LAST week, Malaysian singing sensation Yuna flew in all the way from Los Angeles, United States to help The Star and Follow Me Sence’s search for the next, well, Yuna – and she was not disappointed.

The Rising Star talent competition held three live auditions across the country as well as online YouTube auditions to find 12 young acts to perform before Yuna, Bunkface frontman Shamsul “Sam” Annuar and local songstress Atilia Haron.

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“We have young talent in Malaysia,” insisted Yuna after the 12 finalists’ performances at the Rising Star grand finale at KL Live on Sunday, where Yuna herself also performed. “I’m so proud of all the contestants tonight. Everyone was so special. To be honest, they didn’t need a contest like this to tell them that they’re special.”

In the end, the two big winners of the night were school teacher Abdul Hakim Ikram Zakaria, 28, who won the Solo category, and the trio of Zuliana Eussof, Hanisa Hassan and Adzarul Buqary, all 19, who won the Duet/Group/Band category.

“Everyone was so amazing! I truly enjoyed myself,” said Atilia after the winners were announced. “I was so surprised to see a lot of really amazing singers, especially some of them that brought their original songs. So good. Please do this every year.”

Sam added that the competition should become a regular fixture in colleges and universities. “Most competitions we have in Malaysia happen annually, so bands only get a chance to do something that’s really like ‘wow’ once a year.”

The winners certainly wowed, including Abdul Hakim, a school teacher from Kelantan currently teaching in SMK Naka, Kedah, who took home RM5,000 and a Follow Me Sence hamper worth RM500 thanks to his rendition of Alicia Keys’ Brand New Me.

“I really want to inspire my students,” he said. “They are from rural areas and some are not very motivated. Competitions like Rising Star get them excited easily, so I want to use my experience to inspire them to really work hard for their dreams.”

Duet/Group/Band winners Zuliana, Hanisa and Adzarul received a standing ovation from all three judges for their acoustic take on Pierce The Veil’s Stay Away From My Friends.
“We really didn’t think we’d win (despite the standing ovation), because anything’s possible,” said Zuliana, 19. “But we were so inspired and touched by how the audience responded to us.”
The winners will all get a chance to record a cover of a Yuna song, and have the song played on Red FM.

The runner-up and second runner-up for the solo category were Danial Mohd Khairi, 29, and Chua May Yean, 18, respectively; while Abdul Waffi and Abdul Qayyum of The Abduls were the runners-up in the Duet/Group/Band category.

The event was topped off with a three-song performance by Yuna herself, who also spoke about her journey to stardom from playing at small local venues, where coincidentally, she would meet the likes of “Kak Atilia”.

“Even though people think I’ve reached a certain level of success, I’m actually still learning; and I’m also excited to find new talented artistes so I can learn from them as well.

“I love Malaysian music, and I believe in Malaysian talent,” she said.

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Rising Star 2013 was organised by The Star and Follow Me Sence. R.AGE was the official media partner, and Red FM the official radio station.

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