Flop in S’pore, top in M’sia

As a musician, Singapore-born Tengku Adil Tengku Bahdar was scrambling to make it big here.

He made it to the Top 30 in talent competitions Anugerah 2003 and Singapore Idol 2 in 2006, and released his self-titled debut album in 2008.

But his big break came only after he crossed the Causeway in 2011.

His hit songs Babak Cinta (2012) and 30 Hari (2013) earned rave reviews and received radio airplay there.

The 30-year-old, a music technology graduate from LaSalle College of the Arts, was nominated in the Best Song (Singapore) category for Babak Cinta at last year's Anugerah Planet Muzik.

He released his latest duet - Bulan Dan Matahari - with Malaysian singer Diandra Arjunaidi last month, and has plans for a second album later this year.

But Tengku Adil's steady rise to fame in the competitive music industry was not without its challenges.

He was so broke when he first arrived in Kuala Lumpur in 2011 that he had to survive on bread and biscuits.

He had left his job as a technical officer at LaSalle to be an independent artist in Malaysia, armed with only his savings and a little financial help from his loved ones.

"There weren't many shows then. I had enough to last me for only up to seven months," he told The New Paper.

"I was home a lot, saving and scrimping as much as I could."

Home for Tengku Adil is a flat in Damansara, Kuala Lumpur - an area where other Singaporean stars like Shah Iskandar, Wahyu Rahman and Elfaeza Ul Haq live.

He visits his family in Singapore for a few days each month.


It was a rough start for Tengku Adil, a small hurdle to his dreams.

"If I hadn't done it then, I might not do it at all," he said.

"I told myself that if things didn't work out, I could always return to Singapore and look for a job.

"I had nothing to lose."

And his gamble paid off.

Babak Cinta soared in popularity and was made the theme song for Bukan Bidadari, a TV3 drama directed by Singaporean film-maker Faisal Ishak.

"Gigs here are seasonal, but they pay well and allow me to live comfortably," said Tengku Adil.

"I perform at about two to three gigs each month."

"I also have a distribution deal with Warner Music Malaysia and earn royalty payment for my songs."

Asked if he was upset that he did not find similar success in Singapore, Tengku Adil said: "Everything happens for a reason.

"If I had been successful then, I would have been complacent and comfortable with what little I had achieved and not push myself to try my luck in Malaysia."

He has left his parents, brother and two sisters here, but he knows that he still has support across the Causeway.

Fellow Singaporean artists Awi Rafael and Hang Dimas helped him get on the path into the challenging market. They wrote Babak Cinta together.

Other Singaporean artists like Awi, Elfaeza and hip-hop duo Sleeq are also part of a community of familiar faces Tengku Adil can count on in Malaysia.

And now, he has another person he can count on - his Malaysian girlfriend.

"She takes care of my emotional well-being and is very supportive of what I do," he said of the law graduate, whom he has been seeing for about a year.

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