Imran to record songs in Mandarin

SINGAPORE - Singaporean pop/R&B singer-songwriter Imran Ajmain is convinced that more and more fans of Malay music, regardless of age, are turning online for their music fix.

Because of that, his latest and third album, Setulus Kasih (As Sincere As Love), will be available exclusively on music streaming service Spotify for the three months after its April 19 release.

"It's the best time for someone like me to introduce new music via a digital platform. My audience, the people in the Malay community, everyone's using a smartphone, no matter what age group or demographic they come from," he tells Life! in a telephone interview from Genting Highlands in Malaysia. "Even my mum's using the iPad and she's 63."

Imran, who has been based in Malaysia since 2007, adds that letting fans have free access to his songs on Spotify is also a way of dealing with online piracy that has plagued his previous two albums. Spotify is one of the music streaming services here that allow fans to legally listen to music online free. It also offers paid premium services.

He will still make CD copies of the album though, which will contain an additional song, but the CDs will be available in Singapore only at a fund-raising concert that he is staging for local mosque Masjid An-Nur on June 7.

The title track has been out since February but the second single, Indah (Beautiful), is currently the theme song for local Malay television show Di Hujung Pelangi (At The End Of The Rainbow), a documentary about raising special needs children.

The new album marks a comeback of sorts for the bachelor, who took a one-year break from music after his father, local Malay music producer and songwriter Ahmad Husaini Ajmain, died of liver failure early last year.

Imran came back from Kuala Lumpur to take care of his mother here and took her on a 1½-month trip to Europe to help her cope with the loss.

Popular in the Malay music industry in both Singapore and Malaysia for hit songs such as Seribu Tahun (One Thousand Years) and Selamat Ulang Tahun Sayang (Happy Birthday Love), and with multiple wins at regional Malay music awards show Anugerah Planet Muzik, he is setting his sights even further.

He is set to re-record his songs in both Mandarin and Tagalog, and wants to break into the regional Chinese and Filipino music markets.

He says he is taking his cue from Western pop acts who record their hits in different languages, and cites Janet Jackson, who recorded French versions of her songs, and Beyonce, who has recorded Spanish versions of her tunes, as examples.

He says: "I asked myself: 'I grew up in a country where the majority is Chinese, so how come I am not reaching out to them?'"

The idea to tap into the Filipino market came to him when he took part in the World Championship of Performing Arts, a global entertainment industry contest held in Los Angeles in 2009. His song, Jika Engkau Pergi (If You Go), earned him the best original composition award.

"I met a lot of Filipino singers at the competition and we've been keeping in touch. They have always been encouraging me to record my songs in Tagalog because they said my Malay songs sound like their pop ballads."

He is expected to start recording the Mandarin and Tagalog songs in the middle of the year.

He also has another project up his sleeve - producing a new album for local Malay music veteran Rahimah Rahim, expected to be released later in the year.

He says: "Singers like Rahimah Rahim can still sing as well as they did back in the 1970s and 1980s. But our community is not used to singers putting out new material so they always put out new arrangements or remixes of their old songs. I'm sick of that, so I got songwriters to come up with new songs for her instead."

Setulus Kasih is out on Spotify.

"They have always been encouraging me to record my songs in Tagalog because they said that my Malay songs sound like their pop ballads."

Singapore singer-songwriter Imran Ajmain (left) on his plan to re-record songs from his new album (below) in both Mandarin and Tagalog

This article was published on April 28 in The Straits Times.

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