Art Fazil

Art Fazil

Folk singer-songwriter Art Fazil is often regarded as Singapore’s Bob Dylan. Like Dylan, he is known for singing socially conscious songs accompanied by the acoustic guitar and harmonica. Art writes and sings both Malay and English songs, and has written many songs for Malay artistes. His own albums have been critical successes. Art has been writing his own songs – both Malay and English – since he was 16. Fluent in both languages, Art once said that that his Malay songs speak to the Malay community, while his English songs have a more universal appeal. Since 1986 he has written Malay songs for many Singaporean and Malaysian artistes like Datuk Ramli Sarip, Lovehunters, Left-handed, Ella, Kathy Ibrahim, and others.

In 1991, Art got together with his friends Mohd Khair Mohd Yasin and Mohd Esham Jamil to form a Malay rock group called Rausyanfikir, a Persian term for “thinker”. Their self-titled debut album was released in 1992 to critical and popular acclaim. The Straits Times described it as “a mine of songwriting talents, intelligent lyrics and strong vocals, packed solid in a debut album”. The record sold more than 25,000 copies in Malaysia and Singapore. The group’s second album Rusuhan Fikiran, released in 1994, did well, with one of its singles, “Dikir Fikir Fikir” (“Think, Chant”), won a Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (COMPASS) award for top local Malay song in 1997.

Since 1992, Art Fazil has gone solo and went on with labels like Pony Canyon and several of his English songs did well in the local radio charts - his single “Sometimes When I Feel Blue” went on to win the Top English Pop Song award at the 1995 COMPASS Awards. Despite his local successes, Art packed his bags and left for London, England, in 1995 to be "where all the greatest bands in the world converged". Art soon settled in and made a name performing in the acoustic club circuit. In 1997, Art won the Edinburgh Fringe Festival songwriting competition for his compositions “Monsoon Rain” and “Karma Train”, and was feted for being the only non-British songwriter in the competition. In 2000, he was awarded a COMPASS scholarship to pursue a postgraduate diploma in continuing professional development at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and graduated in 2003.

In 2000, Art released his second solo album, an introspective collection of Malay songs called Nur ("Light"), inspired by his overseas experiences. The album was nominated for six awards at the Anugerah Planet Muzik, a local Malay music awards event, and won the titles for best new male artiste, best local artiste and best local album. During his time in London, Art tried to promote Malay music and culture to the people there by organising the first London-Malay festival in 2005. The festival, held at the The Royal Horticultural Halls & Conference Centre, was well-received, piquing curiosity about Malay culture in many people. In 2008 Art completed a course in Business Music at the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance. That year he also performed alongside Malaysia's superstar M. Nasir at the Ambassador Theatre in Dublin, Ireland.

In 2009, Art released his second Malay album titled Syair Melayu (“Malay Poems”) comprising traditional folk tunes he had grown up with. That year, Art relocated to Malaysia to run his own record label, Moro Records. Since then, Art has continued performing, composing and producing music. He has also ventured into acting, landing roles in two telemovies aired on Malaysian cable channels. In 2013, Art's humorous song Rilek Brader – which encourages people to be rational – performed with Malaysian comedian Imuda was a social media hit, generating more than one million views on YouTube. In the same year, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of his debut English album (1993–2013), Moro Records released a Special Collector's Edition CD with all 12 tracks digitally remastered.

In April 2015, Art Fazil curated a one-month-long exhibition at The National Museum of Singapore as part of the SG50 Celebrations. The exhibition was entitled ‘Ole Ole Temasek: 50 Years of Singapore Malay Pop Music’. It showcased 50 years history of Singapore Malay Pop Music beginning with 1965 right to 2015. As part of the exhibition, Art gave a talk on the rise of the Nusantara music movement in the 1990s. In 2019, Art released a single "Kerana Mu" with a spiritual pattern like a nasyid or qasidah (Islamic poetry), produced in collaboration with Caravan of Praise, a Malaysian group that produces Islamic spiritual songs.

Art Fazil has been regularly featured by SimplyIslam during its events and will be performing once again at SimplyIslam's 9th Mawlid Festival Dinner on Friday 30 December 2022.