Battle of the best

25 Nov 2006
Dennis Chua

Four semi-finalists of the reality show Mentor will know their fate this Sunday as they battle it out to make it to the finals.

MALAYSIA’S first home-grown reality show to go international, Mentor, will pick its final duo tomorrow.

Semi-finalists Kat (Siti Khatijah Hassan), Ayu (Rahayu Baharuddin), Nieyl (Nuriylia Zailani) and Fiq (Mohd Firdauz Halim) — proteges of Datuk Siti Nurhaliza, Hazami, Nurul and Amy of Search respectively — will know their fate at 8.30pm in the weekly Mentor concert live from Seri Pentas 2, Plaza Alam Sentral in Shah Alam.

The four contestants beat Yassin’s protege Hidayah Othman (Eiya) of Alor Star, Kedah, and Zaf VE’s protege Syed Alfrizal Syed Alwi (Rizal) of Bintulu, Sarawak, to qualify in September for the semi-finals.

At present, Fiq leads the pack with 405 points, followed by Kat (397.3 points), Nieyl (295.1 points) and Ayu (239.9 points). Eiya and Rizal received 245 and 226 points respectively.

SMS votes from viewers account for 50 per cent of the points, with the rest from professional judges headed by singer Zainal Abidin, who mentored last year’s winner Pija (Norafizah Yasin).

The finalists will battle it out on Dec 3. The champion will secure a recording contract with EMI, among other prizes.

He or she will compete with the winner of Indonesia’s answer to Mentor, Bintang Cari Bintang, in Kuala Lumpur. The showdown, Juara Antara Juara, will be held in late December. Bintang Cari Bintang began on July 13.

Fiq and Kat are widely expected to meet in the final, since they have consistently been in the lead.

The duo were the subject of a controversial decision by producer TV3 when the show began on July 9.

In the prelude concert that day, two hopefuls vied to be the protege to each of the six mentors. Fiq and Kat competed to become Amy’s protege. Kat is related to Amy.

The results, determined purely by SMS votes, saw the show’s judges reject both of the hopefuls who vied to be Siti’s protege.

The duo, Nur Nadia Rusali and Ayu Safina Sahidan (pictured below), obtained the lowest number of SMS votes among the prelude concert contestants, and were also deemed the least outstanding by the judges.

TV3 gave Siti a new protege, Kat, who lost to Fiq in the battle to be Amy’s protege, but was among the six best contestants to both judges and viewers.

The proteges were then separated into Groups A (Kat, Nieyl and Eiya) and B (Fiq, Rizal and Ayu) and competed three times at “battle week”.

The semi-finals for Groups A and B were held on Nov 12 and 19 respectively. While the judges easily predicted charismatic rocker Fiq’s victory in Group B, they were not so sure about Kat winning in Group A.

Despite being a natural entertainer who connected with fans, the judges felt that her vocals paled in comparison to that of powerhouse Ayu.

Kat, 19, of Penang, said despite newly-wed Siti’s hectic schedule, the pop princess communicated with her regularly, to chart her progress.

“Siti is a perfectionist and demands 100 per cent commitment. She encouraged me to sing in different musical styles and not be over-dependent on rock, my forte,” said Kat.

“While she has taught me how to connect with the audience, I feel I must smoothen my vocals,” she added.

Fiq, 24, a die-hard Search fan from Sandakan, Sabah, said he was blessed to be the rock star’s protege.

“Amy is a stickler for tidiness and punctuality. However, once you meet these criteria, it is a pleasure working with him. He knows rock music like the back of his hand,” he said.

Fiq said he was trying to overcome his stiffness on stage.
Ayu, 23, of Malacca, said it was great spending time with Hazami because he was a brilliant musician.

“Hazami taught me to keep in good shape to be a winner. He makes sure that I take good care of my health, exercise, and not lose my voice.”

Nieyl, 21, of Muar, Johor, said Nurul was firm, but kind and understanding.

“I’ve learnt a lot about stage performances from Nurul, who is a brilliant songwriter.

“She helped me overcome my shyness on stage, and build up my self-confidence through rock-climbing.”
Nurul said Nieyl had improved since the beginning of the show. She said her protege had what it takes to be a successful singer.
“Nieyl was rather nervous in the beginning. I am happy she has taken great strides in conquering her initial fears,” she said.
Reigning champion Pija, 18, of Kota Kinabalu, said contestants ought to make full use of the lessons learnt from their mentors.
“The mentor-protege bond lasts well beyond the competition. So long as we need guidance, and are prepared to improve ourselves as singers, they will be on our side,” she said.