Behind every successful artiste is a strong support system. Star2 speaks to those who are among the closest and in constant contact with a star: the managers and personal assistants.
Did you know singer Hafiz had initially brushed aside the award-winning song Awan Nano?
Shazalli Mohd Rashid, or Zalli, 42, shares that his role as Hafiz’s manager includes providing creative input into the singer’s music career.
“When someone e-mails me a song, I listen to it and decide if it’s suitable for Hafiz. If it is, I bring it to Hafiz and my boss (at the Astro talent management department). If I think it’s a good song but he doesn’t like it, we don’t proceed with it,” he explains.
“But sometimes when he doesn’t like a song, I have to explain why he should sing it, perhaps it’s ‘in’ now or it’s a strong song for competitions, and sometimes, he agrees.”
Zalli reveals when Hafiz first heard Awan Nano, he didn’t like it. After discussing it with him, the singer eventually recorded the song.
Awan Nano went on to win the coveted Anugerah Juara Lagu (AJL) grand prize in 2012, launching the former Akademi Fantasia winner’s career.
Hafiz would go on to win another grand prize at AJL two years later for Bahagiamu Deritaku and nab Best Album for Luahan Hati Anak Seni at the Anugerah Industri Muzik in 2013.
“It’s a group achievement, it’s not just me. It’s my boss and the Astro management team. They all lent their support and gave him whatever was best for him,” he says of Hafiz’s successes.
Zalli is one of the managers under Astro’s talent management department assigned to groom and develop Hafiz’s career.
Before joining Astro, his foray into the music industry began when he worked as an operations officer at the Recording Industry Association of Malaysia in 1994, where his duties included going to music stores around the country checking if albums were sold within the recommended price range.
After that, he joined Datuk M. Nasir’s record label Luncai Emas, and as a production manager, he was exposed to the various aspects that went into making music.
“Even though I was doing production, as there weren’t many staff, I picked up on my management skills there indirectly. I had to arrange their schedules, bring artistes to press interviews and photoshoots. I learned a lot there,” he says.
On his own, Zalli says he also did a lot of reading on the topic: “In Malaysia, there isn’t a university or college that teaches how to manage artistes. So I bought a book from the United States and I applied it to the Malaysian industry.”
Later, he left Luncai Emas and along with a few friends, started a talent management company which lasted a few years.
“I realised that a lot of artistes back then had no managers, they didn’t know which direction to go. If they had a show scheduled that day, they would have to iron their own clothes and bring them there. So I thought I needed to do something.”
In 2011, Zalli joined Astro’s talent management team where he took care of a few Astro artistes before Hafiz was placed solely under his care.
“As a manager, I come up with a yearly plan of his career. Every month, he must do something, he can’t just sit down,” he says.
On a day-to-day basis, Zalli’s other duties range from finding a band for an upcoming performance to negotiating fees with organisers.
Of course, Zalli is a big part of the creative process too, as mentioned earlier. “When it comes to finding good music, the longer you are in the music industry, you’ll know what kind of songs sound good. You’ll know what sells, what doesn’t. What can go for competition, what can’t,” he says about sourcing for the right songs.
As a manager, Zalli adds it’s important for him to know everything about Hafiz. “Everything,” he stresses. “From head to toe, I have to know everything about his family, his personal life, because if I don’t know, those things may affect his career.”
So what can Zalli tell us about Hafiz’s personality that we don’t know?
“Hafiz is someone who’s active, he doesn’t like sitting still,” he shares. Once, a day before a show, Zalli had told him not to take part in any aggressive physical activity. Hafiz bought himself a pocket bike.
“He played with it and he fell down,” he remembers. “We performed at the show the next day anyway. We had to wrap up the injury and his long pants covered it up so people didn’t know.”
“But I understood. I was like that too when I was young,” he says, adding that he regards himself as the 26-year-old’s older brother.
Asked about his most memorable moment managing the singer’s career so far, he goes back to Hafiz’s first AJL win for Awan Nano.
“It was one of the sweetest moments for me because not many people knew him back then and I had to look for designers to sponsor his clothes. I had to contact people who could train his vocals. It was quite a struggle for me,” he recalls with fondness.
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