Liza Hanim, Regaining Her Strength
Utter the name Liza Hanim and music fans of the Malaysian music industry would regard her as one of the most powerful female singers of all time. It was her vocal gift that won her that elevated status. The late 90s and early 2000s witnessed some of her finest moments as she dominated the music industry with sheer force and ballad tunes that resonated well with fans.
Music was her life. Her awe-inspiring capabilities earned her multiple awards. She was living the high life of a celebrity. But after the release of her album in 2007, the spotlight on Liza began to fade as she shifted her focus to raise her children.
After tying the knot with her husband Mohd Shahrin Samsudin in 2003, the duo set their minds on starting a family as soon as possible. Liza and her husband are now parents to 5 children. She gave birth to her fifth child earlier this year at the age of 39.
It wasn’t after she gave birth to her second child that she realised she needed to be more hands on with raising her kids. “I decided it was time I focused on my family. I was also busy handling a business that I built with my husband,” she explained.
Liza and her husband started an advertising agency-cum-event management company called LH Media (LH stands for Liza Hanim). Being hands on with the projects that came, in addition to handling her kids left her no time to pursue her career in the spotlight so she put it on hold for a while. “I don’t like to think I stepped out of the industry completely. I just went behind-the-scenes,” she said.
But once a singer, always a singer. After going on hiatus for about a decade, Liza felt she was ready to jumpstart her career. In 2017 she entered a reality singing competition for established and veteran singers called Gegar Vaganza and bagged second place.
Since then, she has been actively trying to revamp her status as one of Malaysia’s powerful female singers. In September last year, she performed with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra for the Semalam Di Malaya concert in conjunction with Malaysia Day celebration where she sang her yesteryear hits.
In a previous interview, she described performing on stage once more was akin to going back home. “I missed singing. I missed it. I missed the excitement,” she said.
She wasn’t the only one who missed being on stage. Fans missed seeing her in action too. In an interview with the New Straits Times previously, she shared that she felt overwhelmed (in a good way) that fans still reached out to her, often asking her when they will get to hear her sing again.
Her performance for Semalam Di Malaya marked a special one too, as that was when she announced to the press she was pregnant with her fifth child.
“My fifth baby was a delightful surprise. Frankly I thought we were done with 4 kids but turns out God had another surprise for me. But we are so happy,” she said.
All that support and encouragement had motivated her to regain her strength in pursuing singing with full force while keeping her family as top priority.
Amid pursuing life in the spotlight again, Liza simultaneously dealt with many things in her personal life. Her fifth pregnancy wasn’t all that smooth in the beginning.
“I remember this one particular night very well. I was well into my third month of pregnancy so it was still in the early stages. That night I was due to perform at the Dua Diva show with alongside Aishah (one of Malaysia’s well-known veteran singers).
“Earlier that day before going on stage, I bled. Worried that something might happen to my baby, I went to the clinic. The doctor said with my condition at the time, I should have already been at the emergency room. But how was I to do that when I had to perform at the show?
“The doctor gave me an ultimatum – either I want to pursue the concert or save the baby. I looked to my husband and said, it’s okay, I can do this.
“I told him I’m going to lie down and not do anything until show time. I prayed hard to be given the strength to go through with the concert as I knew many people were counting on me. I couldn’t just give up.
“Alhamdulillah, before I went on stage I miraculously stopped bleeding, so the show went on as planned but I was extra careful,” she said.
But months after that, as she anticipated the arrival of her fifth child, her father began to fall ill. And not too long after welcoming her fifth bundle of joy, she lost both her father and father-in-law one month after another.
In May, her father-in-law passed away at 79 after his health deteriorated from a fall. Just a month after that, she lost her own father who passed away at the age of 73.
“It was hard for me because I was very close to my father being the youngest and only daughter.
“It all started when I was in the final trimester of my pregnancy – that was when he started complaining of shoulder pain.
“We sought various treatments everywhere but even after I gave birth, he was still in pain so we thought let’s go for an x-ray as we were afraid he might’ve fractured his bones.
“That was when we found out he had lung cancer and the reason he felt pain in his shoulders was because the cancer had spread all over. At the time we found out, his cancer was already in stage four.
“My siblings and I put everything on hold for awhile and concentrated on taking care of him. He was not fit for chemotherapy so we opted for radiotherapy.
“Unfortunately he experienced a stroke a few days after his 73rd birthday celebration.
“When a person has experienced stroke it becomes difficult for them to speak, so we called in a speech therapist.
“But my father was a very strong man. He never gave up and was really determined to speak as per normal again. There were times it was hard for me to be with him because I couldn’t bear to see him in pain.
“But I gathered my strength and just powered through it. I am glad and thankful I was able to care for him. Eventually, he passed away surrounded by his loved ones,” she said.
Asked how she grieved her father’s death, Liza said she’s still grieving. “I still feel the loss. His death left a large hole in my heart and I don’t think that I can easily fill that void.
“I can’t be left alone. If that happens my mind will start to wander,” she said.
“Sometimes when I scroll through my phone, a picture of my father pops up, and that will hit me hard. I let myself cry it out, then I move on. It’s imperative that I don’t let myself get carried away with emotions,” she said.
“Experiencing this great loss made me change my perspective on life. At the end of the day, all I hope from my kids is that they will be able to take care of me and my husband when we’re old. That’s all I want.
“I hope they can learn from this experience when they witnessed how my siblings and I took care of our parents,” she said.
“Right now we are focused on the well-being of my mother. After losing our father she has been our top priority. It even gets to a point where she feels overly smothered by her kids’ affection, she has to constantly assure us she’s doing just fine,” laughed Liza.
MUCH ANTICIPATED PERFORMANCE
As we spoke to Liza during this interview, she was in the midst of prepping for a big concert called National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) Epic Screen Themes in Concert set to take place this November 1 and 2 at the Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur.
“I’d say this is one of the biggest concerts of my career and I’m so excited yet anxious as well, simply because I will be performing with a live orchestra.
“To be singing with a live orchestra is the dream of many singers so I’m very much ecstatic for this show. Though I have performed with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra numerous times before, this would be my first time with NSO,” she said.
The concert will see NSO orchestrate a variety of international and local blockbuster film themes in a live concert with singers like Liza Hanim, Black and Sean Ghazi taking centre stage to provide the vocals. Liza will be performing three songs called Merawat Luka, Asmaradana and Gelora.
“Performing live with an orchestra – the pressure is different because you have 30 musicians who are counting on you to make the performance a success.
“It’s not just about me, it’s about the whole team so I need to be a great team player,” she said.
As the year approaches an end, Liza is hopeful 2020 will be filled with great memories. What more, since it will be 25 years since she began her career as a singer.
“Next year I hope to make more music and perhaps organise a concert for my fans” she said.
Until then, she’ll continue to take things one step at a time and cherish time spent with her family.
Behind the Face of Salam
- Face of Salam : Liza Hanim
- Project Manager & Co-ordinator : Shah Shamshiri
- Text: Syahirah Mokhtazar
- Editor : Ili Farhana
Photographer: Bustamam Mokhtar, White Studio
- Graphic Designer: Asyraf Tamam
- Art Director : N. Azwa
Stylist: N. Azwa
- Make-up Artiste : Bobo Cinta using Lancome & MAC
- Outfit 1:
- Dress: Syuhada Masrani
- Turtleneck top: Stylist’s own
- Shawl: CintaZara Scarves
- Outfit 2:
- Shawl: Stylist’s own
- Top: StyleAnnexe