Veteran Malaysian singer Salamiah Hassan's earnings go towards care of sick cats

Chanteuse Salamiah Hassan
Chanteuse Salamiah HassanPHOTO: ESPLANADE

Malaysian singer Salamiah Hassan is still performing after 40 years, with most of her income going to her cats

Malaysian chanteuse Salamiah Hassan, who had a string of hits that became popular on regional Malay radio in the 1970s and 1980s, is still actively performing - mostly for the sake of her pets.

The income that she gets from gigs go to the care of four stray cats that she took in, three of which have kidney ailments.

The 65-year-old grandmother, who will perform at the Esplanade Concert Hall on New Year's Day, says: "All my earnings go to them, it's very expensive.

"But it doesn't matter because if I'm responsible for something, I would see it through and I don't want to be responsible for not doing anything for them."

She was speaking with The Straits Times over the telephone from her home in Kuala Lumpur.

At this age if you don’t keep busy, you might just go cuckoo. I’m a hyperactive old lady.

CHANTEUSE SALAMIAH HASSAN

The singer, known for tunes such as Gelombang, Menghitung Hari and Semut Di Titian Usang, plays four or five shows a month, mostly at corporate events.

Earlier this month, she sang with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra at a charity concert that raised funds for the Malaysian Parkinson's Disease Association and Dyslexia Association of Malaysia.

In 2014, she also staged a major solo concert at one of Kuala Lumpur's most prestigious venues, the Istana Budaya, or National Theatre.

"At this age if you don't keep busy, you might just go cuckoo," she says with a laugh. "I'm a hyperactive old lady."

Salamiah, who took part in reality cooking show MasterChef Celebrity Malaysia in 2012, is youthful-looking, which she credits to her healthy diet comprising lots of fruit, vitamin supplements and hardly any meat.

"I don't want people to think that I'm glamorous or whatever. I have to dress up to present myself to the audience, to look nice, but I am as simple as can be," she says.

She first came into prominence at the age of 19, when she took part in Bakat TV, a television talent contest by Malaysian broadcaster Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM).

In the 1970s, she released several EPs, followed by three albums the next decade - Suatu Penantian (1982), Kembali (1984) and Menghitung Hari (1987).

She has also lent her voice to many prominent advertising jingles in the 1980s, for products such as the soft drink 7 Up.

Her forte, though, are live performances - she has spent decades entertaining audiences with songs covering genres such as jazz, pop and traditional Malay music.

She is looking forward to her upcoming Esplanade date, saying that she will regale the audience with stories from her four decades in show business.

While her setlist will be full of her past hits, she will also play new tunes from her most recent album, Aku, released in 2014.

"As an artist, whatever you go through in life, when you stand out there on stage, you have to touch the audience," says Salamiah, who will have two guests at the Esplanade show - her daughter Atilia Haron, a jazz/pop singer in her own right, and close friend and collaborator Adibah Noor.

"When you sing a happy song, you have to be happy and when you sing a sad song, you have to go through what you went through in life and then you deliver it with your heart and soul."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2016, with the headline 'Keeping busy is her pet project'. Print Edition | Subscribe