Malaysian singer Meer Nash is fast establishing himself in the local Mandopop scene after he made the country proud in a global language proficiency competition last year.
Also known in Mandarin as Sha Mi Er, the fresh-faced singer just dropped his very first solo single, a Mandarin song titled Lai Ai (Come To Love).
Meer says he fell in love with the song when he first heard it, and asked for it to be his debut Mandarin single.
“The song was written by a singer named Kai Kai from China. When I first listened to the demo, I liked it so much. I said I wanted to do it, so we flew to Beijing in May to record it, along with two other songs,” shared the singer.
But, it was not as easy as he expected, as he was not familiar with the genre. “I had quite a tough time recording there. It’s a very challenging song for me. That’s not the kind of genre I’m used to singing,” said Meer, describing it as a very sexy John Mayer-like electric guitar sound.
“I used to sing a lot of ballads. This kind of song, I’d never tried before. Yet, I like it so much. After we recorded it, I felt very happy with the result. And, also with the fact that I found a new genre that I like. This will help broaden my horizons.”
Signed to local music label OnMuse – which is set up by Shila Amzah’s mentor Ong Peng Chu – Meer has been kept busy shooting music videos and recording cover duets with his labelmates Jeryl Lee, Pink Tan and Lin Kexin.
Recently, the lad even released a music video and several episodes of a short film for the duet Love Me, Please with Tan.
Apart from that, he has also recorded a Malay single which is still pending release.
Taking a chance
The baby face singer, whose real name is Muhamad Shahmeer Mohd Nashrul, turns 23 in November.
Hailing from Penang, Meer is of mixed parentage – Chinese mother and Malay father.
Meer, who has an elder brother and a younger brother, says that being the middle child has made him independent from an early age.
He is also thankful for having supportive parents, who give him the space to explore his options.
He recalls having started singing when he was eight years old, but it was a talent that he had discovered quite by chance.
“I was picked to join a singing competition in school. Actually, come to think of it, I was forced by my teacher because she could not find anybody else to do it. So, I ran home crying to my mum, because I had never done any singing before that,” he recounted the tale.
“But my mum advised me to give it a shot. She told me, ‘If you never try, you’ll never know what you are capable of.’
“So, it was through that competition that I found out I could sing. And, that’s when I knew I loved to sing.”
However, his foray into singing in Mandarin would only come much later.
Discovering a new talent
Meer discovered his own strengths after toughing it out for a month in China, where he was placed second at the 16th Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students last year.
And things got truly surreal when the accounting student from UITM received a congratulatory tweet from the then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak for his achievement.
He was the sole representative from Malaysia, in a gruelling competition, which saw 145 contestants comprising non-Chinese and non-native speakers from 122 countries.
An annual affair, organised by the Confucius Institute Headquarters, the global competition promotes the development of Chinese education overseas and enhancement of students’ understanding of the language.
“It was a month-long programme with daily training sessions, so I had to start each day as early as 8am,” shared Meer, who got to showcase his vocals in the talent section of the competition.
He won many hearts while singing the 2002 hit Ni Shi Wo De Yan (You Are My Eyes) made popular by the award-winning blind Taiwanese artiste Ricky Hsiao, dubbed the Taiwanese Stevie Wonder.
“It was basically a test of proficiency in various aspects, including public speaking and knowledge about Chinese culture and history.
“We even had to go into an exam hall to sit down for written tests. Every round was tough,” said the singer.
“But, I managed to find strength from the friendship developed with contestants from other countries. The best thing about the whole experience was getting to meet people of all races from all over the world.”
During the competition, he did profess an interest in pursuing a singing career in China, adding that: “People in China are very welcoming and I like Chinese food.”
The top five winners were entitled to full scholarships to study in China, but he missed home so much that Meer decided to resume his studies in Malaysia.
Making his solo debut
Interestingly enough, Meer didn’t start to sing in Mandarin. His foray into the music industry started at age 19 when he joined the group VOTEz. The trio released two Malay singles Propa and Mana Dulu.
However, the group disbanded two years ago, when Meer decided to pursue his higher education.
But the singing bug bit him again. Meer made his debut as a solo singer in the local Mandopop scene last year. He discovered that there is a lot more ground to cover when pursuing a music career in the Chinese scene.
“So, I am currently taking music lessons and learning how to play the piano.
“And, I am also attending weekly dance classes in hip-hop and K-pop to improve my movement,” he said.
After his stint in China last year, Meer braved even more challenges. He recently participated in Astro’s Hokkien singing competition Hua Hee Champion 2018, where he sang in Hokkien on stage for the first time and made it into the Top 10.
The cheery lad is grateful that his proficiency in Mandarin has opened many doors.
Like many Asian kids, Meer has his mother to thank for her foresight and insistence of learning a different language.
“When my mother sent me for Mandarin classes, I used to ask her why. But now, I realise the importance of learning Mandarin, as proficiency in the language took me to China, while I represented Malaysia in a global competition,” said Meer, who studied Mandarin from age seven for eight years.
He is also thankful to his college lecturer at UITM, for seeing the potential in him. “I did not know about the competition, initially. It was my Mandarin lecturer who told me about it and even trained me for it.”
Meer, who speaks Malay, English, Mandarin, and Chinese dialects like Hokkien and Cantonese, says he hopes others can understand the benefits and advantages of learning several languages.
“If you ever get an opportunity to learn an extra language, any language at all, please do study it well. Because you never know when you will need to use it in future.”