Neff shines with ‘Diam’ after long hiatus

Syazwani Hj Rosli

Thirty-year-old, local artiste, Muhammad Hanif bin Haji Asli, known as ‘Neff Aslee’, recently released a new single Diam after a long hiatus. Neff’s love for music started at a young age. Although shy, he entered singing contests in wedding events during his teen. Over the years, he realised that he needed to work on his vocal game.

In 2005, his confidence grew and he participated in Tolak Satu Ambil Satu show on Pelangi FM, one of Brunei’s radio stations. Participants were required to sing live over the phone. He managed to grab himself a spot in the final of Best 914 in 2006.

Since then, he began to focus on singing and had the opportunity to participate in a local television programme, Passport to Fame (P2F) Season 3, organised by the Radio Television Brunei (RTB).

“Although I came in fourth place, I was still grateful. I received the Friendship Award during the final concert in 2010. Alhamdulillah during my time with P2F, I was given vocal classes to enhance my singing techniques,” he said.

Neff released his first single debut Sedih Menyapa Sepi after joining P2F. Afterwards, he worked with Udi Luqman on composing and writing the new single Tak Mahu Abang Romeo featuring Udi Luqman. In 2012, Neff made a breakthrough with his fifth single, Juliet. “After it was released, people began to recognise me as an artiste. It was a turning point for my career. It became my signature song. It dominated the radio and charts and was widely accepted by listeners. It was on the charts of Pelangi FM for 24 weeks in a row and reached first place in Kristal FM chart,” he said.

Neff Aslee performs during the ‘Peace Wishing and Closing Ceremony’ in Korea. PHOTOS: ADAM HAGUE
Neff Aslee performs during the ASEAN-Korea Train programme

From the single, he was nominated as Artiste of the Month in Pelangi FM and qualified in the Top 5 of the Lagu Pilihan during the Pelangi Award 2012-2013.

His journey in the music industry continues as he participated in several competitions including sketch-based musical competition, the Abu Radio Song Festival in Sri Lanka in 2014 and the first season of the D’Academi Asia in 2015, a famous competition in Indonesia. He received several invitations from organisers to perform his songs.

However, several years after Juliet, Neff began to take things slow as he struggled to find balance. He said his daily life became quite hectic because of work and his side businesses with his mother. “I believe that rezeki is everywhere and often comes unexpectedly. It was only recently I was selected to participate in the ASEAN-Korea Train programme representing Brunei as a local artiste,” he said.

During the programme, Neff was among the performers from the ASEAN members countries to share their talents during the six-hour train ride across Gyeongju, Busan, Suncheon, Gwangju and Busan. “It was my first time in Korea and to represent Brunei was a golden opportunity for me. Alhamdulillah, the ASEAN delegates were entertained during my performance,” he said. He delivered his popular song Juliet, a cover of Ed Sheeran’s Perfect, and two Korean songs, SG Wannabe’s song Saldaga and HOPE, a traditional Korea song.

“It was a challenging when I had to sing Korean songs because I don’t speak Korean. To master the pronunciation in a short period was not easy. Not being able to understand the lyrics was one thing, memorising it was another. The hardest one was Saldaga because the lyrics were not the same from beginning to the end. But being able to overcome the challenges and deliver it perfectly was an achievement for me,” he said.

“The experience has raised my confidence to sing before a large audience again. I am grateful to the ASEAN-Korea Centre for organising such a prestigious event and the opportunity to be in the international platform and share my talent,” he added.

After his return from Korea, Neff released his latest single Diam at Pelangi FM and Kristal FM and received positive feedback and response. He composed Diam on his own and the lyrics were written by Faz Azmain. The music arrangement and sound recording was from NHAT Studio. “The song tells a story about a man who has feelings for a woman but chooses to remain silent despite his deep love for her. He only put down his heartfelt emotions and expressions through the song, Diam,” he explained.

“For my fellow artistes and those who are new in the industry, be consistent and never stop believing in yourself. We are all in different stages of our journey and working towards the same goal, to achieve success. Success is different for everyone. Some may take longer while others are already celebrating. Do not give up, continue with what you have – passion and determination. Insya Allah, your time will come”.