says: "We're looking to do it again at any bazaar around Singapore and eventually take it to Malaysia."
He was back here for the first time since his win on Oct 12, which came with a RM50,000 (S$16,400) cash prize, a holiday in Dubai and a three-year contract as an artist with Malaysian broadcaster Astro, the show's organiser .
He won 41.3 per cent of viewers' votes, compared with Malaysian runners-up Syameel Aqmal Mohd Fodzly, who pulled in 21.3 per cent, and Nurnajmi Nabila Samsaidi, who got 19.4 per cent. Before his win, Singapore's best result was in 2013, when singer Aisyah Aziz placed sixth.
Sufie certainly has a following here. This interview, held at SPH News Centre, was interrupted several times by fans who wanted to congratulate and take photos with him. He is a familiar face among Malay pop music listeners here. Last year, his single Tiada Pengganti won the Best Singapore Song accolade at Malay music awards show Anugerah Planet Muzik.
He is also somewhat of a veteran in televised singing shows, having taken part in contests such as the third season of Singapore Idol in 2009 and the inaugural season of The Final 1 in 2013. Last year, he was the runner-up in MediaCorp Suria's singing contest SG Mania.
He says he ended up in Akademi Fantasia after a scout for Astro invited him for the auditions in Johor in May. As one of the 12 finalists, Sufie, who was living in a Woodlands HDB flat with his singleparent mother and two younger sisters, had to enrol in a rigorous threemonth boot camp in Selangor.
"They took away our phones and I could not talk to my family and friends or meet them. I broke down a few times because I was so homesick," he recalls. "We went through intensive vocal and performance training every day from 7am to 9pm. It was even more strict than my time in BMT (basic military training) during national service."
Sufie graduated from Republic Polytechnic with a diploma in biotechnology, but realised the field did not suit him. He worked at DBS bank as a credit seller for more than a year after completing national service, before deciding to do music full time last year.
In March, he was embroiled in controversy when he lodged a police report against his former stepfather Arif Dollah, alleging that the latter had sexually abused him when he was a child. Sufie made the report shortly after 14-year-old Indonesian singer Tegar Septian, whom Arif had managed, made the same allegations. Sufie declines to talk about the incident, saying the police has advised him against making any comments as the case is pending.
He says he is not affected by Akademi Fantasia fans who are unhappy that a Singaporean has beaten Malaysians in the contest. "It's normal. My management has advised me to ignore the negativity and just focus on my music career."
His career is off to a good start. His self-written single, Kisah Dua Muka, which he sang at the Akademi Fantasia finals, is among the top three on Malaysian charts.
And there are business ventures to think about. "I plan to open other businesses besides Ice Yolo, like my own line of customised shoes," he says. "I think it's important to not just rely on my singing, but build myself up as an entrepreneur too."
This article was first published on October 26, 2015.
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