Think Green, Live Green
Singing is a passion built around an inborn talent nurtured for years before finally turning into an impactful force in the society. Local singing sensation Zainal Abidin has gone beyond that and has now dived into other unknown territories where his other passion lies. Widely known for his monster hit ‘Hijau’, the affable Zainal Abidin fills us in about his humble beginning and venture into eco-friendly businesses.
Zainal Abidin bin Mohamad’s singing career began as a source of financial aid for his education back when he was just 13 years old in his hometown, Johor Bahru. Coming from a poor family, Zainal used to help sell ‘ice-kacang’ at a stall before joining a Chinese funeral band in Singapore to pay for his school fees. Despite doing very well in education, Zainal realized that his musical performance is much greater than his performance in school and decided to give it more focus.
“I’m using singing as a vehicle to reach out to more people and to study other industries. My singing has taken me this far in my life and I am now a chairman of ten different companies. I am setting up a resort in my own private island in Maldives as well as in other places like Bentong, Pahang. I have also started my own eco-friendly renewable energy company along with other entertainment-related businesses like my recording label and an event management company,” reveals Zainal when talking about some of his latest ventures.
Singing is still something close to Zainal’s heart and he has a lot of faith in the local entertainment industry, even when people who are currently in it think otherwise. He gets disappointed by the younger generation who does not understand what being an artist is all about. It is not just about fame and glamour or making headlines in the press. It is about creating art with the talent that has been given.
“Can artists be rich and successful like people in the corporate world? Yes, they can but only if they know how to manage the financial aspect of it. We have to believe in our own talent and product. Unfortunately, even after years of gaining independence, we still think very highly of talents from abroad while ignoring all the great artists that we have in Malaysia,” says Zainal.
Zainal is not one of those who are afraid to think and go global with his music career and business. In fact, his lifetime campaign is all about green living and he has been pushing it to the international level. He found out that it is not entirely difficult for Asians to start a business abroad since they already have a good reputation for being cultured, down-to-earth and easy to work with.
After more than 34 years in the industry, Zainal is not making showbiz his core business anymore. It has become a hobby and a channel for him to connect with people. He started the ‘ZainalAbidin Foundation’ to focus on dealing with the issue of urban poverty. With the foundation, he aims to help the less fortunate, especially those in the urban areas with no place to stay and children with great untapped talents. Poverty according to Zainal is not only about being homeless but also about being uneducated, not having living skills and the motivation to move up in life.
‘Green is aMindset’ is another project that Zainal has been involved in as a part of his green mission. The two-year project with the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water is about changing people’s mind-set over environmental issues like energy-saving and recycling. Instead of doing it the traditional way, Zainal has taken his own initiative to reach out to the population in urban areas. He is using the ‘top-down’ approach by focusing on 100 corporate leaders in starting public service campaigns to support the cause.
“People in the rural areas are already living the eco-friendly lifestyle. They turn off the light when it is not in use and refusing plastic bags by carrying their own basket to the market. By getting all these big corporate leaders’ involvement, we hopefully can spread the message to all of their employees which will then carry it forward to their own households,” explains Zainal when speaking about his special project.
According to Zainal, there are so many things that people can do to start living a green lifestyle. People can reduce up to 40% of power usage by using natural light during daytime. Harvesting rain water is another way to take advantage of the country’s abundant rainfall where it can be used for watering plants, washing cars and for the toilet as well. These are just some of the examples of the kind of awareness that Zainal would like to promote with ‘Green is aMindset’.
“We are already living in a truly blessed country with abundant rainfall and sunshine with no major natural disasters. It is a perfect setting for eco-friendly lifestyles but we are still looking abroad for such inspiration. This is something that we seriously need to think about,” says Zainal with a smile on his face.