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The heat is on for Anugerah Juara Lagu 38 finalists on eve of Malaysia’s prestigious music competition

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, March 2 — Finalists of the Anugerah Juara Lagu 38 (AJL38) are in the final stages of preparation for the big show tomorrow and competition is heating up.

Scheduled tomorrow night at Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil, Malaysia’s most prestigious and oldest pop music competition will see twelve of the year's best songs and oldest annual music competitions where 12 songs will be competing for the top spots of Juara Lagu, or Best Song, as well as subsidiary prizes in Best Vocals and Best Performance.

With the theme Muzikaverse, AJL38 is aiming to showcase how singers, lyricists and composers come together into the beauty of a song.

From first-timer to comebacks, here’s a look at some of this year’s finalists as they prepare to take on the big stage.

Aina Abdul

AJL37 winner Aina Abdul admitted that the stakes are higher for her this year with expectations running high. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
AJL37 winner Aina Abdul admitted that the stakes are higher for her this year with expectations running high. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

AJL37 winner Aina Abdul admitted that the stakes are higher for her this year with expectations running high. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Last year’s AJL37 winner Aina Abdul is looking for another title under her belt through her song Jangan Mati Rasa Itu which she wrote and composed herself.

The 30-year-old singer, known for her avant-garde fashion choices in her performances, admitted that she was pressure but remains no less excited.

“Maybe because this is my passion - to be performing and whenever I’m on stage, that is Aina Abdul and I would feel empty otherwise and that’s why I need to embrace these moments and be thankful.

“However, this year it's a bit complicated as it is my fifth year competing in the finals and expectations are high which has resulted in restless nights for me and my team because we are striving to lock a concept that goes well with Jangan Mati Rasa Itu.”

Aina said that AJL has given her a platform to truly express her artistic self.

Ziana Zain

Almost 16 years since her last AJL performance, evergreen singer Ziana Zain will be competing at AJL38 through a duet number featuring singer Hasif Upin. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Almost 16 years since her last AJL performance, evergreen singer Ziana Zain will be competing at AJL38 through a duet number featuring singer Hasif Upin. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Almost 16 years since her last AJL performance, evergreen singer Ziana Zain will be competing at AJL38 through a duet number featuring singer Hasif Upin. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Making a comeback at AJL38 almost 16 years since her last AJL performance, pop legend Ziana Zain is back, this time through a duet number in Waktu featuring newcomer Hasif Upin.

Waktu was composed and written by Iqie Hugh, John Jeeves and Firdaus Rahmat.

Ziana, who made a name for herself in AJL7 back in 1992 through her hit single Madah Berhelah is excited to be back performing in the competition.

“This is a very prestigious competition, a competition that people actually look forward to and it’s a big opportunity for both newcomers and senior artists to showcase their capabilities in singing and songwriting.

“And if you are recognised (as AJL winner) that evening, it’s like you’ve won the lottery.”

Despite her vast experience in the industry, the 56-year-old singer admitted that she still feels nervous going into big performances and she’s currently focusing on building up her stamina by doing cardio workouts to match the energy that night.

When talking about her concept for AJL38, Ziana said she and Hasif will be following a similar concept to Waktu’s music video which was inspired by The Sleeping Beauty.

Amir Jahari

Kuching-born singer-songwriter Amir Jahari is looking forward to performing 'Hasrat' at AJL38. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Kuching-born singer-songwriter Amir Jahari is looking forward to performing 'Hasrat' at AJL38. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Kuching-born singer-songwriter Amir Jahari is looking forward to performing 'Hasrat' at AJL38. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Kuching-born singer-songwriter Amir Jahari is also no stranger to being a finalist at AJL as he made his first appearance for AJL 27 in 2013 through his debut single Tanpamu.

The 32-year-old is competing for AJL38 through his latest single Hasrat which made waves since its release in February 2023, as well as the theme song for soundtrack for last year's hit film, Imaginur.

Following an uphill battle with depression, the Hasrat hype has rekindled the fire within him and prompted his return to popular music after a short break back into the indie scene.

Amir however does not see AJL as a competition but rather as a platform for him to do what he does best- to perform.

“I’m actually a bit scared of myself because I no longer feel nervous and it’s a huge thing for an artist to feel nervous about performing, because my mindset right now is that I put it (AJL38) as another performance for me to showcase my work and the story behind it.

“Another reason for the absence of nervousness is probably because I’ve already known what I want to do on stage, the awareness is there when you know what you’re supposed to do and what you want to share with the audiences.

“My song is not made for competition but it is meant to be felt.”

Ernie Zakri

Singer Ernie Zakri wants to give back to her fans with her performance of 'Astana' at AJL38. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Singer Ernie Zakri wants to give back to her fans with her performance of 'Astana' at AJL38. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Singer Ernie Zakri wants to give back to her fans with her performance of 'Astana' at AJL38. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

For 31-year-old singer Ernie Zakri — it will be her third consecutive outing as a finalist in AJL, this time with Astana, written and composed by Omar K, Shazriq Azeman, herself and Syamel.

Although getting a trophy remains one of her aims, Ernie is more inclined on giving a performance for AJL38 that will inspire younger generations.

“My main motivation right now is my fans because my fans actually fought for me to perform this song.

“And I need to fight alongside them as this song now carries a strong sentimental value to me and Alhamdulillah, the song was chosen as one of the finalists and I need to give back to my fans.”

As reported by Kosmo!, Astana made headlines following Ernie’s previous label Rocketfuel Entertainment replacing her with singer Nadeera to perform the song at the semifinal stage without her knowledge.

She was later granted permission to perform the song following discussions between her current label Universal Music Malaysia and Rocketfuel who did not want to prolong the matter. after a fan uproar

Naqiu

After waiting for almost 20 years, Naqiu is heads over heels to be able to perform at AJL38. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
After waiting for almost 20 years, Naqiu is heads over heels to be able to perform at AJL38. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

After waiting for almost 20 years, Naqiu is heads over heels to be able to perform at AJL38. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

It's a dream come true for singer Naqiu or his real name Wan Naqiuddin Mohd Najib who has waiuted for almost 20 years for a chance to compete at AJL.

He will be replacing Faizal Tahir for the latter's composition, Santai.

Naqiu's recent win for music show Gegar Vaganza, saw Faizal himself approving of the choice of replacement.

“If I go 100 per cent with how abang Faizal did with his song, people would say I’ve got no creativity but if I follow my way then it would eradicate the intended value of the song.

“So it's crucial for me to find the perfect balance for the song.

“But one thing for sure, I will definitely bring my own uniqueness during my performance.”

He added that his participation in this year’s AJL will open more opportunities for him in the future and he would love to compete in the next AJL but with his own song next time.

Other finalist performers for AJL38 include Aisha Retno, Kugiran Masdo, Marsha Milan Londoh, Shiha Zikir, Wany Hasrita, Hael Husaini as well as Khai Bahar and Nabila Razali.

AJL38 will be screened live at 9pm on TV3 and on Tonton.