Singer Shah Indrawan Ismail, 32, or popularly known as Tomok, has come a long way since his teenage boybander days.
At only 15, Tomok formed five-piece group New Boyz along with Syukri Shanushi, Shahrizan Mat Saleh, Mazlan Ismail and Mat Shah Mat Salleh in 1999.
Famous for the hit single Sejarah Mungkin Berulang, New Boyz’s self-titled debut album was certified platinum with 100,000 units sold. After six studio albums, the band went on hiatus in 2006 and has not been active in the music scene ever since. During an interview in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Tomok refused to say that New Boyz has disbanded.
“I don’t want to say that we’re completely over and done with the music business. We might perform together again. We reunited for a special performance on Gegar Vaganza in 2015,” he says.
In 2008, with the encouragement of his New Boyz bandmates, Tomok auditioned for reality talent competition One In A Million (OIAM) as a solo performer. Initially judges Paul Moss and Syafinaz were skeptical about Tomok’s chances in the competition as he was often ridiculed by the public in the past for having a nasally singing voice.
Tomok proved everyone wrong. With his new mature singing voice and down-to-earth demeanour, Tomok emerged as the OIAM champion. He has succesfully reinvented himself as a singer-songwriter and actor.
Currently out with new single Senyuman Manismu, Tomok talks about how he’d never turn his back on his New Boyz fanbase.
1. Can you tell us more about Senyuman Manismu?
It’s a song I wrote with a group of friends (collectively known as Papompo). We were holidaying in Kuching, Sarawak where we got to see orangutans in the wild.
Somehow, we were really inspired by their smile. So it became this nice and breezy reggae-inspired tune about a loved one. It’s not specifically about orangutans (laughs)!
I really wanted to try something different from the usual ballads that I’m known for. I realised that listeners today prefer something light to sing-along to.
2. Do you ever get sick of performing Sejarah Mungkin Berulang live?
Not at all. I owe my success in the music industry and fanbase to that song. We shouldn’t forget where it all began.
I also remember how fans back then would spend money to buy albums. I still appreciate all that.
So, whenever I do live shows, I will sing a couple New Boyz songs especially Sejarah Mungkin Berulang. I know fans would be frustrated if I didn’t sing it.
3. Is it true that New Boyz was pelted with eggs at shows?
Yes, it’s true. Girls loved our songs but boys hated us. I remember one incident in Malacca where the audience started throwing bottles and eggs at us when we got on stage. Then, when we performed at fun fairs, people would throw stones!
I was just 15 then, and I was scared. At one point, I wanted to quit New Boyz but my bandmates kept me going. They said to remember the passion and we should work hard to change the negative perception about us.
I’ve been approached by people, either in person or on Instagram, who confessed that they threw stuff at me. They apologised and said they are fans of what I do now.
4. Looking back at your career, is there anything you’d regret like maybe that middle-parting hairstyle you had?
I couldn’t do anything about that hair (laughs)! I have no regrets at all. I’m thankful for every experience.
Even when I had to face Paul Moss on OIAM, I have to admit that I was really scared. But I’m happy that he advised me on how to improve as a singer and performer. I’m not perfect and I’m always open to change.
5. As someone with almost two decades of experience, what advice do you have for the new and younger acts in the scene today?
Today’s generation have platforms like YouTube and reality shows to get started. It’s almost too easy to be called an artiste these days.
Back then, we had to go for auditions, perform in studios and go through rejections. A lot of people only see the easy part like when you get to perform on TV and wear flashy outfits, it’s considered a success. But in reality, a lot of hardship goes on behind the scenes.
I was at the top and then I hit rock bottom after New Boyz stopped releasing albums and doing shows. I was lost, I had no money and no one wanted to give me the chance to start over.
My advice is be strong and be smart about using whatever opportunity that you are given. Don’t be a one-hit wonder. Be passionate and work hard.