MALAYSIA’S Queen of Rock Nor Zila Aminuddin, better known as Ella, is not afraid to get her pretty hands dirty.
“I love farming,” says the 53-year-old singer, revealing a side of her that this journalist has never seen before.
In fact, Ella is the owner of a 1.2 hectare chilli farm in Jeram, Kuala Selangor. The farm was opened last year, and to date, has yielded two bountiful harvests.
She does not rule out the possibility of producing and releasing her own brand of chilli sauce, and is even toying with the idea of starting a rock melon farm next.
She explained that her father who was in the army was into farming, and she picked up the love for farming from him.
She says: “I remember my father holding the tomatoes [he had grown] in his hands with so much joy on his face. When you love the land, the land will love you back.”
One may be forgiven for thinking that Ella may be hanging up her mic for good, and put all her focus into farming. But that is not the case. She still loves singing.
In fact, she is busy preparing for a concert called Kembara Kita with another iconic name in the local rock scene, Datuk Ramli Sarip.
The two-hour concert will take place at the prestigious national theatre Istana Budaya on Feb 14 and 15. Expect the two legendary singers to give the audience a good time.
Despite being in the music industry for nearly 40 years, Ella says she still feels nervous about performing on stage.
“To calm myself, I will try to exercise, pray and drink a lot of water,” she says with a huge laugh.
She also spoke about her special bond with Ramli. Ella started her music career with a rock band called Ella & The Boys in 1981. After seven years, she left the band and started her own solo career.
Ramli is the one who produced her first two solo albums, Pengemis Cinta and Puteri Kota.
She was only 23 when she first met Ramli, who by then was already an established singer, song writer and producer.
“I was very nervous when I met him the first time,” she says.
But he turned out to be a funny person, and she loves his sense of humour.
“When he is working, he is very serious,” she says.
You can see the chemistry between the two rockers is simply superb when they pose for the photographer. There were a lot of playful moments between them.
This is not the only concert that Ramli, better known as Papa Rock, is gearing up for. The 67-year-old singer is also in the midst of preparing for the concert of his dreams.
“The concert will have a lot of Nusantara (Malay archipelago) and Middle Eastern touches,” he says.
At the moment, he is searching for sponsors to make his dream concert a reality. It will likely take place in Singapore by the end of the year.
When asked what advice he would give to young singers out there, he says: “A singer should not have only one hit song, and [then] sing cover songs. If you only have one hit song, how are you going to put on two-hour concerts?
“A singer should create songs, or at least work with a composer who will create songs for you. A singer should have a number of songs under his belt.”
“Singing is a gift,” he says.
“The gift does not belong to you. The gift can be taken away at any time.”
His career has not always been smooth sailing. There were a lot of ups and downs.
When Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) imposed a ban on male artistes with long hair in 1993, Ramli was one of the few singers who refused to snip their locks. As a result, his livelihood suffered, and recording companies stayed away from him.
This experience taught him that singers should not be brought down by disappointment.
“Disappointment is a part of life,” says the singer, who has been in the industry for the last 50 years.
“You cannot run away from disappointments.” He says singers should rise above challenges. During his darkest days, he says he would pray, and always get the blessings of his parents and hope for the best.