Whether meandering the windy road of the entertainment industry, to finding his identity within it, Fakhrul Razi is certainly unafraid in facing them all. Currently, being the judge of a new program, ‘Bintang Search’, 1001 Magazine has met up with the man himself to talk about his métier and his take on his path in the music industry.
WE met up with him at a small cafe close by to where he was working that night, an open space with people passing by, together with the sound of children and pop music rumbling in the background.
This was our second time meeting him in person – the first was for an interview on the last day of the ‘Bintang Search’ audition. This time though, the ambience was different. It was much more casual. His easy-going character was perceptible through his demeanour and in the way he dressed that night, donning a plain shirt and jeans, rather simple for a man known to be full of verve! Perhaps, it was in the way he carried himself, but his amiable personality, paired with his aura, emulates a cool intimidation that is admirable.
He began speaking before we even had the chance to settle down, almost overwhelming us at first. It was then we realized that this is Fakhrul Razi – a person who is vibrant and speaks his thoughts animatedly, without preamble.
Legend: In His Words
As compared to the music industries of our neighbours, Brunei is not well known for it. But, for Fakhrul Razi’s musical journey, it is quite hard to miss. The ups and downs that he went through were salient and, arguably, unparalleled to other musicians in the country. Thus, earning him the title ‘Legend’ by fellow artists in the local music community.
A wave of hesitancy did oscillate his mind on being regarded as one. Humbly and equally full of joys and springs, he expressed his appreciation for such consideration.
Fakhrul sees a legend as someone who does not care about the title per se, but lives up to its name; someone who has a distinct colour to themselves with a passion to chase their joy and help others to pursue theirs. He understood the title as given and not self-proclaimed, the same way he sees it as not limited to age, time nor the requirement for a perfect persona to earn the name.
“Finding value in intangible things, that is what a legend is all about,” he added.
For nearly two decades in the entertainment industry, Fakhrul has become familiar with the nooks and crannies of its world. The expanse of his wander has allowed him to perform in the same music festivals as the legendary Glenn Fredly at the Java Jazz in 2011 and in 2018, with Malaysia’s Queen of Music, Dato’ Sri Siti Nurhaliza at a music festival in Japan – a feat never before done by his peers in the local music scene. All this prompted the question, how this all began?
The Chrysalis Stage
Ever since he was a young boy, Fakhrul knew he had the vocal prowess. He first caressed his talent in competitions with religious streaks, belting his voice out in an Adzan competition that he joined at the age of ten. His first dip into real music, however, began when he was twenty four years old through ‘Talentime’ where he won with a song called ‘Live Right Now’. Just as the name suggested, it kicked off his career in entertainment, instantly.
Signed with Phuturephase, a record label owned by Hans Anwar, the first song he came out with was surprisingly, a track for the Eid festivities called ‘Memori Di Malam Raya’. Then, followed by his first official single, ‘Pertama Kali’.
It was also around this time that he was nudged into an uncharted territory of being a radio presenter. Despite being in a stew about it while questioning his ability, his peers thought otherwise. They saw in him a charm that Fakhrul himself had not espied yet. With their encouragement, he took a shot in the dark and later became a radio DJ at National FM in 2004 and at Kristal FM in 2009 up to 2013.
Spreading His Wings
2014 was the year when he started to really traverse outside the nest of his home. Starting off with Malaysia, performing at the 21st Anugerah Industri Muzik and being nominated for the ‘Best New Artist’ category. He released his first album, ‘Mutlak’, in the beginning of the year, and his B-side, ‘Salahkah Aku‘, became the soundtrack of the Malaysian drama, ‘Epilog Cinta Kirana’. When asked about his thoughts on the latter, he felt nonchalant. Although, he was grateful that the song gained attention, but for him, it was just bells and whistles.
“That’s the point with me and luck. I didn’t have that (luck). Unlike my juniors that went out, they had that thing (charm).” he said slowly. “I was old. I tried, but at the end of the day, it was not groundbreaking anymore for me.”
Fakhrul was known to be a virtuoso in jazz, but he has evolved. Now, his music portfolio is known to be dynamic and experimentative, encompassing a myriad of genres in his songs that are wondrous and very close to his heart. Ironically, he was clouded in a fog on what ‘brand’ he was supposed to embrace as a singer that it made him question his own identity as a musician.
It only dawned on him, as he came back from Indonesia years later, that he was “not meant to be specific,” he termed it. He has his own colour when it comes to music which sets a nuance within the local music scene. For what is most certain, Fakhrul Razi is not a one trick pony.
He was chosen to represent Brunei as a judge in D’Academy Asia, a popular TV music competition in Indonesia, but received more than what he initially signed up for. Thrusted into an unfamiliar territory of the music industry, he was honest that his time there was not totally a bed of roses. He disclosed his naivety in the mechanics of the extravagant entertainment that felt jarring compared to the mellowness he was used to facing. Fakhrul described this juncture as a moment of realization for his personal relationship and on how TV and media really works outside.
