It was two in the morning when Kaka Azraff – who was hanging out with her friend, actress Juliana Evans – got the opportunity of a lifetime.
In the past, aspiring singer Kaka felt discouraged after placing only among the top 20 in reality singing series One In A Million S2 and was focusing on her studies in mass communications instead.
“Juliana got a call from (comedian and actor) Zizan Razak saying he has a song and he’s looking for someone to sing it with him. He offered it to her but she said, ‘No, no, I can’t sing but my best friend can sing,’ ” Kaka recalls in an exclusive interview.
Juliana passed the phone to the then 22-year-old Kaka, unaware of the career-altering moment she was about to have. “He said it was a hip-hop song. When I heard hip-hop, I thought this is what I want. He asked if he could meet me immediately.”
In the wee hours of the morning, the two rushed to meet Zizan, hopping into his car to listen to the song.
“I listened and I loved it. He asked me to sing along to the song, and then he called the song’s writer and got me to sing it to him on the phone. He told me to come in and record it the next day. When I put down the phone, I found out that it was Malique (of Too Phat fame) and I was like ‘OK, let’s do this'."
The song was 2012’s Bawaku Pergi, which not only introduces Kaka to the music scene but marked Zizan’s foray into music.
Today, Kaka, 27, has made a name for herself as a credible R&B and hip-hop artiste. Her biggest hit, Bukan Hal Aku, made it to the finals of this year’s Anugerah Juara Lagu.
What’s surprising here is there’s no mention of Malaysia’s queen of rock Ella in Kaka’s music journey so far. For the uninitiated, Ella is Kaka’s aunt. Although her famous relative has offered to help kick-start her music career, the brazen Kaka wanted to make it on her own.
“She has introduced me to many producers but I felt like I had my own vision and I had to stand on my own feet instead of getting help from my family,” says the singer, who is also exploring acting, starring in her first film, Aliff Dalam 7 Dimensi.
What was it like growing up with Ella as your aunt? Why was it important that you didn’t rely on her to kickstart your career?
I wanted to be a singer since I was young because I always saw Ella performing. I loved seeing her express herself when she’s on stage. When I saw her, I could imagine myself doing that one day.
If I started as an artiste under her, people would say that I’m a shadow of her. I want people to see me as me, not as Ella’s niece. That’s why when Zizan asked me to sing with him, I felt it was a good opportunity to enter the industry, so people can’t say I used my aunt or I’m copying her.
Your hit Bukan Hal Aku speaks of female empowerment. Does it come from a personal place?
There are a lot of women who feel that their man is everything. So, the message of Bukan Hal Aku is to give strength to women. If a man doesn’t want to be with you, it’s OK, we’re women. We are strong enough to walk away.
My mum is my idol. She raised four kids on her own. That’s how I first knew that women are strong.
When my dad passed away, we were all still in school. Later when I was older, she told me that the day he died, she thought she wouldn’t be able to do it.
But then she saw the four of us and knew that she could. That really inspired me. I don’t know if I can do the same if I were in that position. That story alone has motivated me my whole life.
Musically, your new single Terima Kasih sounds softer. Can you tell us about this new direction?
People always say that with the kind of beats used in my previous songs, I can’t show off my vocals much.
So, I think the sounds of Terima Kasih allow me to show off my voice, its softness. When people heard Bukan Hal Aku, I think they came to expect certain kinds of songs from me. I want to run away from people’s expectations.
You’re very fashionable and your music videos are well made. Why is the visual aspect such a big part of your music?
I want people to be able to picture the song. I want people to not only hear but see. Making a song is like making a movie. I want to create a whole story.
And it’s important because I don’t want my song to last for just five years, I want my song to leave a lasting impression.
R&B and hip-hop aren’t the most popular genres with listeners here. Why take the risk and venture into them anyway?
Dayang Nurfaizah is an example of someone who has stuck with the R&B genre in Malaysia. From the start, she was doing R&B. Even when no one saw her, she kept at it. Now, people accept her.
So to me, it’s a matter of time. When Bukan Hal Aku made it into the finals of Anugerah Juara Lagu, I saw that Malaysia can accept this sound. I just have to believe in myself and go all out.