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YOU wouldn’t be able to tell based on her break-out performances in China, but picking up Mandarin was not easy for Shila Amzah.

The 25-year-old singer became an overnight pop and cultural sensation thanks to a performance in perfectly intonated Mandarin on a popular TV singing competition in China.

What most people don’t know is that she picked up the language completely on her own, after relocating to China in 2012 to establish her singing career.

And now, she’s ready to do it all over again – this time in Cantonese. Shila has moved to Hong Kong, where she hopes to bring her career to the next level.

During an exclusive interview with R.AGE, she admitted it’ll be more difficult this time around.

“My friends said it’s easier to learn Cantonese when you can speak Mandarin, but not for me. I need to translate from Mandarin to English, then English to Cantonese,” said Shila.

Still, she believes throwing yourself into the deep end is the best way to learn the language; and by spending more time in Hong Kong, she has also been able to get a better grasp of the local culture.

Unifying force: At the upcoming AIA Generasi Malaysia concert, Shila Amzah will be performing alongside two huge Malaysian acts, Gary Chaw and Reshmonu. And she will be singing in three languages - Malay, English and Mandarin.

Unifying force: At the upcoming AIA Generasi Malaysia concert, Shila Amzah will be performing alongside two huge Malaysian acts, Gary Chaw and Reshmonu. And she will be singing in three languages – Malay, English and Mandarin.

Her upcoming album, however, will still be in Mandarin; and she hopes her fans will see a different side to her other than the diva-who-sings-the-big-songs image she currently has.

“Fans always want to see me as a diva on stage, but I’m still the girl next door, very ordinary and simple,” said Shila.

Some lucky Malaysian fans will get a glimpse of that real soon, as Shila will be back for the AIA Generasi Malaysia concert on June 12, which will also feature Reshmonu and Gary Chaw.

Here’s what she had to say ahead of her homecoming:

How’s your Cantonese so far?

I’m having a really hard time because I think it’s more difficult to learn Cantonese than Mandarin. Some words are similar but the slang is different. That needs a little getting used to.

That’s why I need to spend more time in Hong Kong, and I’m trying my very best because Hong Kong plays a very big role in the Chinese market. That’s why I took the huge step to learn both dialects.

You’re about to release your debut Mandarin album. Can you tell us more about it?

It’s in Mandarin because that’s something I promised my fans I’d do. I composed about 90% of the songs and because I can’t write in Mandarin, I told my lyricists what to write.

I’ve always written songs about what’s going on in my life. It’s something I want to share with my fans in the hope that they can learn from my mistakes.

So right now, we’re trying to find the perfect time to record the music video. Then, the album will be released simultaneously with the music video, probably after Hari Raya Puasa.

What’s the theme of the album?

I’ve always picked love as the theme, because it’s something everyone understands. It can reach anyone, even if they have different perspectives about love. In my album, I have different songs for all kinds of love – love for your family, your significant other and even your career.

And there are some ethnic elements in some of the songs. My second single, Sha Li De Mi Mi, which is about my career and how I’m going strong with what I want in my life, was supposed to be a rock song. But because I’m in Hong Kong, which is between China and Malaysia, I felt the need to combine elements from both countries. So apart from the guitar, I added the traditional Chinese instrument, pipa, and the seruling from Malaysia. The sound is just so beautiful and unique. I really like the outcome.

You’ll be sharing the stage with Reshmonu and Gary Chaw at your upcoming performance in Malaysia. That should be fun!

I’m very honored because it has been a dream of mine to perform with two of the biggest acts in the country.

Singing success: In 2012, Shila won season one of regional singing competition Asian Wave, singing three songs – each in a different language – during the finals.

Singing success: In 2012, Shila won season one of regional singing competition Asian Wave, singing three songs – each in a different language – during the finals.

I’m having a little break right now, so I’m really excited to be back performing in Malaysia. Besides, it has been a while since my last show in Malaysia, so I’m really looking forward to seeing my fans, meeting them after the show and taking some pictures with them.

What do you have in store for fans who’ll be attending the concert?

I’ll be singing in three languages – Malay, English and Mandarin. And I’m going to sing Zai Jian Bu Zai Jian, which is my first single off the upcoming album. It’s a love song about a girl who’s in a relationship with a guy who doesn’t deserve her, but she loves him so much that she’s confused if she should stay or leave.

About

Our entertainment and celebrity news expert who happens to be disturbingly good at laser tag. Graduated with a degree in communications at 21 and went straight into the magazine business. She not only writes for R.AGE now, but also coordinates our long-running BRATs young journalist programme.

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