By day, he worked as a promoter at a clothing store. By night, he would learn everything he could about making music through tutorial videos on YouTube. Such was the then 17-year-old Hael Husaini’s life. After more than 10 years of hard work and sacrifice, today at 29 Hael has finally earned his big break.
His first single as a solo artiste, Jampi, released in February has left listeners spellbound, and is one of the hottest songs in the country right now. “Jampi was supposed to be just a way to introduce myself as a solo singer. I didn’t expect it to become a phenomenon,” he says humbly.
Jampi has spent 13 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the RIM (Recording Industry Association Of Malaysia) most streamed domestic singles chart. Its lyric video has fetched over 20 million YouTube views, and it earned two nominations at Anugerah Planet Muzik for Best Song (Malaysia) and Best New Artiste (Male).
Hael sits with Star2 and takes us through the ups and downs of his music journey so far.
‘YouTube Was My University’
The moment Hal Husaini Razmi, better known by his stage name Hael Husaini, left secondary school, he knew exactly what he was going to do with his life. Having harboured a love for music since he was a kid, Hael wasted no time and auditioned for reality talent series One In A Million (OIAM) in 2006.
“My very first audition was for OIAM. I was so nervous back then. I remember meeting Faizal Tahir at one of the audition rounds. He even helped me remember my lyrics. The ironic thing is, I work with him a lot today. He was like, ‘Oh so you were the guy seated next to me at the auditions who kept stammering?’”
Hael auditioned for a series of similar competitions but never made it far. “I didn’t sing very well back then,” he admits. “But by going through all those auditions, I learned how to sing and it helped develop my vocals.”
In between these auditions, Hael, who has no formal musical education, soaked up every piece of music knowledge he could find online, and tinkered with music software programmes while working various odd jobs during the day to support himself. “YouTube was my university,” he declares.
Indeed, Hael chose not to pursue a university education so he could devote himself wholeheartedly to his passion for music. “It doesn’t mean just because I didn’t further my studies in university, I wasn’t learning. I was still learning, just in a different way.”
Things started to look up when Hael made it as a contestant on reality singing show Mentor in 2009. Hael, who was under Jaclyn Victor’s tutelage, didn’t win but the exposure was enough to kick-start his music career, enabling him to earn a living by performing at weddings and events.
Still, success did not come until 2013, when his ex-schoolmate Azhar Osman invited Hael to audition together as a duo on another reality show, Akademi Fantasia (AF). The duo, known as Azhael, clicked and eventually placed second on AF. “It was easy working together. For our performances, I would work on the concept and music arrangement and he worked on the harmonies. We both have our own strengths which complemented each other,” he explains.
After the competition, Azhael went on to achieve considerable commercial and critical success, notably with its hit single Hujung Waktu, winning Best Vocal Performance In A Song (Group) at Anugerah Industri Muzik 2014. “My time with Azhael really taught me how to work the stage and helped me gain self-confidence,” he reflects.
After being a part of Azhael for about three years, the duo announced they were breaking up last February. “Azhar was getting a lot of acting offers and I didn’t want to stop him from doing what he likes. I was more into singing and I also started writing songs for other artistes. So our management said: ‘Why don’t you guys go solo?’”
Indeed, Hael’s songwriting career had been gradually taking off, beginning with the 2015 breezy pop tune Hati Hati for Amira Othman, which received constant radio airplay. Since then, Hael has been churning out hit after hit, including Cemburu by Nabila Razali, Nisan Cinta by Siti Nordiana and Jaclyn Victor. He also contributed the track Dia on Dayang Nurfaizah’s recent album.
“If I’m doing a song for Dayang, I put myself in her shoes and imagine the kind of songs she would sing. I sit down with them and talk to the artist. I don’t want to write a song for someone else that sounds like it’s been written for Hael Husaini,” he shares his songwriting process.
With all this experience under his belt, crafting a song for himself wasn’t difficult. “I wrote Jampi at around 3am. I was working on a song for another artiste and was resting for a while. Then my songwriting partner Ezra Kong and I started jamming. We got the melody and recorded it immediately. It took about 30 minutes to compose the melody and structure,” he recalls.
As for the lyrics, which were written later, Hael wanted to play with the universal theme of falling in love. “I wanted to describe that love-at-first-sight moment. I had words like terpaku (stunned) and terpesona (enchanted) in my mind. And I thought, ‘What is that one word to sum it all up?’” he shares the idea behind the chart-topping debut solo single, Jampi (spellbound).
Asked if there’s someone in his life right now that makes him feel that way, Hael responds: “I waited so long for my career to develop. This is the time for me to focus on my work first.”
Bundle Of Joy
However, he recently welcomed someone new in his life, daughter Nur Helena, now six months old. Hael shares he saw a great need when a family member couldn’t look after her and stepped in to adopt Helena. “I felt if it wasn’t me, who would look after her? What would happen to this innocent baby?”
Hael is understandably nervous playing the role of a father for the first time. “Yes, I am afraid but my sense of responsibility is greater than my fears,” he says, adding he gets help from his family members to take care of Helena when he leaves for work. He also takes her to work with him whenever possible.
Hael says fatherhood has changed him completely: “When I was younger, I get very impatient about things. With her, I have to learn to be patient, which also helps me in my career. You know if someone tests my patience, I think to myself, ‘If I can deal with my baby, I can deal with you’,” he says with a laugh.
Whether he realises it or not, Hael has been practising patience quite a bit over the years, what with his music dreams only taking flight after over a decade. The self-taught musician, however, says he doesn’t necessarily see his beginnings as a struggle.
“I’m happy when I’m able to do something without depending on others. So whether I was working as a promoter then or making music now, I have always felt happy.”