Khamis, 10 April 2014

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

ABBA celebrates 40 years of global success since 'Waterloo' breakthrough

Posted: 08 Apr 2014 10:40 PM PDT

Within strolling distance of the train station bearing the name of their first global hit, Swedish band ABBA celebrated 40 years of pop success to mark their groundbreaking song Waterloo.

Two of the four members of the band that made spangled jumpsuits and big boots a trademark attended the bash at the trendy Tate Modern museum on Monday night, marking four decades since their catchy tune won the Eurovision song contest in April 1974 and launched them into international stardom.

Bjorn Ulvaeus, who wrote many of the group's songs with ABBA co-founder Benny Andersson, said he was stunned by the rise and rise of ABBA even after it effectively disbanded in 1983.

ABBA, from left: Bjorn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Faltskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Anderson. 

The band not only lives on through its disco-friendly back catalogue, but also in the long-running hit show Mamma Mia, the film based on the musical, and in the latest offering, a new ABBA: The Official Photo Book launched last month.

"It happened over quite a long period of time," Ulvaeus said at the London event, noting that success had not come easily. "I mean, we didn't have hit after hit after hit. We had a hit and then we wrote another song, recorded it, released it and it was like that. It seems today like it was all happening at the same time but it wasn't."

He was joined at the party by Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad, one of the band's two lead singers, who attributed ABBA's success to the right people getting together at the right time.

"We knew a bit about the business and the mix of the talents was probably a wonderful thing and also being couples, being together and exploring that world, it was a new kind of thing for all of us," she said.

Partygoers sang Happy Birthday to the two band members, to which Lyngstad responded: "We really feel privileged, you have to know that. We feel privileged to be able to survive for 40 years and to stand here today and celebrate it with you. It's pure happiness. Thank you so much."

The evening included a disco of ABBA songs, with various cardboard cut-outs of ABBA members for fans to pose with. 

The food served consisted mostly of hotdogs and beer, a tradition among ABBA fans, and the evening ended with a group called the ABBA Choir singing some of the group's greatest hits – including Waterloo. – Reuters

Shila Amzah is singing through the storm

Posted: 02 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Shila Amzah will perform on the finals of I Am A Singer 2 tomorrow despite backlash from China's netizens.

IT is a trying time for Malaysian singer Shila Amzah.

Not only is the 23-year-old vocalist fighting to defend her spot in the reality singing competition, I Am A Singer 2, Shila and fellow Malaysian competitor Gary Chaw Ge are among the homegrown talents who have been lambasted by netizens in China in relation to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

"Both you (Chaw) and Shila are the enemies of our country now. Although you should not be held responsible, your country is ill-treating our countrymen. Don't you feel ashamed to stay on?" wrote a netizen.

Fish Leong, Datuk Michelle Yeoh, Ah Niu, Victor Wong and Lee Sin-jie are other Malaysian celebrities who have also become subjects of scorn.

"MH370 is not my fault … I'm really sorry ... please," Shila responded in an Instagram post that has garnered over 15,000 likes so far.

"Precious (fans), Thank you for the hugssss.. Im deeling (feeling) so much better today.. No matter what happened, I will remain strong and do all the best i can! I love Malaysia and china.. We will work this out.. Spread the love not hatred.. You are my forever love..:* #shilalashugs," she followed up with another.

Her posts have been met with largely encouraging comments on the photo- and video-sharing service.

Star2 reached out to her for further comments on this matter, but the Malaysian singer did not respond.

However, we spoke to her about the highs and lows of her journey on I Am A Singer 2 in an e-mail interview prior to the uproar by China's netizens.

"I love competitions because they drive me to work and push myself harder. Through competitions, I found that I can actually do things that I thought I can't, reach the high notes that I couldn't reach before," said Nur Shahila Amir Amzah or Shila when asked about being on a total of three reality singing competitions to date.

Before I Am A Singer 2, Shila – who is the daughter of popular 1980s singer ND Lala – has taken part inOne In A Million and Asian Wave, and mind you, coming in a close second on the former and emerging as champion on the latter. And from the looks of her performances since joining Season Two of I Am A Singer about a month-and-a-half ago, it's clear she loves a good competition.

The singer has been taking on one big, sweeping ballad after another such as Guan Zhe's Xiang Ni De Ye, Jay Chou's Zui Chang De Dian Ying and Beyonce's Listen to rave reviews.

And each time she takes the stage, her gait, her piercing eyes, her dramatic gestures speak of the eagerness of a woman who's knee-deep in the trenches in war – a musical one, that is.

"I felt like I've been too comfortable in the Malay market. So I decided to give myself a new challenge that can improve my singing and performance ability. I get bored easily when I'm stuck in only one place in my life.

"The Chinese market is bigger and there are more opportunities for me to develop my career," she recalled her decision to join Asian Wave in 2012, marking her foray into China's entertainment industry.

But I Am A Singer is a whole different ball game. Unlike her previous competitions, the singer is up against some of the region's most established artistes: Hong Kong's G.E.M, China's Han Lei, Zhang Jie, Zhou Bichang, Taiwan's Phil Chang Yu besides fellow Malaysian singer Gary Chaw Ge. "Getting all these experiences with these great and talented superstars, I feel honoured to be here," she said.

Shila also spoke affectionately about her countrymen Chaw: "He's not my competitor, he's like a big brother to me in this competition. We support each other."


Shila Amzah receiving the Anugerah Kembara at last year's AIM 20 awards. 

But a star-studded competition like this makes clinching the top spot week after week that much more difficult. Since entering the competition, Shila has found herself placed second or third consistently. Unfortunately, in a surprising result announcement last week, the singer fell to sixth place (out of seven contestants).

No doubt, part of the challenge lies in learning to sing in Mandarin. "I used to need more than a week to learn a new Chinese song. But being in a competition, I have time limitations. So I've trained myself to fully learn a new Chinese song in four days," she revealed.

Asked if the shock value of being a non-Chinese singer delivering Chinese songs works to her advantage, she replied: "Not really, I think the chances are fair and square."

However, she added that there is one thing that sets her apart: "They have no other singer to compare me with when it comes to my appearance." The Muslim singer was referring to her hijab.

Speaking of her appearance, the fresh-faced beauty has donned some glamorous outfits on the show including a shimmery black and gold ensemble as well as an arresting cape-like red sequined dress that added pomp and drama to her performance.

Shila shared that her decision on what to wear depends on the songs she will be delivering on the show; the singer works closely with Malaysian designer Raffiey Nasir throughout the competition.

She also spoke fondly about her most memorable moment on the competition so far: "I think the best moment was when I got to sing my very own rendition of (Adele's) Rolling In The Deep. The sight of the musicians and the audience on their feet singing with me … it was simply breathtaking." Like a surge of energy, the performance had audiences clapping and dancing along.

Tomorrow, Shila will step on the I Am A Singer stage for one last time on the series finale. "I do get nervous each time before I go on stage. I don't have any special rituals but I will usually warm myself up for around 15 minutes and pray," she said of her pre-show routine.

But as avid a competitor she is, Shila believes it is ultimately not about winning or losing.

"I don't give myself pressure to win this competition. Honestly, the most important thing for me is getting the experience and cherishing every moment in this competition.

"Being able to work with the great production team from Hunan TV, great musicians, great competitors, great audience is already more than enough for me," she said.

See how Malaysian contenders Shila Amzah and Gary Chaw Ge fare on the finals of I Am A Singer 2 at 8pm on April 4 on Now Mango (HyppTV Ch 205).

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