Iliya Zaki


Salima, Story-teller


"I’d always known that I’d wanted to be a performer. When you’re in primary one, your teachers asks you what you want to be as a grown up– and I’d known since I was a child.

I think it’s a calling. You can’t do anything else. I’ve been in other jobs, but I need to be free to do creative work, and roam around and meet people. Unemployment is not an issue to me. I’d rather be in this industry and semi-broke. In Singapore, you need to earn through other ways if you want to do music. Doing film is another creative way for me to earn money. I’m still writing songs while doing it. My ultimate aim is to get my music out, because I want other people to hear my stuff. 

I was acting in secondary school and JC, and did theatre in University. Theatre is one way of expression, but I’ve discovered that I'm a multidisciplinary person. The medium doesn't matter– it’s the story that comes across that is most important.

I decided to do music solo but I’m not musically trained so I need to work with people. I made YouTube videos and sang. Being a performer more so than a musician, over time the channel became more consumer- oriented, and I was telling stories with my videos. It was then where I realised that I could do this all by myself! All the steps in the process from start to end could be done myself. 

I realised that everything I’ve done up to this point was to tell stories. Now I’m interested to tell other people’s stories. That’s my way of getting to know other people who also do music. We need to have more ways for us musicians to talk to each other. There’s so much strength in the stories of human struggle– stories about people who come from different backgrounds who try to make it in a different country, for example. Art is the way you connect with other people.

In Singapore, I feel there are some structural challenges like distribution agreements and increasingly strict copyright enforcements that make it difficult to perform and post cover music online. I feel Singapore needs to have a connection to the US if locals want do English Pop music. I’m exploring ways to enter the US music industry. Honestly, it will cost a lot of money and I don't know how to do it, but I feel it’s the only way for English Pop musicians in Singapore. Sometimes it’s the idea that keeps you going. You wouldn't be able to go on if you didn’t have something to hold on to. But you must have self-control and not be a druggie.

I cannot change this. I am not powerful– I’m but a person, who isn't even in the music industry proper. I’d have to talk to more people or do more work to find out the legalities behind it. If it were in my power, I’d love to do something about it. This is my challenge because I want to do English Pop music."