SonaOne and Alif

Text by Alia Soraya and Roisin Maya
Photos by Amani Azlin

When we met the boys, it was December 2018. They just released their song, “Obvious.” You know, the one that goes, “boss lady type straight flexin”. On the way to see them, there were 3 young adults who couldn’t contain their inner Sona and Alif fan club. We were singing to old songs, new songs and even predicted what they would say. It was actually overwhelming because, these words and transcribed voice recording couldn’t justify how energetic they were. We are writing this as an informal post but more so as a person who grew up midway with SonaOne’s songs and Alif as Sleeq. We couldn’t believe we got in touch with them and they wanted to actually meet us for an interview. Fast forward to today, the excitement levels are higher; the boys have released their long awaited debut album called “Detail”. We met at Starbucks and it was chill. They didn’t need a fancy table and they certainly didn’t want it to be formal. As we introduced ourselves, they greeted us with a firm handshake and laughed. We love them.

As we sat down and placed our phones on the table and started recording, they took turns and said “Hello!” “Ayo!” As if the phone was a walkie talkie, except they were next to each other. The playfulness – did we tell you, we love them? 

Common courtesies were exchanged. They didn’t need an introduction, of course. Although they expressed themselves primarily through music, we wanted to know siapa sebenarnya Alif and Sona ni?

Our conversation begins with a few quick-fire questions, ice breakers if you will. We discussed their favourite songs at that time, books they were or weren’t reading, the shows they were watching, first cars and even, first heartbreaks. All the things you want to know about someone when you’re getting to know them; to understand if the vibe is there or not. From this little ice breaker, once the love of chicken nuggets and learning curves brought by first time heartbreak, we are very quick to learn that yes, hell yes the vibe is there with these two.

The next topic brought up, heading into a slightly more in depth understanding of these guys, we ask about their choices in often working with “the underdogs”. The up and comers. Their answers to this are inspired and heart-warming. “That’s what our role models [in the Hip Hop industry] did.” They continued by explaining that they are aware of and supportive of the next generation because in essence that’s a rite of passage [in the industry], to pass the torch. This in particular is so rad to hear considering Malaysia is at such an exciting point of change, and (hopefully) the explosion of artistic expression.

When we brought up their hit, “Obvious”, we asked about their relationship with the song; a very special one it turned out to be. It was their first song they collaborated on for this album and included an interesting process of them trying to figure out the direction they were hoping to go toward and incorporated a lot of experimenting before the finished product. Funnily enough however, the songs first version came together in roughly an hour and a half. An interesting fact about the finished product of the video “Obvious” and what makes it the striking piece of work that it is, is the contribution that film director Nasri Lian gave when it came to the concept of the different generations and screens; essentially showing us the distraction that exists amongst different eras. The possible question posed is how long will we continue to be oblivious to what is right in front of us dressed up in a real bop of a tune and served hot with cool imagery and the most stylish representatives of these generations, lol.

As the conversation continues to flow, and a very enjoyable one at that, we asked about the obligation (SonaOne) may or may not have in terms of representing his roots. The word obligation has him responded with a gleeful “yes!” before we could even finish our sentence. He speaks of a sort of limbo where many Malaysians identify with, the “lain-lain” category perhaps, and how in actual fact it’s something he draws strength and inspiration from. He expressed in a way that is almost poetic that he doesn’t have to be “one or the other”, it’s just something that sets him apart, and that’s a wonderful thing! Everybody is different, Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures and here we have a great example of a successful artist who is able to embrace his mix and hopefully empower the sometimes confusing lives of many lain-lain kids here by reminding them that it’s okay and actually, it’s pretty fucking cool. Embrace who you are.

The playful yet chill nature of these two makes this conversation feel so much like a lepak sesh. Their down to earth nature is apparent and not just here in person sitting with them, hanging out, but turns out to also be a part of their creative process. How so? Well, because when asked about that, they tell us that they actually don’t really have one. “There’s no actual formula, inspiration can come to us in any form”. They explain that at the core, it really comes down to communicating; how talking and having general conversations about life/love/art whatever it is, just that flow of thoughts and opinions between each other is what gets their creativity riled up.

“Would you ever take your music elsewhere?” Alif responds “hell yes”, that Malaysia is a broader platform in comparison to Singapore in terms of how many people he can reach with his music. KL provides him with the feeling of freedom and encouragement for here we have a huge collection of persons from all over the country as well as the world. In terms of the globalisation of their sound, they say that would be the dream, to achieve bringing it full circle, and that is definitely a desirable outcome, sharing Malaysian sound.

Finally, we asked the boys, what do they want to achieve in terms of artistic, personal and creative growth for the year 2019 and 2020?

“[SONA]: I wanna affect somebody’s life the same way Joe did for me, just pass the torch as we said earlier on.”

Exciting news Sona shares with us is that he has “been scouting talent and started working with a couple new talents as well’, something we look forward to finding more about in the future. The boys talk about the struggles facing up and comers now and the increase in competition and rise of music sharing platforms and is just ready to pass on what he knows and not necessarily make it easier for the newbies but more to be a mentor in helping them gage their way through the chaotic world that is the music industry. The boys talk about a major shared goal of theirs to be longevity, over success.

When talking about expanding their experiences with other creatives, the boys in unison exclaim their support of all things creatively expressive and their desire to collaborate and learn from all their peers in the artistic world. A final piece of advice from the boys, and a really fitting one at that considering how grounded we have found them to be, they share that, “for anybody out there that wants to do this music thing, understand yourself first, that’s what sets artists apart with the ability to stand the test of time”.

As this fan club wraps up its conversation with the boys, the feeling is truly one of relief, satisfaction and in fact joy. The guys have not let us down, the energy they radiate and their personas are ones of realness and positivity. We are excited, and can honestly say, you should be too. New music for a new Malaysia and we can’t wait to grow with them.