Pesta Raya arts festival at the Esplanade

Syarif comes into his own

In his first solo show, at the Esplanade Annexe Studio on June 28, Syarif will move away from the blend of pop and hip-hop that made Sleeq popular, and instead feature songs with a more R&B and soul music vibe.
In his first solo show, at the Esplanade Annexe Studio on June 28, Syarif will move away from the blend of pop and hip-hop that made Sleeq popular, and instead feature songs with a more R&B and soul music vibe.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Fans of local actor and musician Syarif see him more often on television these days, thanks to his many roles in the dramas airing on Mediacorp's Malay channel Suria.

But at the Esplanade's Malay arts festival Pesta Raya, the 29-year-old will make a highly anticipated return to what made him popular in the first place - music.

He is set to stage his first solo show, titled Up Next, at the Esplanade Annexe Studio on June 28 - four years after his popular hip-hop/pop duo Sleeq split up.

"This is a really important show for me," he stresses in an interview at the Esplanade. "It's been a while since I've been on stage."

He will debut four new songs at the one-hour show and they will not sound anything like the blend of pop and hip-hop that made Sleeq popular among Malay music listeners in Singapore and Malaysia.

Made up of Syarif and his cousin Alif, Sleeq were known for songs such as 2014's Tepi Sikit.

"I've always wanted to do R&B and soul music, something more old school, with a less digital sound," Syarif says, adding that he has been listening to acts such as Musiq Soulchild, Stevie Wonder and Brian McKnight.

  • BOOK IT /SYARIF - UP NEXT

  • WHERE: Esplanade Annexe Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: June 28, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $27 from Esplanade (www.esplanade.com) and Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)

"In the Malay market, I don't think there is anyone who is doing this style of music commercially."

He believes his fan base has grown with him and will accept his new sound. "I was doing Sleeq from when I was 16 until I was 24 or 25. But now I am targeting the mature crowd."

His debut solo single Satu will be released on June 21, a tune which he describes as "motivational and uplifting". He will put out more singles throughout the year and expects to release a full album in the first quarter of next year.

Syarif, whose full name is Ahmad Syarifullah Ahmad Soribah, also runs churros joint Chulop! By The Syarifs with his wife, former Singapore Idol contestant Malaque Mahdaly. They have two children, Selma Malika, four, and Umar Nael, two.

The past month has been hectic for Syarif. Besides an outlet at East Village Mall in Simpang Bedok, his churros business also has stalls at the Ramadan bazaars in Geylang Serai and Woodlands.

Business is booming and he is considering opening a new outlet, called Buns & Bombs, in the Kampong Glam area that will specialise in cream puffs and cinnamon rolls.

Since making his acting debut in the drama Cinta Ixora in 2009, Syarif has been a regular face on Suria. He recently spent a month in New York filming dramatic thriller Kultus, in which he plays a man whose sister is caught up in an American cult.

He plans to continue to do both music and acting. And though Sleeq are no more, his upcoming concert will feature new renditions of some of Sleeq's hits.

Syarif says it is unlikely that he and Alif, a rapper and producer who shuttles between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, will reunite as both of them are busy with their own projects. But they hang out regularly and Syarif seeks Alif's feedback on his songs.

"He told me, if you need any help with your music, if you want me to add anything to it, just let me know."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2019, with the headline 'Syarif comes into his own'. Print Edition | Subscribe