When she learned that she was pregnant early this year, singer Shila Amzah shared the good news with her fans via social media. In the same post back in February, the 28-year-old revealed that she’s had a tough first few weeks of pregnancy.
As it happens, it was during that arduous first trimester that Shila was contacted about a possible Disney gig: To lend her voice for the role of Princess Jasmine in the Bahasa Melayu-dubbed live-action film Aladdin.
“When they contacted my management for an audition, I was really excited because this is something different from anything I’ve done before. I really wanted to do it, so I went for the wide casting,” said Shila after a listening party where she belted out the BM version of A Whole New World, titled Dunia Baru, with singer Hael Hussaini.
For the audition, she was put through two stages – one for Jasmine’s speaking voice, and another to perform Jasmine’s songs.
“I don’t really know how casting works, especially for dubbing. (For this one) I got the script on the spot and got to see a tiny snippet of the film. I had to learn the lines right away, together with a song. I think they gave me around five to 10 minutes to learn everything.
“Although I didn’t have to memorise everything because I had the script, the process was very different. Being on stage and doing dubbing in the studio are two totally different things,” added Shila, who became a global star after participating in singing reality shows in Hong Kong and China.
Obviously, she nabbed the Disney gig, but there was a bit of worry considering her then state of health.
“My husband and my management were a bit concerned whether I could actually do this project since I was in and out of hospital during my first trimester,” she said.
Always one to tackle hurdles head on – “I believe when you challenge yourself you get to discover another side of you that you never knew existed” – Shila took extra care by lightening her workload as well as eating healthy and having plenty of rest between the time she landed the job and when she entered the studio.
“By the time I got to the studio, Alhamdulillah, I was well prepared, mentally.”
It was another matter completely when she entered the studio. Once again, like the time she auditioned, Shila was expected to learn the songs and her lines right before the recording started.
This time though, Shila listened to the songs sung by actress-singer Naomi Scott in the film a couple of times before she started recording her version.
“That was actually the biggest challenge for me … because I am used to singing my own songs, stuff that I write. And so, to not be able to practise but go straight into the studio to record was challenging. But also fun,” she said.
Despite a strict timeline – just under a week of recording sessions – Shila said things went quite smoothly.
Well, except maybe, that one time when she had to sing a new song.
Besides A Whole New World, the song featured in the Oscar-winning original 1992 animated film, the latest film has a new solo track titled Speechless sung by Scott. Its BM version is called Raungan Suara, and according to Shila it posed some challenges.
“The reason why it was so hard was, first, it’s a new song. And second, because Naomi has already raised the standard up here,” Shila said, raising her hand above her head to illustrate her point.
“When you listen to the English version, you’re like, ‘OK how can I top that or, at least, be on a par with her?’ You have to follow exactly where she breathes, where’s the vibrato, where she stops, every single thing; it’s very detailed.
The delivery was also difficult because of the high notes in the song.
“To hit the high notes, you have no room to take a deep breath. I told the music producer, ‘I think I found my labour song’.” said Shila with a laugh.
Speaking of which, Shila shared that she will be giving birth in September and that it will be a baby boy. Also, she has just finished writing a song for her son.
“It’s a happy song obviously. The song feels more like a book on mother(hood),” continued Shila, who has said that her forte is writing heartbreak songs.
“I have different perspective on life now,” she said about the new song.
However, she quickly added: “I will still write breakup songs because I really love listening to sad songs and empowering songs.”
Adeptly juggling the roles of mum-to-be, princess of music and now a Disney princess, Shila acknowledges it’s an honour to be part of Aladdin.
“I grew up watching Disney films, especially Aladdin, and going through a phase when I went around the house, on my own magic carpet, singing all the songs.
“Now, to get this opportunity, it’s a magical dream come true for me.”
Aladdin (both in BM and English) opens at GSC cinemas nationwide on May 23. Raungan Suara and Dunia Baru are available on Spotify and other music platforms on May 24.