Man of many talents

Bob Yusof talks about his role behind the scenes of the music industry

11 Jan 2021 / 11:12 H.

HE has been in the music industry for over 17 years. In 2004, Bob Yusuf became a household name after competing in the second season of Akademi Fantasia when the music reality show opened its doors to participants from East Malaysia.

Today, the singer is also active behind the scenes as a producer and a mentor.

Born in Limbang, Sarawak as Yusrizan Usop, the 39-year-old considers singing to be his main profession, but looks at the diversity of the roles he has been offered as one of the many blessings that has gotten him through tough times.

“I’ve been working behind the scenes, I have been producing vocals and music for new singers,” shared Bob.

“The whole music industry is very affected by the restrictions. After almost a year of the pandemic, we [still] cannot do shows. Singers depend on shows and events. Actors were affected as well.

“But when the government lifted the restrictions for the arts to continue, TV channels gave more space for singers to work. They produced and sponsored shows that gave opportunities for musicians to work during the CMCO”.

Bob also noticed that several artistes have become entrepreneurs and started their own business.

“It is up to the artiste to adapt to the current situation. There are artistes who depend on their singing abilities alone. And there are those who diversify. For me, it is their choice.

“I find that working behind the scenes has been an invaluable experience. I learned how to produce, worked in a studio, and accumulated knowledge that would help me a lot in my career,” recounted Bob.

He gushed about how teaching new talents had also taught him a lot. It began with him teaching choir groups for corporate and governmental bodies. He was also invited to mentor talents on reality shows, and recording companies have also sent their new talents for Bob to train.

“A lot of recording companies chose me to produce vocals and train their new talents. They also gave me the opportunity to produce their singles.

“I look at it as an opportunity to learn. I don’t look at it as a student-and-teacher relationship. It is more like an environment where we share our knowledge.

“I find it awkward calling it a student-and-teacher kind of thing, and it is especially awkward when I’m working with singers my age or veteran singers who come to me to retrain their vocal skills. I mean, I grew up listening to their music.

“So, it’s not like I opened a singing school. It’s all based on referrals. I help where I can, and at the same time, I learn and improve myself. I see it as a part of my professional journey.”

He finds fulfilment in teaching. There is no feeling like helping an experienced singer – whom he may have grown up listening to – to find their voice again, and at times surpass it.

And there is also satisfaction in seeing a new vocalist bloom into an admirable talent and achieve success.

But Bob, being humble, will not take the credit. He will never admit that he is the main reason for the success of someone who trained under him.

“To me, no matter what I share and what I do, it is up to them to learn from it and do what they will with it,” admitted Bob.

Of course, new talents often ask Bob for career advice.

“For me, it’s simple. People could see that I have done the work and I have experience in singing. However, when it comes to a career as an artiste, to me it is subjective. I always say that you have to experience it for yourself.

“Everyone has different experiences, and got to where they are in the industry in different ways. Even with my 17 years of experience I still consider it just ‘a drop in the ocean’.

“I am not a big, popular name with many awards. But I always tell them to never be afraid to face challenges and to do what they believe in.”

As someone who is experienced in the many aspects of the local music industry, he feels that it has to be filled with a variety of music.

However, he understands that currently, the industry only focuses on a couple of genres. Marketable ones that see a lot of airplay and promotion.

However, there are a lot of talented musicians and composers out there who lack exposure.

“My hope is our industry [will be] more open to diversity, and put more effort into highlighting different types of music. Expose the public to more than just foreign music, and champion local musicians with music that is uniquely Malaysian,” concluded Bob.

And making this possible is in the capability of various media outlets, whether visual or audio, new or old, scheduled or streaming.

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