Cover Story – Fakhrul Razi

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Photo by Arthur John Am

The first time I saw Fakhrul perform was a year ago at a friend’s wedding. When he sang the whole auditorium stood still – everyone in the audience stopped and was completely mesmerised by every word that he sang. I remember saying to my wife this guy clearly doesn’t belong on this stage as a wedding singer, he’s destined for greater heights.

As it turns out, I was correct. Exactly a year later, the newspaper reported that Fakhrul had won a total of five awards in the World Championship of Performing Art (WCOPA) competition in Hollywood. And recently, he released his much anticipated single “Buat Yang Terluka” which has captured the hearts of everyone.

The astonishing thing about Fakhrul Razi is that in spite of his great talent and achievements, he does not seem to understand the magnitude of his stardom. Even today he continues to accept invitations to sing at company functions and weddings. So when I invited Fakhrul to do this interview, I was surprised that a man like him who is accustomed to the stage and spotlight, sounded a even a little bit nervous.

“If I have inspired even one person with my singing, I have succeeded.”

To understand this phenomenon, one has to understand how Fakhrul Razi approaches the idea of success. According to him, success has got nothing to do with winning the first prize; popularity or even the amount of money that’s in your bank account. In fact, he sees these factors as a distraction from his art, which is his music. He said that “If you think about the exterior too much, you will not be able to focus.” He added, “If I have inspired even one person with my singing, I have succeeded.” Which is why it makes no difference to him, whether he is singing on the stage in Hollywood or to an audience at a wedding reception.

The question is how does Fakhrul remain so grounded and maintain his values in this type of industry? We believe the answer lies in a poem which we found on Fakhrul’s facebook page, posted last year on his birthday:

On my 33rd birthday, I wish I turned 16 again. Why? On my 16th birthday my dad bought me donuts ( the 50 centsold school- Indian bakery – sugary kind) for my “birthday cake” , and we ate them together after we had our usual gunting rambut session in the car, heading home for dinner.

On my 33rd birthday, I wish I turned 31 again. Why? I was with my mom when i turned 31. Just my mom and I. Together in JPMC. Was with her every time she spent the night at the centre. She had cancer, I took care of her. I was next to her and I told her it was my birthday. She asked me how old I was. Told her my age. She smiled (pretty sure she was smiling- the room was quite dark) and asked for some water. 

Clearly, their concept of birthdays were never mainstream: and that influenced my perspective on life. And I thank God for that.

To their credit, Fakhrul’s parents have raised a young man who has definitely not been blinded by popularity, he continues to cherish and live by his family values.

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Fakhrul Razi

What is the Fakhrul Razi story?

Fakhrul is reluctant to be defined by the accolades and the number of mega stars whom he’s performed with on the international stage. Therefore we must begin his story at home in Brunei. Fakhrul grew up in a humble, loving home with four siblings. None of his family members were musically gifted, except for Fakhrul who sang nonstop from as far back as he could remember.

At the age of five, when a school teacher invited a group of kindergarten children to sing before an audience, Fakhrul was the boy who held on to the microphone for the entire show. He had no idea whether or not he was a good singer then, but he sure remembers how much he loved performing on stage.

At the age of 24, his friends pushed him to enter the Talent Time singing contest by RTB and he won first prize. It was then that he started receiving invitations to sing for events and began earning small amounts. Fakhrul remembers receiving his first paycheck of BND50 for singing six songs and how ecstatic he felt because of the fact that he was being taken seriously for the first time as a singer.

In 2010, Fakhrul was invited to sing in Kuala Lumpur. When he arrived at the airport he felt embarrassed to fill out the occupation section on the immigration form with “Singer, Songwriter”, because at that time he thought that “In Brunei no one takes being a singer seriously as a profession.” But later on, he would come to realise that this was not the case. Fakhrul also felt as though he had a great weight on his shoulders because he knew that he had to do his best to represent his small country in front of this big league audience.

What Fakhrul didn’t realize was that, not only was he equal to the task in Kuala Lumpur but that his voice would eventually take him further than he could ever possibly imagine.

This article was published in the Jan-Mar 2014 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!