Profile: Najip Ali

Published on 18 August 2015

The multi-hyphenate showbiz personality has big plans.

BY daphne ong

Unless you grew up under a rock, you would have seen or heard Najip Ali on television, on stage, in the newspaper, in a magazine, somewhere. He is one of Singapore’s best-known hosts and entertainers, having shot to fame with the vastly popular star-search television show Asia Bagus in the 1990s. He has also carved a formidable reputation as a producer and director of Malay-language programmes.

Najip grew up in an environment bathed in a sense of rapid change and excitement — when Singaporeans were transitioning from kampongs to HDB flats, when nation-building was in full swing. Television was moving from black-and-white to colour, capturing the interest of young Najip. “I was not allowed to watch TV until I was almost 11 years old, but I rushed to my neighbour’s house to watch anyway,” he laughs.

While in primary school, Najip discovered the adrenaline of being on stage when he won an oratorical prize, proudly receiving it from then-Minister Goh Chok Tong. This sparked his natural curiosity and thirst for quick learning.

He fondly credits his entrance into showbiz to pioneering Malay songstress Nona Asiah. She introduced Najip, then 18, to the limelight and nurtured his early career. This August, he directed her tribute show Si Cempaka Biru — Celebrating the Life of Nona Asiah as part of this year’s recently-concluded Pesta Raya Malay Festival of Arts.

The secret to his success is his philosophy in life and work. “One thing that Singaporean artists are good at is being jacks of all trades, but we must also be master of one.

“Your fashion comes and goes, but your style remains.” He explains, “What are you mastering? That is who you are, what you really want.”

Close to his heart is Dua M, the production house he started, sparked by a desire to help define Singapore Malay entertainment and champion its unique identity. Moreover, Najip aims to stretch past the island’s shores and reach the 300 million-strong Malay-speaking audience abroad.

“Singapore’s advantage is that it is small, and we are pushed to compare our productions with international standards, pushed to be better in a different way. How do we reach out to the sensibilities and sensitivities of this generation of viewers?”

Even after 25 years in the business, Najip shows no sign of slowing down. “I’m happy to be doing what I love, and still wanting to do more. I’m proud to still be here and contributing to viewers who are yearning for the fresh and new all the time. That’s one of my principles: there’s no revolution without personal evolution.”

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