Our country’s undisputed queen of pop-jazz, Datuk Sheila Majid – who kicked off her career way back in 1982 – is still going strong.

To date, she has released eight albums – including her latest, Boneka – and held over 40 concerts and showcases around the world. Her biggest hits Sinaran, Warna and Legenda, broke racial and age barriers, making her a household name not only locally, but internationally, too.

But even after an illustrious career spanning over three decades, she continues to be “pleasantly surprised” that her music appeals to fans of all races.

“I am really happy about that, considering that I sing in Malay,” enthused Sheila, 52. “It goes to show that music is universal. I have been very lucky that people of different nationalities enjoy my songs; I even have fans in Japan.”

The secret to career longevity, said the songbird, is hard work.

“You’ve got to put in the work, and you’ve got to like what you do. Talent alone won’t get you to the top. And it’s not as glamorous as people perceive.”

She was talking to Star2.com after wrapping up an intimate performance at Belum Rainforest Resort in Pulau Banding, Perak. The sold-out showcase, set amidst the backdrop of one of the world’s oldest rainforests, featured her timeless classics, as well as numbers from Boneka.

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A scenic view of the Belum rainforest and river.

Besides providing a treat for die-hard fans – some of whom endured a long drive to Belum due to the jammed highways – the showcase aimed to highlight the importance of forest conservation. So, throughout the one-hour performance, Sheila sprinkled environmental messages here and there.

“As a known person, I have a voice. And I want to use that voice to create awareness about the rainforest, and the importance of preserving and protecting our natural surroundings.”

A portion of the event’s proceeds was channelled to the Pulau Banding Foundation, a non-profit organisation which promotes research and eco-tourism through the sustainable development of fragile ecosystems of the Belum-Temengor Rainforest Complex.

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Sheila planting a tree at the Pulau Banding Rainforest Research Centre, which carries out research on flora and fauna of the Belum-Temengor Rainforest.

A cheque was later presented to the foundation by Sheila and Datuk Fazwinna Mustapha Kamal, executive director of Emkay Group (which owns Belum Rainforest Resort).

“Environmental issues are a subject I am passionate about, and it’s heartening to see so much effort being done by organisations such as the Pulau Banding Foundation. The work they do is truly commendable. This is a breathtaking venue and I couldn’t think of a better way to promote my latest album to the world, than from right here,” said Sheila.

“It is really an honour for us to have one of Malaysia’s most celebrated musical icons perform in Belum,” echoed Ahmad Khalif Mustapha Kamal, executive director of Belum Conservation (a subsidiary of Emkay Group).

“And to have her do it in support of our efforts to preserve this rainforest is praiseworthy and a humbling experience for us. True to the title of her song (Legenda), she is undeniably a much-loved Malaysian legend.”

“Being a city girl, coming to Belum has been a life-changing experience,” mused Kuala Lumpur-born Sheila. “It’s made me realise how blessed we are to have such a beautiful rainforest.”

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Sheila managed to shoot balloons using a blowpipe at the orang asli settlement.

The resort and the island on which it is located is surrounded by the 300,000ha Belum-Temengor Tropical Rainforest Complex, which is roughly four times the size of Singapore and carbon dated to be approximately 130 million years old – older than the Amazon and Congo!

Sheila was accompanied on this trip by her musician husband Datuk Hashridz Murshim Hassim, 47, better known as Acis. He was the showcase’s musical director. They were joined by their daughters Khadeja Zaireen Murshim, 12, and Khalefa Laila Murshim, 10.

“Khadeja and Khalefa were excited when they encountered wildlife … even if it was just a cicak (gecko) on a tree. And when they saw a cow on the road, they actually thought it was a horse!” recalled Sheila.

She also has two other children – Wan Nur Khaleda, 26, and Megat Abdul Majid, 24 – from her previous marriage, to Roslan Aziz. Khaleda has followed in Sheila’s footsteps as an entertainer; she is a hip hop singer who goes by the stage name Kayda.

Sheila said her four children are her proudest accomplishments in life. “They give me great joy, but they also give me grey hair!” she said with a laugh.

When it comes to being civic-minded, she believes in setting an example for her children.

“It can be something as simple as the toilet. After using it, you’re supposed to ensure that it’s clean for the next person; that’s called consideration.”

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Sheila with pupils and teachers at the i-Play Toy Library. The children performed a dance to Sheila’s Sinaran, much to her delight.

During their time in Belum, Sheila and her family visited Kampung Semelor, an orang asli settlement within the Temengor forest, to learn more about life in the heart of the rainforest.

They visited the i-Play Toy Library, which was set up in 2008 by Yayasan Emkay for orang asli children to have the opportunity to be exposed to education through play.

The adorable children performed a dance to Sheila’s Sinaran, much to her delight. This Toy Library is one of the first of five facilities set up for the orang asli community within the Belum-Temengor area. Nearby, there is a women’s sewing class and handicraft making centre.

Sheila also paid a visit to the Pulau Banding Rainforest Research Centre, which was set up by the Pulau Banding Foundation. The centre carries out research on flora and fauna of the Belum-Temengor Rainforest and helps to make the area a sustainable and eco-tourism destination. There, Sheila and her family toured the place to learn more about the organisation’s work before making their mark by planting trees.

For more information on Belum Rainforest Resort, visit www.belumrainforestresort.com.