Singer, actor, television host and social media personality Alif Satar has seen his popularity soar in the last five years after a showbiz career spanning more than 10 years. With an infectious stage presence, his strong and versatile vocals hit the spot in genres from pop to soul and ballads. Going Places catches up with him to talk about family, starting in showbiz and his recent venture into the Ironman triathlon.
Tell us a bit about yourself, where you are from and the kind of family you grew up in.
I am 28 years old, soon to be 29. I was born in Kuala Lumpur as the eldest child with three younger sisters. I am now happily married with two daughters, aged four and two.
You have a small family with a third child on the way. When is your wife expecting?
Yes, our third child is due quite soon, in around two months’ time. The girls are so excited that the eldest, Alisha, has been trying to teach Ariana how to be an older sister.
What made you choose a career in music?
Music and showbiz were not the intended career path at first. My dream, initially, was to become a pilot. However, course fees would cost about RM150,000 and my family made it clear to me that I would have had to find my own way to pay for it. My dad then saw an article about a televised singing competition called One In A Million; this was when I was around 16 years old. They were offering a prize money of RM1 million, so my dad pointed at it and said, “There’s your fee.” I took part and didn’t win, so the pilot idea never worked out, but that opened another door for me in music and showbiz.
Tell us about your passion for music.
I have always loved music and had performed at school events before this. When I was 14, I even got to perform as one of the Lost Boys in a West End production of Peter Pan – The Musical at Genting Highlands. The experience helped me to improve on my singing and I learned how to dance and act too.
Tell us about One In A Million and how your music career began.
I initially told myself that I was going to win this competition and use the prize money to become a pilot. I knew One In A Million wasn’t going to be easy though, because I was competing against a lot of talented singers as well as Dayang Nurfaizah, who was already a big name back then. Surprisingly, I managed to finish in the top three, just ahead of Dayang even. Shortly after the competition, I was invited to do the opening act at a Dina Nadzir concert in Singapore and it was there that a Sony Music executive took interest in me and signed me on to the label.
You have been in showbiz for over a decade. Was it difficult to find success there?
It is definitely a struggle when you’re starting out. I got into acting around 2008 and acted in plenty of television dramas, but I was never in the lead role and shows were never at the right time slot. And because I was still young, I was sometimes not taken seriously when being considered for roles in film and television. Once, when I was offered a role in a film, I told them my rate and they asked me back, “What is your credibility? Who are you to ask for that price?” It was definitely tough. Even after producing three albums and a few hit singles, I still hadn’t gotten my big break.
How did you persevere in showbiz and what was the turning point in your career?
After One In A Million, I told myself that I will give myself five years. If I haven’t made it anywhere by then, then it’s probably not for me. But things kept coming one after the other and they were slowly getting bigger. I think my big break came when I was acting in Tundukkan Playboy Itu, which was showing at a prime-time slot on TV3 at the start of 2016. Although I was only playing the second lead role, my popularity started to shoot up around this time and more people started to like my acting. Shortly after this, I also landed the lead role in another television drama, Dia Semanis Honey, and this kept the momentum going.
How do you balance your time between your family and career?
Balancing between family and career is definitely not easy, but you have to make time for them, not excuses. It doesn’t matter if I’m tired. There was a time early on in my marriage, when I was basically working seven days a week for a whole year. But I’m an early riser no matter what time I sleep, so I try to make the most of my time. I’ll be up at 6 am to have breakfast and play with my kids in the morning before sending them to my mum’s house. And when I get back at night, I try to spend a little more time with them before going to bed. To some extent, maybe it was a good thing that I did not get my big break too early. If I got the attention that I have now when I was starting out, I probably wouldn’t be able to handle it. Now that I have a family, I think I am much calmer and composed.
You took part in the Half Ironman race in Langkawi last year. Tell us about the experience.
It was by far one of the toughest things I have ever done. There is nothing like being at the event on race day. It was surreal to be standing at the starting line feeling both excited and nervous at the same time. The atmosphere was incredible and everyone there was so positive and encouraging. The race was physically and emotionally challenging and my body told me to stop on so many occasions. But I will always remember what it was like to cross the finish line. In that moment, I forgot how tired I was and just felt this wave of euphoria flooding me. Even though I was exhausted by the end, I was really glad that I did it and was thinking to myself, “I need to do this again next year!” As soon as they announced the date for this year’s race in October, I started training to prepare myself for the Full Ironman race this time.
Tell us about your preparations for the Ironman race this year.
Swimming has always been my strong suit because I took up swimming as a kid to help me deal with asthma. I ended up taking part in swimming competitions in school and winning a few of them. It was the cycling and running that I needed to train more – especially running, because I hate running. This year, I even engaged a running coach, Edan Syah, to help me improve on my running. I’m also doing a lot more cycling and I swim regularly to improve my endurance and stamina.