Art is in her blood

Aziz Idris

Born into a music-loving family, it was a natural progression for Nur Ikhlas binti Sahfri to choose a career in music.

“Growing up, I was exposed to music a lot in the house and in the car,” she shared, fondly recalling how she was first introduced to the art that would become her very identity.

At the age of eight, Ikhlas made her debut solo piano performance during a corporate event, which had a huge impact on her.

“I started playing the piano because my mother is a keyboardist and she wanted to share her passion with me before I even learned how to talk properly,” said Ikhlas. “My dad and siblings play different instruments themselves. My dad plays the flute.”

From playing the piano at school recitals, Ikhlas’ mother got her into performing at weddings to corporate events as she grew up.

Nur Ikhlas binti Sahfri. PHOTO: IKHLAS

After noticing Ikhlas’ talent on the piano, her mother enrolled her into music classes to hone her skills. From there, she received accreditation from top music institutes locally and internationally from the Trinity College London and the Royal Schools of Music for Piano as a major.

Now at 25, life has become a more hectic ride growing up but Ikhlas is not fazed; in fact, she only gets more driven the harder it gets.

However, Ikhlas also shared a secret. She’s living with hyperthyroid condition which causes hand tremors, nervousness/anxiety. She first noticed her symptoms at the age of 14. Despite the circumstances, she was quick to point out that playing music helps her ease and cope with the issues.

“It was gone for two years but triggered again last December. It got more aggressive but (playing) music helps very much. It helps me calm down and plus, my tremors are less somehow when I play.”

“People don’t notice but if you look at my fingers, they shiver. Sometimes it helps to move the energy towards piano playing.”

Ikhlas also lauded music’s therapeutic values. She sees it as a way to develop oneself into a more wholesome person, and believes that music has the ability to connect people.

“Because of my tremors, I like to use this technique in my piano music compositions called the Trill and you can hear it in every piece of music I have made.”

“In a sense, playing the piano is my way of meditating and clearing my mind. It’s always important to express yourself as it is the healthy way to live a life,” she enthused.

By 2014, she received her formal accreditation as a Professional Composer/Pianist and now teaches young children to play the piano.

In 2018, she enlisted the song composition, Blackforest in a national talent competition and became a top five finalist. Ikhlas also made headlines on social media for the music videos that featured her playing the grand piano.

“It was the first original music piece that I have ever shared with anyone besides my parents on stage,” she said.

“I love it (performing) because it’s nerve wrecking but so fulfilling at the same time. It makes life a little more interesting when you have something to challenge yourself with, that and in between school and other things,” she joked.

Ikhlas went on to sign a record deal with Forever1NE Record Label and debuted her first music single Diam which won a well-deserved nomination at the Pelangi Awards 2019/2020.

She described the experience as the biggest milestone in her musical career. Although Ikhlas left without an award, she is still thankful for the nomination and expressed her gratitude to every one who voted.

“It made me realise that my music reached their hearts as it did to mine and there’s so many of them I wish to hug and say ‘Thank you’ to.”

But her journey is just beginning and, needless to say, it is one that require a lot of effort, painstakingly nurtured with equal parts passion and determination.

To add on her busy schedule, the 25-year-old is also taking her master’s as a teacher at the Vocational Technical Education for Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE).

“My mother is an IBTE lecturer, and I have found myself following her footsteps. This gave me the opportunity for me to teach as a teacher candidate with my mother.”

“Along the way, I discovered a passion for acting-modelling,” she continued. “So far, it’s been great. My schedule lets me pursue my passions at the same time.”

She was featured on RTB’s Sampai Syurga telemovie and also played a minor role as Kadet Ikhlas in Akademi, a film by first Brunei female director Siti Kamaluddin.

Apart from that, she had the opportunity to be a commercial model and have her name featured in the latest fashion-line for a local modest-fashion brand, Al-Hayaah.

She is still set on making time for music too – a challenging task amid her burgeoning commitments. Juggling the many demands of her adult life – performing, studies and her acting – boiled down to discipline, she said.

Her talent and determination are matched only by the tireless hard work and humble gratitude she is partaking her musical journey with.

She has been privileged to be working with and learning from some of the biggest names in the local music scene, but such recognition despite her young age is far from getting to her head. She chooses instead to focus on her music and count her blessings.

“Always surround yourself with family and the people you love, so if ever when you feel like you want to fall apart, at least you have someone to be with you.”

“Be passionate in what you do and be grateful for everything that you have,” she added.