S'pore icons star in free concerts

By Low Minmin

MUSIC legend Anita Sarawak has had plenty to celebrate in her career.

The Singapore-born songbird - the only child of actor and director S. Roomai Noor and vampy sex goddess Siput Sarawak - became famous at the age of 17, releasing her first Malay album in 1974. In 1985, she took off for Las Vegas and spent 18 years there performing at Caesars Palace.

Today, at age 59, she's had several variety shows under her belt and is currently hosting talk show Astana, airing on Astro in Malaysia. She will be in Singapore for a rare concert performance tomorrow.

Sarawak - who's married to Britain-born Mohamad Mahathir Abdullah - will perform on the first night of Home Brewed!, a two-day series of free concerts at Fort Canning Green. She will be part of the Talentime! show, which will also see popular names like Robert Fernando performing.

The second night of Home Brewed! performances, called Icons!, will showcase Internet superstars and Singapore Idol singers, as well as home-grown talents such as Maggie Teng, Sylvia Ratonel, Inch Chua, Ng Ling Kai and Thambie K. Seow.

The concerts are part of Singapore HeritageFest.

my paper chatted with Sarawak to find out more about the show, and how she's aiming to, (in her words), "grow old gracefully".

What keeps you going?

The one thing that drives me is a real passion to improve. The maxim I live by is this: You are only as good as your next performance, not your last one.

Never be satisfied, strive for excellence and then go beyond.

Do you still dress sexily? Or do you feel you're (ahem) past that?

Well, I watch what I eat and try not to be overweight because being healthy makes me feel very energetic... Of course, (at my age), gravity will pull you down somewhere!

I used to wear plunging necklines and all that, but I don't do that any more because when you get to a certain age, sexy is being feminine. You can wear jeans and a jacket and still look fabulous.

You picked up the Legend Award for your mother, Siput Sarawak, at the Seri Temasek Awards in February. Do you feel that it was rather belated?

It was the proudest day of my life, an exceptional and emotional moment. I would say it wasn't too late to give out that award.

These things, I believe, rest in God's hands. He alone deems the timing of such accolades.

Did picking up the award inspire you to strive for something similar?

I can never come close to my mum. Never. But I will try. If she were still alive today (she died in 1999), I am sure she would give me a big hug and say: "You're doing well, keep on (going)."

Do you think you're an icon?

I am very reticent about attaching labels to myself. I sincerely wish to be known as a great entertainer.

Your mum left a legacy for you, but you have no children to pass on your legacy to. Do you have any regrets about that?

Everything happens for a reason...

I have many nephews and nieces who call me "Mama Nita". Would I change anything about my life? No. Do I have any regrets? No.

What advice would you give to young singers who want to break into the music industry?

You get only one chance. If you're lucky, you get a second.

Every time you get to be onstage, you've got to sing and perform like it's your last performance, because no matter how small the event is, there is always that one person who will remember you.

What can Singaporeans expect at your concert?

I don't plan, I just go out there and have fun. We are celebrating our heritage, so it'll be a fun party.

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