13-year-old embarks on a singing path

MALAYSIA - She's the offspring of prominent badminton players. But Natasha Sass' (above) passion for the sport, which she had as a young child, has given way to another path now that she's a teen.

The 13-year-old budding singer's mother is local badminton queen Zarinah Abdullah, 42, who was hailed as Singapore's top badminton player in the 90s before she retired in 2000 when she was pregnant with her daughter.

Her husband is German Dirk Sass, 47, a former badminton player who now runs ticketing software company SeatAdvisor Box Office Intelligence, of which Zarinah is the general manager.

On embarking on a music career instead of following in her mum's footsteps, Natasha told LOUD over the phone from Kuala Lumpur where she lives: "I like badminton but I'm not as happy playing it as I am when I sing."

Zarinah says she's not disappointed with Natasha's choice, adding: "She is so gifted and I would prefer for her to be happy in whatever she wants to do, despite being talented in badminton. "If singing is what she wants to do, so be it. As long she keeps to the Islamic way, she has all my support."

Natasha was born in Singapore but moved to KL three years ago because of her father's work. She used to attend the European German School Singapore, but is now enrolled in the German International School in KL.

She said: "I started singing when I was five years old and I just loved it. I become so happy every time I sing."

With the help of her dad's contacts, Natasha managed to record a duet titled Balloons, in Nashville, Tennessee, with Kris Thomas - a contestant from the fourth season of US reality singing competition The Voice who was eliminated after the Top 10 round. It is to be released soon on iTunes.

She said: "When Kris initially recorded Balloons (after his appearance on The Voice), the producer, Nick Travisick, who is now my producer, wanted him to do a duet with (his mentor on the show, Colombian singer) Shakira but somehow they wanted a younger voice. So Nick linked us up after I said I liked the song when I heard it."

Travisick, who is based in Nashville, has also worked with US singers Katy Perry and Carrie Underwood.

Natasha plans to join Thomas on his upcoming Asian tour in October or November and also a possible European leg in December.

For the moment, Zarinah will help her daughter juggle school and music. "For now, she will still be attending school as per normal and try and plan for her tour to happen during her school holiday. Maybe at a later stage, as she gets busier with shows, then we might be arranging for her to be home-schooled," Zarinah said.

"We, as parents, definitely want to take care and get involved with her talent and career. Just like what my father did with me."

She continued: "I play my part as a disciplinarian in terms of her studies, voice training schedule and her daily life whereas my husband handles the other aspects of her career."

Natasha said: "My dad will be helping me by putting the songs on the radio and on iTunes to let people know who (Kris and I) are in Asia before we can put a date on when the tour happens. Because what is a tour if not many people turn up to watch?"


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