What do you want to be when you grow up?
Every one of us at one or more points in our lives has asked ourselves or been asked this question, and the right answer always seemed to be one that fell along the lines of practicality and financial stability. In fact, it was heavily encouraged and anything to do with the creative industry is not that. Especially in Malaysia.
That is not to say we don’t have a booming entertainment scene with an abundance of household names that have garnered renowned success locally and internationally (take for example, Yuna). So, why is it that we still have this perception that the local entertainment industry is not one worth having an interest in?
“I think there’s a dilemma going on when we talk about the music industry here,” said singer-songwriter Ryan Deedat on the matter. “People have this perception that local musicians aren’t very good.”
Growing up, Ryan always wanted to pursue a musical career so when the opportunity came by, he was quick to jump in.
“Music has always been something I wanted to do since I was a kid and being in the industry has helped me to share my writing and music to a wider audience.”
“People might think it’s easy to do music, and it’s fun when you gain fame and what not, but the truth is it’s more than that. You must learn and adapt to the environment fast to catch up.”
Like Ryan, many artists are trying to stand out in the local industry amidst the influx of veterans that have made their name in the game. “The biggest challenge I faced when starting out was gaining trust and opportunities in the industry. Especially as a newbie, because you are trying to break into a pool that is already so full of people with all this experience behind them,” added actor and comedian Azizul Ammar.
When it comes to the local comedy scene, the exposure of these artists is a tough space to trapeze, which pushes Azizal to keep working harder. “I challenge myself every day to keep growing so that people know that I am relevant to the industry. I think that’s the most important thing because the audience market and the industry is rapidly changing.”
With that said, it’s not uncommon now to see Malaysian-born artists chose to channel their efforts on the foreign industry purely because they did not want to just focus on the Malaysian market.
When asked what more can be done for the industry in the people’s eyes, Azizal puts forth that people need only to unleash their inner child to appreciate the art around them. “I think that’s how people will slowly understand with better clarity how arts are in every aspect of our lives.”
Even as social media becomes the top place to find creatives of all kinds, there is still a stigma surrounding what their art is worth. This has caused the public to get used to the concept of bargaining for what an artist's work is worth, with many creatives being overlooked and taken advantage of.
Adding to that, all-around entertainer Raja Syahiran said that maybe the answer lies in not undervaluing creatives and giving them the support, they need to keep doing what they do best.
“We have a problem where people tend to devalue an artist’s work, where they want your services but don’t want to pay for it, so we need to change that mindset.”
“When you’re working on something from your heart, it cannot be rushed so it’s important for people to understand that our work is a valuable commodity.”
Despite the uncertainties that may arise from the industry, that hasn't deterred many aspiring artists from doing what they love. One such young talent is Natasha Sass, a German-Malaysian singer who has been at the game since the age of 6 until she was discovered by producer and songwriter Nick Trevisick.
“I believe that music can help people in all aspects of their lives and it has helped me through many things in my life as well, and that made me want to pursue this path,” said Natasha on her motivation to pursue a singing career.
The 22-year-old cites Selena Gomez for her down-to-earth personality and Michael Jackson for his ability to be not just a singer but an entertainer as her inspiration.
As for her thoughts on how the public view of the local industry can change, she states, "I think keeping an open mind and accepting the different kinds of music there is out there is needed. You might be surprised by what the local industry has to offer."
Malaysia is blessed with a vibrant culture that goes hand-in-hand with its passionate arts scene. Though countries close to home have already put more value into the arts and made it one of their appeals, it’s still not as prevalent here.
As the industry continues to flourish and we see a change in the public's perspective on it, there’s still much more that can be done for the local entertainment scene, and maybe that starts with us.