AT THE tender age of 10, Haqiem Rusli won hearts when he took part in
the children’s singing competition Idola Kecil in 2008, where he emerged first runner up.
Four years later, he joined the singing group The Beesings, beginning his career as a professional singer.
He continued to take part in competitions over the years, and even tried his hand at acting in telemovies such as Rocket Kertas (2013) and Tergantung Rindu (2018).
But singing and songwriting remained his first love, and songs like Tergantung Sepi, Jatuh Bangun and Lembah Kesepian made him a star.
On Nov 13 last year, he was awarded the title of Bintang Paling Popular (most popular star) at the 33rd Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian.
He also won an award for most popular male singer, and his song Lembah Kesepian was named most popular song.
During a recent interview, we asked if things had changed for him since his big victory.
“Life has not changed that much,” he said. “It is still the same. The only difference is that the award has given me the drive to work harder and to do better. It is a form of appreciation shown towards artistes.”
The pandemic has hit the industry hard, and Haqiem admits he has felt its effects.
“Right now we are able to promote ourselves by attending small-scale events, or [performing] online. My income has been affected a little, but not that badly, I have my savings.
“Artistes don’t rely on monthly salaries, and we have to be good at managing our money. Especially at times like this.”
Prior to becoming a star in his own right, Haqiem tried to join rock star Black’s team on the reality singing show Mentor Millenia in 2016, but did not make the cut.
“He is so kind, he helped build my confidence. Although I did not get chosen, he told me I would be successful one day and make my own mark. There were reasons I did not make the cut, but he imparted such positive comments.”
Though he is only 22, Haqiem already knows where he wants to be, career-wise.
“My target is to be a singer. I tried acting but had to cut down on that. I much prefer singing and composing songs.
“I also have my own restaurant in Setapak.”
Haqiem writes his own lyrics, and also dabbles in poetry.
“I will come out with a book in the near future. Once I have finished, I will get it published.”
When asked whom he considers his role model when it comes to music, Haqiem said: “I love the works of M. Nasir. His lyrics, music and melodies are so beautiful. I consider him my ‘sifu’ although I have never sat down and discussed my work with him, or worked with him.
“I seek out his works and I am inspired by his works. I am moved by the way his songs reflect who he is. So I try to follow in his footsteps.”
In particular M. Nasir’s song Suatu Masa, originally released in 2002, is something that plays regularly in Haqiem’s head.
“It is my favourite song!” he exclaimed.
As for his future plans, Haqiem explained: “I will continue with what I am doing now. I hope to be able to have my own proper concert.
“I have held mini concerts, and been a part of shows with other artistes before, and I hope I will be able to headline my own concert one day.”
He also hopes to penetrate a much bigger music market.
“Things like these are unexpected. Who doesn’t want to go international? Even I never expected to be where I am now.
“I [am] a kampung boy from Ulu Langat Selangor, and never thought I would achieve what I have now. These things are based on luck. If it happens, it happens.”