Alif Satar’s father was flipping through the pages of a newspaper one day when something caught his eye. His face beamed. He had an idea.

The then 16-year-old Alif had earlier expressed his hopes of becoming a pilot but the course would cost about RM150,000 and he was told he’d have to pay his own way.

“There’s your fee,” Alif’s dad told him, pushing the newspaper towards him, a finger pressed on a particular article. It was a reality singing competition, One In A Million (OIAM), which promised a generous prize money for the winner – RM1mil.

Music was something Alif “passionately loved” but he’d always dismissed the idea of pursuing it as it felt too far fetched. “I told myself I’m going to win this thing and with the prize money I’m going to do my commercial pilot license,” Alif, now 26, recalls during an interview recently.

But he knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Prior to the show, he performed mostly at events in school and was once cast as one of the Lost Boys in the West End production, Peter Pan – The Musical, in Genting Highlands when he was 14.

On OIAM, Alif was not only up against fellow singing hopefuls but established singer Dayang Nurfaizah as well. “Imagine all the insecurities a 16-year-old wearing braces has, and being on OIAM with Dayang, it’s a huge deal. She’s a legend and I’m like, ‘I’m not gonna win’,” he says candidly.

Alif really didn’t win, although, to his surprise, he did better than Dayang, edging out the seasoned singer just a week before the grand finals.

But perhaps the defeat was a blessing in disguise. Without the prize money to fund his pilot dreams, and having gotten a taste of the music industry, Alif found himself heading down the path of show business instead.

Alif Satar

Alif Satar

After OIAM, Malaysian Idol runner-up Dina Nadzir invited Alif to open for her concert in Singapore. There, a Sony Music executive took notice of his performance and he was later signed to the label. At the same time, he also scored a hosting gig on teen-centric programme, Remaja.

It’s been 10 years since his foray into showbiz. The journey has been difficult; in fact, it was only recently that Alif made a career breakthrough.

Alif Satar’s 10-year wait

Although Alif had some success in the past decade – with three albums to his name and a number of hit singles including Jangan Nakal and Akhiri Penantianku, which made it to the semi-finals of Anugerah Juara Lagu – that big break still eluded him.

Alif, who also ventured into acting, says: “I did plenty of dramas but it wasn’t the lead role and it wasn’t on the right time slot. I can do it but I was not given the chance.”

Alif noticed there were times he wasn’t taken seriously because of his youth too. “I was offered a role in a film. But when I told them my rate, they came back to me and said, ‘What is your credibility? Who are you to ask for that price?’,” he recounts.

“And I was like, ‘You came to me, you asked for my service and this is how I put the price.’ I knew the quality of my work and the commitment I would give (to the work).”

Asked if he ever thought of giving up over the years, he responds: “I told myself since OIAM, ‘I give myself five years’. If I’m not somewhere, then probably it’s not for me. But things kept coming and gradually, they got bigger and bigger.”

Alif’s career finally came into full swing when his drama, Tundukkan Playboy Itu, landed the prime time slot on TV3 early this year. “Although I was the second lead, people started to pay attention to me and and they saw that I could act.” He fuelled the momentum with the lead role in the well-received Dia Semanis Honey in May.

Alif is on a career high now, recently joining Zizan Razak as co-host on the latest season of Akademi Fantasia. He can also be seen in the paranormal film, Aliff Dalam 7 Dimensi, which premiered recently.

Music matters for Alif Satar

He is seizing the moment on the music front as well, with the release of a new single, Selamanya Cinta, a duet with Shila Amzah.

“Shila wrote this song for herself initially, but something seemed amiss … it needed a duet partner.” More than that, the project, Alif reveals, is actually eight years in the making.

“She was on the second season of OIAM, I was on the first. During the second season, there was a duet week and she had a buffet line of artistes to choose from, but she said she wanted to duet with me. She told me she was a fan,” he recalls meeting Shila.

The two hit it off on stage and after the show, they had made plans to record a song together. But their busy schedules got in the way and it was only some time last year that they sat down to record.

Alif, who last released an album in 2013, has plans for a new album and is hoping to get started on gathering materials and recording it early next year.

Most of the singer’s radio singles have been light, breezy pop tunes like Lelaki Seperti Aku and Cukup Indah. Alif hopes to bring something new to the table.

“I’m thinking of something a bit more acoustic to showcase the vocals. The songs that I usually sing on the radio don’t showcase what I can do. I’ve been covering songs on Instagram and a lot of people realise I have a nice voice,” he offers.

“I have an idea to do a cover album. I’ll minimise the instruments, sing the songs my own way and show off my voice. And I’ll have a couple of original songs too.”

alif satar

Alif with his wife and one-year-old daughter. Photo: Instagram

It’s all coming together beautifully as well when it comes to his personal life. Alif has a one-year-old daughter and is expecting a second child early next year. “I’ve always been a family man, being a husband and dad comes naturally to me,” says Alif, who got married in 2014.

But balancing the demands of his career and family life is not easy. Alif, who also hosts variety show Meletop Kebaboom on Astro Ria, shares he has been working seven days a week since October last year.

“You have to make time, work is work and family is family. It doesn’t matter if you’re tired, there’s no excuse,” he says. “I’m an early riser, no matter what time I sleep, at midnight or 2am, I’ll wake up at 6am to shower my daughter, feed her breakfast and play with her until 11am and then send her to my mum’s place. And at night, I’ll find an excuse to wake her up sometimes and play with her for an hour. My wife is not too happy about that,” he adds.

Although it took 10 long years before finally breaking through, Alif says he wouldn’t have it any other way: “If I got the attention that I have now five years ago when I was young and wasn’t married, I don’t think I can handle it. I would go wild. I am much calmer now as I’m a family man.”

Alif didn’t mind being low-profile throughout most of his years in show business.

“I love being low-profile, being the underdog, and people not knowing my true ability. “People don’t really know what you’re doing and then you go boom!”