Malaysian singer Ella is rockin' it at 50

Ella.
Ella.PHOTO: ESPLANADE - THEATRES ON THE BAY

More than three decades after she started out in show business, singer Ella is still Malaysia's undisputed "Ratu Rock" or rock queen.

Last month, the country's entertainment and media industry honoured the 50-year-old with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian awards show.

The crown is not one she wears lightly, she tells The Straits Times in a telephone interview from Kuala Lumpur. "I find it tough. I'm thankful, but having that title means I have to always work harder."

Ella, whose real name is Norzila Haji Aminuddin, will mark her 30th anniversary as a singer with a show at the Esplanade Concert Hall on July 22. It is part of Pesta Raya, the Esplanade's annual Malay arts festival.

She is excited about playing her first solo concert here in 20 years. "While I've performed in Singapore a few times with other artists or at private shows, my fans are always asking when I'll be back to do a full solo show. I think now is the right time."

She has roped in Mac Chew, a fellow Malaysian known for his work with regional stars such as Hong Kong singers Sandy Lam and Karen Mok, as music director. "I'll be playing all the hits my fans want to hear, but they're going to hear these songs in a different light as we'll be giving them fresh arrangements."

 
 
 
 

Born in Penang and raised in Selangor, she began her career singing in Kuala Lumpur's club circuit in the early 1980s. She has released more than 30 records either as a solo singer or with other acts, including the band she made her debut with, Ella & The Boys.

She found greater success after striking it out on her own. Her first three solo albums - Pengemis Cinta (1988), Puteri Kota (1989) and Identiti (1990) - achieved platinum sales in Malaysia. She has also acted in films such as Bayangan Maut (1990) and KIL (2013).

She plans to release a new album next month, which comes 10 years after her last studio album, Rama Rama.

Aside from her hijab (headscarf), which she started wearing last year, many of her fans have remarked that she looks and sounds the same as she did in the 1980s. The singer, who married pilot Azhar Ghazali in 2012, says there is no formula behind her ability to maintain her looks and voice. "There's no secret - I guess I just try to always be happy."

Eddino Abdul Hadi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2017, with the headline 'Rockin' it at 50'. Print Edition | Subscribe