As a student in Kelantan, Nik Azlina Nik Dir – or Reena Nicky, as she wants to be known professionally – remembered how a dare sparked her passion for singing and entertaining.

The then 12-year-old girl was at a party to celebrate her school’s debate team victory when a friend dared her to sing.

“I stood up and sang Bahtera Merdeka. Then I remember hearing the applause and cheers from my friends. I loved that feeling. Since then, I’ve set my mind on singing,” said Reena at an interview in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, recently.

With the confidence she gained from debating in school and approval of friends who heard her sing, Reena set out to perform at various events in Kelantan. She even went as far as performing in Terengganu and Thailand.

But somewhere along the line, Reena’s prospect for a singing career hit a snag. She buried her dreams and focused on work as a manager at a petrol station in Klang. It wasn’t until two years ago that Reena realised that it was time to get her dreams back on track.

“I was feeling restless at work. Then I realised that it’s because my heart wants to sing. So I decided to get out and make my career happen.”

Today, the 36-year-old singer has proudly released her debut album Penuh Magika. The album features nine songs composed by Manan Ngah, Ad Samad and Azam Dungun.

Perhaps as a way to introduce her versatility as a singer, Reena said she requested for songs from various genres. Reena’s debut album has everything from upbeat pop number Penuh Magika to dance-inspired Katakan Ya Pada Dunia and traditional song Hebat Gemamu Aidilfitri. On ballad Sampai Saat Ini, she showcased her vulnerability and soaring vocals.

She is also eager to get in touch with younger listeners with Gadis Kelate, a single composed by DJ Fuzz which mixes hip hop and elements of dangdut.

“I met composer Eddie Hamid who introduced me to DJ Fuzz. We got to know each other and he suggested this song Gadis Kelate. I loved this song because I am from Kelantan myself! I was so excited to record it and release it for everyone to hear.”

Reena said it was Gadis Kelate that made her realise that she was on the right track with her career. She travelled to Malacca and Johor where she met new fans who love the song.

“That was the moment I felt where my investment and hard work have paid off. Even if it’s just one song that people like me for, I feel truly accepted as a singer.”

Reena shared that she has invested close to RM100,000 of her own funds to launch her singing career. She also hired a manager and publicist, formed a company and sought the help of composers herself.

In short, her singing career is truly a passion project.

“Since I invested my own money in the album, I don’t have to worry about earning profits or pleasing anyone else. I have nothing to lose. What I want is the satisfaction of having a full-length album to call my own.”

She concluded: “With my age, I just can’t wait or be scared anymore. This is my time to prove myself as a singer.”