In the midst of the scrutiny, he found clarity in self-love first, above all else and found his identity as an artist and a person within it.
“The opportunity of fame and money, I’m saying it’s good but it’s just coffee. It hits you, after that you feel slow,” he surmised his experience with an analogy.
Underneath the flamboyant character that we usually see in his performances, lies a vulnerable side we did not expect for him to share. We were surprised by his further candor when he addressed the controversy that hit him while he was in Indonesia. Just like everybody else, he, too, wanted to attain happiness, to have and learn something more. But, the constant exposure to the public and going in and out of TV was something he found hard to grasp and become accustomed to. Being a person who is not fond of repetitive routine and is true to his laid back nature, he said to us, “This can’t be it. This is not my life.”
Eat Pray Love
One chapter closes and another one begins as he travelled in an attempt to find a room to breathe, admitting that he was avoiding the on-goings of his personal life at the time, hiking the mountains of Nepal and exploring Egypt to ease his mind and to self-reflect.
“Funny thing is, it’s our relationship, why should people take advantage. But, that’s how the industry works bah,” he briefly uttered in regards to his relationship with Rina Nose.
“Then I moved to India. Kind of like ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, right?” he commented, making all of us laugh along with him in amusement.
Fakhrul confessed that he was in a downward spiral of loss when he came back to Brunei from India, encountering a conundrum of not knowing what to do next.
It was not until after a year did more blessings come at his doorstep. Who knew a trip to India to join ‘Dil Hai Hindustani’ in 2017 had given him an opportunity for a big, and rather unexpected, project in Malaysia.
The energy that he echoed in his performances in India went viral, attracting the attention of Les Copaque – the same company that brought the famed cartoon ‘Upin & Ipin’. He was chosen to act and sing the soundtrack in the movie ‘Upin & Ipin: The Lone Gibbon Kris’ entitled ‘Keris Sakti’.
The rise of new demographics of his supporters astounded him the most, encompassing not only adults of different ages, but also children who recognized him from the song and the character he played.
The Silver Lining
The whole world is shaken up by the global advent of the pandemic this year. There were things lined up for Fakhrul that would have situated him on the precipice of a new adventure.
He was set to perform in the prestigious Malaysia Film Festival this year, but what could have been another pivotal moment to his career, has now become a road left untraveled, at least for now.
It seems almost serendipitous in the midst of this pressing time, that his journey is further broadened to a flower-lined path. Not only did he return to ‘Rampai Pagi’ – Brunei’s longest running morning talk show, but he also received ‘love calls’ for new projects.
‘Bintang Search’ is one of them, a talent programme where he joins Nana Farhana and Rizal Rasid as judges for the show. Fakhrul also mentioned an imminent project that is still currently under wraps, produced in partnership with a clandestine partner and his own production house.
Inspired by Siti Kamaluddin, he wanted to be more involved in the behind the scene aspects of entertainment, scouting for a new pool of talents, helping them recognize their utmost potential and share the experiences he gathered with them. This is the essence of his newly formed company, FR Productions.
On the surface, it seems the ambition was rather grand, considering the company is still at an infancy stage, but it is not something to be tut about. In the hands of Fakhrul’s competence and experience, it is exciting to see this aspiration unravel to its eminence in the coming future.
A New Ode Coming
We asked what other plans he has in store in the near future and at that moment, Fakhrul reached for his phone, keyed into it and placed it on the middle of our table.
We were confused at first, but were left pleasantly surprised when the first note of a melody emitted from the speaker of his phone.
That was when he told us he has a new, self-written song coming up and dropping this month. A beautiful blend of ballad, Malay and other genres.
“It’s kind of like my experiences in one whole tea bag,” he explained. “The thing is everybody has the same experience bah, generally. That’s how it’s relatable.”
He revealed the song title to us in secret, but for now he said, “Let it be known as ‘BTK’.” Aside from the song being available on all streaming platforms, according to him, the music video is scheduled to drop in September after the song is released.
Hope and Reason
It seems, at first, that it was not enough to capture his whole career at the set time, however, with Fakhrul’s exuberance, we were able to get a succinct glimpse of his journey and life story in less than a two hour interview.
“I think in 10 years time, I will develop something more, of a different Fakhrul Razi. A much more mature Fakhrul Razi,” he said to us, hoping that he could still be doing this for a long time.
The experiences he gained through the years and the maze of uncertainties he encountered only kept him true to himself, unwavering from the wind brought by the capricious industry. A soulful voice who truly believes in his talent and does it with panache. A combination of flair and a personality that poses an evergreen presence in our entertainment realm. His story and the time we had with him that night further cemented why the title ‘legend’ is his, and rightfully so.
Editor-in-Chief: Zulhelmi Kamaluddin
Writer (Malay): Mel Razak
Writer (English): Kamaliah K
Art Direction: Fikri Afif & Zulhelmi Kamaluddin
Grooming: Rabiatul Halim
Styling: Fikri Afif
Talent Manager: Kamarul Rizzam
Set Manager: Intan Nawwarah
Assisted by: Raihani Rafie