Stories

Iliya Zaki

Iliya Zaki, Composer

“I’ve been trying to figure out my life as a composer– what I have to do to make things work in Singapore, how to find money.

One of my greatest struggles, especially especially after spending at least three years in the Epic Orchestral Trailer scene, is that I’ve become very lonely. All my industry clients, contacts and collaborators are online. I’m a people person, I bounce off other people’s energy and ideas. When you talk to people over the screen, you don't get that human interaction– it’s not the same as meeting up for coffee in real life. It was so liberating to have met some members of the community in 2014 for the first time. I felt so inspired immediately after that trip. Unfortunately, when it comes to epic trailer music in Singapore there are people who know what the genre’s about but don't compose it.

New composers in the Epic Music genre face a huge disadvantage. Music is a universal language. Learning a new language would be much easier if you are surrounded by people who speak it. Epic music has become my way of conversing, and it is difficult to improve without a community. Surround yourself with like-minded people, and watch yourself grow. When I say ‘people’– I refer to actual human contact. Learning ‘online’ works too but it is slower. Much slower. When I took a trip to Europe, bonds were made with industry contacts, online friends, people who actually matter in your career growth. Breaking the physical barrier with anyone is crucial to building a music career. Human relationships in person are crucial. It would greatly benefit new composers to try, try, try to make real connections with people in the industry. Meeting up for coffee is best– and at the very least, Skype. Facebook messaging or emails will not cut it. It is difficult to establish an intimate relationship from behind the screen. Make an effort to meet your online friends for real. I will admit, I thought I could stay cooped up in my room composing music and speaking to my friends only through Facebook, but do that for two to three year and you’ll go lonely or worse– insane.

Another struggle that I face is to find a regular source of income to start a family. I’ve been doing music for 3 to 4 year, but I still live off my parents. This year, I set the bar for myself and aim to have enough to start paying for a house. When I go for lunch meetings, I skip the meal and tell them I’ve eaten at home, because I just don't have enough money. At the moment, whatever I have goes into transportation, phone bills, and music library samples. If things don't go well this year, I might have to put away my dreams. People always tell you not to care about money when you’re an artists, but it’s tough not to care. As my parents grow old and frail, it is the responsibility of the children to take care of them. The reality of doing music– doing what you love, is that it is not easy.

So right now, I’m doing the best I can. I could organise more epic music gatherings but I have no idea how to start searching for Singaporean fans of the genre. So I’m trying to spread the word of epic music with my own music. I am an ambassador. Whenever I meet people, I’ll tell them about Thomas Bergerson and show them youtube videos. Epic music is all around us. Hopefully more young Singaporeans composers would try to compose in this genre, because there is a market for this kind of music. There is a huge following out there. I will just continue writing my music, and hopefully lead the fight in bringing Epic Music to Singapore.

Even though composing is a lonely job, I keep myself inspired by talking to different people. When I go out, I smile and say hello a lot. Sometimes on a good day, I’d get random uncles talking to me and telling me what he had for his lunch. It’s these small human interactions that are vital for my inspiration. When these people tell me their stories, it feels good to know that they poured their heart out to you after a bad day.

I want to do music because I want to change the world. There’s a saying that it’s easier to scare the ears than the eyes. If whatever music I make makes someone feel better, or connects me to someone who can relate to the track, this is my contribution to making the world a better place.”