Putting singing before studies

Farisha Ishak has started a new course in life. The winner of The Final 1 singing contest is putting her political science studies on hold to make it as a singer.

The 19-year-old, who launched her debut album last week, has deferred her studies at the National University of Singapore indefinitely to focus on her singing.

"I'm taking a break from school. I really want to focus on doing this first and it's been hectic for me after The Final 1, with all the performances," she said at the launch of new album, Aligned, last week.

She will sing on Saturday at this year's sold-out Rentak Singapura at Kallang Theatre. The annual local Malay music event - organised by MediaCorp's Malay radio stations, the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (Compass) and non-profit organisation Perkamus, which supports artists in the Malay music industry - also features Taufik Batisah and rock band Audionauts.

Farisha still plans to graduate with a political science degree, she adds.

In August last year, the petite singer with a big voice made headlines when she won the inaugural edition of Media- Corp's six-month-long televised singing show, The Final 1. She beat fellow finalist Shaun Jansen, 28, a marketing communications executive, to win a recording contract from Hype Records and $50,000 in cash, the biggest payout in local television reality shows.

While she has spent some of the cash on clothes as well as driving lessons, most of the prize money went into her savings account.

"I think saving money is important so that I can use it in the future. You must be clever about these things," says the youngest of three children. Her father works in the hotel industry and her mother is a businesswoman.

For Aligned, she recorded a variety of styles, ranging from soulful ballads to dance-tinged pop. Six of the nine tracks are in English, with three Malay songs, Oh Cinta (Oh Love), Bukanku Tak Cinta (Not Because I Don't Love You) and Hidup Ini Indah (Life Is Beautiful).

The album features compositions from Hype boss and The Final 1 judge Ken Lim, as well as Singapore Idol winner Taufik, who was also a judge.

"For every song that Ken wrote, he would consult me and ask, 'Do you like this song, do you have any input that you'd like to add?'.

"So I did have quite a say in how the songs went," says Farisha, who also penned two tracks, Life Is Beautiful and Stranded. Hidup Ini Indah is an alternate version of Life Is Beautiful, with Malay lyrics penned by Farisha and songwriter Zaharian Osman.

She started preparing for and recording the album almost immediately after her win.

Still, she has found time to sing at events such as Singapore Day in Sydney and at the televised President's Star Charity, both in October last year and Suria's Sinaran Hati in November last year, as well as at private gigs.

And before March is out, she would have done a series of shows with Media- Corp radio station 987FM, for its School Invasion series of local school visits. The dates and schools are still being finalised by the radio station.

Since winning The Final 1, she has been coming to terms with being recognised. "When I am walking, I'll hear people go 'Oh, is that The Final 1 winner?'.

"I just smile. But they always say I look different, that I look younger without the make-up and that I look smaller, but that's because I don't always go out in heels," she says with a laugh.

Farisha, who is not in a relationship, has also been hard at work engaging her fans on social media.

She has more than 3,200 followers on Facebook, more than 2,400 on Twitter and more than 7,300 on Instagram. She posts pictures of herself backstage as well as updates on her album and public appearances.

"I think I'm the same person as before, but I'm definitely more confident because it's not easy singing in front of the judges, the audience in front of you, as well as the ones watching on TV," she says when asked how the singing competition had changed her.

"I really do believe in myself more now. In this industry, you can't let little things get to you. You have to be strong."

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