The saddest thing about this global pandemic is that we are compelled to be away from our loved ones, even though it’s the time that we should be encouraged to be together. For the local singer-songwriter, Ismail Izzani, he had to be quarantined for 14 days to keep his loved ones safe from the virus. The positive news, though, is that he was screened negative, but the thought of being alone just sounds pretty unsettling.
With that said, I had the opportunity to speak to Ismail virtually where he shared a look into his journey during the COVID-19 period and how he is able to stay connected while exploring new ways to spend time with his loved ones safely.
Q: Hi Ismail, hope you’re well. How did you react when you found out that you had to get tested for COVID-19?
A: Honestly, I was quite nervous. The realisation that there could be a possibility of contracting the virus made me anxious. I’m grateful the results were negative but this whole quarantine process has been hard. It was a rough couple of weeks.
Q: Really glad to know that you tested negative. But then you still need to undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine. How are you planning to get through this strange time?
A: I live on my own so having to isolate for 14 days has really taken a mental toll on me. The worst part of the quarantine was that I wasn’t able to see or meet my loved ones physically – it has not been easy. Social media as well as messaging apps such as Snapchat has helped me a lot. It has allowed me to keep in contact with my friends and allowed me to still experience certain activities with them although I’m not physically able to join them.
Q: It’s only been a few days in quarantine, do you miss having contact with people? What’s it like to be alone during this COVID-19 period? Do you get in touch with your friends and family every day or?
A: Yeah, being alone was tough, and I was honestly feeling quite down. I’m just thankful that there are so many ways I could stay in touch with my family and friends. While my priority was to take care of my physical health, such as drinking Vitamin C every day and practising good hygiene, I made sure that my mental health was okay, too. I do that by keeping regular contact with my family and friends.
Because I can’t meet them face-to-face, instead of just normal texting which I often did in the past, I’ve started to rely more on video calls and communications instead, such as sending them Snaps of myself, my meals, or what I’m doing in general – and they do the same as well. That helps me feel closer to them because I get to express myself and interact with them visually. It’s the next best thing after meeting in person, really.
Q: What about your food? How do you manage to prepare meals for yourself?
A: Managing my meals was quite easy. There are a lot of apps that I could use to order food, so it is not that hard. I can cook, too.
Q: Can you share with us how to stay connected with our loved ones if we ever have to be away from them?
A: These days, technology has made it so much easier for us to stay connected with one another. There are many applications you can use to help maintain a strong relationship with your friends and family. While I’m on a lot of social media apps, when I want to communicate with just a close group of friends, I would use Snapchat. It’s not a public account – I just use it for fun, sending silly Snaps, videos, and even playing some multiplayer games with my friends when we’re all free at the same time.
Getting to stay in touch with my loved ones virtually has really been a lifeline for me during the quarantine. I feel like since the physical aspect has been taken away, I’ve really appreciated the visual communication with my friends more, which is why Snapchat has been great during this time. I also feel it has allowed me to really express my emotions especially when I’m feeling down. I guess you can say this time has allowed me to have more honest conversations with my close ones. It really does feel like my conversations with friends were much deeper during this time.
Q: Deep down, what’s the one thing that you really miss from the outside world?
A: As a singer, I’ve really missed performing live. The energy and feeling I get is the best. I think performing live are the best memories I have in life so far. It has not been easy adjusting to the new normal but I’m looking forward to when its safe again for live performances to start.
Q: How has music helped you cope during this trying time?
A: It has helped in a way, and I do have my own studio at home. But honestly, I’ve still been really demotivated, and it has been challenging to make new music and be creative during this time.
Q: Have you been working on any new music of your own?
A: Yeah, I did a few while being quarantined last week. I posted one of the songs on my Instagram account actually. If you’re interested to hear it, do check it out on my profile!
Q: Do tell us what’s your daily schedule, now that you’re unable to go out.
A: I’ve not been in a very productive mood in all honesty. Being on my own, isolated from my friends and family has not been easy for me and my motivation has been really low. Generally, my daily schedule during the quarantine period was: I wake up, play some video games, and watch some shows. In between all that, I try to catch up with my friends and family, as well as do my best to engage with my supporter by giving them some updates on how quarantine has been going.
Q: As part of the entertainment industry, what have you been turning to in terms of creative channels or ways to communicate with your fans?
A: Right now, everything is like hujung jari – you can just post anything, do your own content, your own contest. That’s how I connect myself with my supporters. I don’t like to call them fans because they are my family too. So, I guess it’s not that hard, for now.
Q: What kind of effect does the COVID-19 pandemic have on musicians?
A: A lot – in terms of motivation, ideas, mood. But really, COVID-19 has affected everyone, not just musicians. I do believe that everyone is facing their own challenge right now, especially people who are searching for jobs. It’s a very hard time for us, all of us. I hope everyone out there continues to stay strong as we fight this pandemic together.
Q: How can Malaysians support our local artists without concerts and all that?
A: One way that Malaysians can support their favourite artists is by tuning in to their performances on TV. However, it’s not just limited to that. They can also show their support and appreciation by streaming their music on different online platforms or requesting their songs on the radio.
I asked a few of my friends who are also musicians about how they felt about what’s happening within our industry. They told me that we should take it as a positive thing – to take this as a time for local artistes to rest, and to allow them to focus on their art and create new things to share with their supporters.
Q: From your point of view, why do you think it is important to help boost the media and entertainment industries during this tough time? And what can we do to help?
A: COVID-19 has made life even harder than before. Now more than ever, we need art, music, and entertainment to continue bringing comfort and smiles to people, which is why it’s important for everyone to continue supporting the media and entertainment industries in whatever way they can. We can’t put on live performances for large audiences now, but people can still show their support in many ways like the ones I mentioned above. Watch your favourite artistes on TV, stream their music, request for plays on the radio, and show them some love on social media so they have the motivation to keep going.
Q: Besides talking about being quarantined, I’d just like to ask you this. What really inspired you to venture into the industry?
A: Since I’ve joined the industry at the age of 16, it has been an amazing ride filled with great experiences, no matter what the challenges were at the time. Every part of my journey, including the hard times and the ups and downs, have been very exciting for me. It has taught me many life lessons, and I do believe that learning won’t stop anytime soon. The experiences I have gained made me want to keep trying to be an even better version of myself every day.
Q: You’ve got a head start in your career, and that’s quite an inspiration to a lot of people, particularly those who are making their way to be part of the industry. How would you advise them?
A: All I can say is: Do believe in yourself – always! And remember that nobody is perfect, but practice makes perfect. If you try to be better day by day, maybe you will be a better person than you were before. So, hard work is everything. Keep motivating yourself and stay positive, spread the love instead of hate out there, and you’ll be fine.
Q: Lastly, how do you stay true to yourself even when you’re under the limelight and what’s your definition of success?
A: I always try to think about others and put myself in their shoes, because we never know the kind of challenges that everyone is going through. I guess that is how I stay true to myself, by caring for people and also by loving myself. Because if you love yourself, then you’ll be stronger and you’ll try to be better day by day. My definition of success is not about being rich or whatsoever, it’s actually about achieving balance in life. Instead of chasing for perfection, I would rather strive for balance – and that comes with the mentality of believing that everything happens for a reason and not getting too hung up if things don’t go my way.