A 26-year-old’s triumphant journey from heartache to harmony
Singer-songwriter Raihan Rosli is taking his passion for music to new heights.
Warm lights beat down. His fingers move effortlessly across the fretboard and a soft melody pursues. Nothing about Raihan Rosli’s life deviates from the sound of music.
By day, the 26-year-old is a retail supervisor at music store Swee Lee. Come nightfall, he takes centre stage as a performer, passion shining through as he enthrals crowds with a blend of covers and original compositions.
His sixth and most recent single, Fall, was released on New Year’s Day. It’s a ballad inspired by his own experience of navigating an unrequited love with a close friend. The song is a powerful illustration of the complex emotions that come with falling in love, being rejected, and learning to let go.
“Now I’m in a position to move forward and (I) just think of it as something that happened, something that had to happen because without this, I honestly wouldn’t have written any songs at all. I probably wouldn’t have released anything.”
All of his six original tracks, he produced single handedly.
In the beginning, he believed that covers were the key to gaining recognition and a following as listeners would already be familiar with the songs. However, he made sure to put his own spin on each cover, adding his personal touch and making himself stand out from other artists.
But after a while, he started to question why he was “wasting (his) time doing covers” when he already had a sound of his own, one that others already acknowledged. He mustered the courage to utilise his own talents in writing and producing, saving the money typically spent on hiring others to create a song.
Raihan’s musical journey started when he first picked up a guitar at 12 years old, under the guidance of his father. It was one that started with plenty of screaming and crying.
“I sell instruments now and (I come across) a lot of parents telling their kids to start off with the acoustic guitar, start with the classical guitar. My dad, though, went crazy,” Raihan shares. “The first thing I learnt was how to scale on the guitar like the major scale, the minor scale, the pentatonix and all that kind of electric guitar stuff.
“It took me three years to figure out whether I like the guitar or not. It was a lot of him screaming at me and me crying a lot learning the guitar.”
It was only in his second year of secondary school when he started a band with four close friends that he began to develop a deeper interest in music. Funnily enough, they kept changing singers because, according to Raihan, “nobody could sing in secondary school” – himself included.
“I sounded like Ed Sheeran when he first started out busking – bad,” he recalls.
Even then, they never gave up. Raihan also took it upon himself to teach his bandmates how to play the guitar.
Fortunately, the school gave them multiple opportunities to showcase their talents through events – most times after relentless requests from Raihan who was eager to promote his band.
Although the band disbanded upon graduation, the Yishun Secondary School alumnus looks back on those days with fond memories, saying that it was “the highlight of (his) secondary school days and the start of something interesting”.
Subsequently, when he progressed to pursue his diploma at Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP), he joined a performing arts CCA called Soundcard, where he delved into the world of music production.
Despite having only two years of production experience, Raihan took that leap of faith and persevered. It was a defining moment in his journey as an artist as he was able to network with people in the music industry and receive support and criticism, which ultimately motivated him to improve.
“(Soundcard) was really the stepping stone to what I’m doing now,” recalls Raihan.
Looking back on all his achievements since secondary school, Raihan recognises that he’s fulfilling his father’s dreams that never quite took flight due to sacrifices he made for the family.
“My dad was supposed to be a performer but there was a point where he was choosing between doing performances or marrying my mother and having me. So he chose the family route and he doesn’t regret it but he does envision me to do whatever he couldn’t, thus why he was very hard on me,” says Raihan, adding that his father is his biggest supporter.
In the past, his father could only afford instruments worth a few hundred dollars, but now with Raihan’s collection, the instruments are worth thousands.
“He’s always so excited to see new guitars at home. He doesn’t play as much but to see him still smile over these kinds of stuff makes me glad I actually did it,” he beams.
Besides his father, another significant person in his life is his good friend Ron Tan, who is also the founder of Inclusive Arts Movement (I.AM), a platform for the differently-abled and abled to work together through performing arts.
Raihan shares: “(Ron) was really the reason why my music career kicked off…he is a very patient guy working with all of the differently-abled people.
“I did not have the patience last time. I was a very kancheong person. I always wanted things to be fast. But I think the one thing that really changed me was the performances with them and because of that, he saw me change, he saw me putting in the effort and all and I think that was one of the few reasons why we decided to continue together. Now, he’s labelled me as the music director of I.AM.”
Recently, Raihan performed alongside I.AM at the Esplanade Concourse, where the band accompanied him as he sang a series of covers and originals.
He admits that it’d been a long time since he last played with the band and when it came to the performance in December, he realised “everything sounded so similar” and struggled to differentiate between his songs as they all have a similar melody line.
“After this is done, I probably want to venture into something else, now that I have the resources… I do want to do proper electronic pop music that everyone is listening to now. I also want to try a bit of that country jazz or maybe a bit of soul because a lot of people do tell me that my voice fits those genres,” he shares, talking about future plans moving forward. He’s also looking to work with Singaporean artists as he believes that it “will really bring out something else”.
“I am not famous yet, for sure but I am thankful that all of my friends are receiving (my newest single) well. Right now, I do know that people love it so I am putting myself out there to make sure more people listen to it. I’m looking to release an album as well, at the end of the year or probably next year.”
To all dreamers, Raihan vouches: “Stay true to whatever you have. Don’t be scared because honestly, you have nothing to lose. The only thing you lose is time but when you’re doing something that you like, that time is called an investment.”
You can listen to Raihan’s originals on Spotify and YouTube.