“If you are always waiting for the right time to be ready, you may never actually begin your journey,” says Mr Shabir Tabare Alam, 32, an award-winning music producer and singer-songwriter.
“You have to dive in and ensure you are constantly hungry to learn, grow and practise.”
Mr Shabir learnt this the hard way. In primary school, he struggled in a negative environment. He developed an inferiority complex that led to him being moody and reclusive.
It was only during his teens that he began to build confidence and look at things positively. Over time, he poured his heart and soul into his passion for music, becoming an accomplished artiste.
Some of his notable achievements include writing the official Tamil anthem, Singai Naadu, for the National Day Parade in 2012, clinching the Edison Award for Best International Artiste in 2013, winning the Merit Award at the Asian Television Awards in 2015, and being the first Singaporean to sign a deal with Sony Music India this year.
His personal success also inspired him to set up Shabir Music Academy to help aspiring musicians develop their potential and live their dream.
Facing up to fear
Mr Shabir has worked tirelessly and persevered against the odds. Many times, he has struggled with feeling incompetent before starting a new job.
Even today, he sometimes questions himself about his abilities.
But he has realised that perfection is elusive and there will be different problems to tackle at various stages in life.
Finding balance in his life used to be a major challenge. He recalls juggling too many things at once — fulfilling his duties as a music artiste, teaching music, composing music for television shows, performing at various gigs and transitioning into film music in India.
But he learnt to manage his numerous commitments. To ease his workload, he took a step back from his acting commitments on television to focus on other aspects of his career. Since then, he has been able to regain control of his life and be more confident of himself.
Says Mr Shabir: “I turn my insecurities into a source of motivation. I realise that when I’m well prepared, not only do I become more confident to do the task at hand, I also acquire new skills and ideas.
“That is when possibilities begin to emerge and you see things in a way you never have before.”
Paying it forward
Mr Shabir says he owes his initial success to his supporters in the Singapore Tamil community when they voted for him to win in the Vasantham Star singing competition in 2005.
He has never forgotten their belief in him and now he wants to pay it forward by giving back to the community.
Says Mr Shabir: “Service to the community is the rent we pay for living on earth. I don't believe in taking. I believe in giving. We start a cycle that way.
“When the next generation sees this cycle, they do what they can for the following generation and the process continues.”
He believes in his purpose to share his music and his work with others, and offer help to those who need it.
“That is why I initiated Shabir Music Academy. Our goal is to offer free music and arts education to hundreds of less fortunate children and youth. No one should be denied an opportunity to learn,” he says.
Inspiring young minds
It is Mr Shabir’s hope that he can inspire in his students the courage to take the path less travelled.
He explains: “When it comes to being artistes, people are doubtful if a career can be built. But I believe there is always a future in creating good art of any form to enrich lives.
“You just have to give everything you’ve got to your passion.”
However, aspiring artistes must bear in mind that in this line, there are “no promotion schemes, fixed salaries, bonuses or benefits”, he says.
“You become an independent entrepreneur the moment you embrace the life as an artiste,” he adds.
His advice to budding artistes is to find their own voice, even if it means having to break the mould.
“If I wish to be as good as A.R. Rahman or Alexandre Desplat, I cannot copy their styles and work. If I do, I am not learning from them,” he says.
Building bridges through music
Mr Shabir believes that music brings everyone together in the most organic way, and he hopes to delve deeper into two areas — music and Tamil language.
“I am the first foreign composer to have signed four Tamil feature films in the history of Kollywood (in India). I intend to use the exposure in Singapore to create more awareness of the Tamil music scene,” he says.
Currently an advisor with National Arts Council as well, he lets on that there are plans to integrate numerous programmes into the Tamil music scene next year.
Mr Shabir believes that music is a great way to sustain language, and language, in turn, enriches music.
He says: “It's a symbiotic relationship and one which must be constantly explored and I hope to be of service to nurture this movement.
“I aspire to continue learning and use that knowledge to enrich the community and humanity as a whole.”