As a young musician, 25-year-old Aliff
Aolani or Airliftz, has witnessed how
the internet could be a double-edged
sword for aspiring artists.
Aliff has been writing music since he was 13. At 17, he released his song, Shine, on SoundCloud in 2017, the local media called him an internet sensation—thanks to his freestyle— rap ability. After dipping his toes in the music industry with an independent label, Airliftz later signed with a major label, RedRecords, in 2022.
Aliff has witnessed how technology could help boost his art. On the flip side, however, he has also endured the worst of the internet. As his fans grew, so did the haters, trolls, and cyberbullies.
Aliff does not shy away from those haters. Instead, he bites the bullet, faces them and proudly says, “Not today!”
He shares some of his hard-earned wisdom with The ASEAN. Aliff talks about how young artists in the region can navigate through the complexities of social media, weed out the negativity, and focus on creating art and music.
“I have been in that position before. I didn’t take it easy the last time. I have been getting that since I was little. Those emotions and those feelings nowadays just fade away. I am trying to make things better instead of putting myself in that hell hole again. I’ve been there, it is dark, and I don’t want to go there again.
“What I can say to those who are bullied is, ‘Hey, I know it feels like hell sometimes, but I guess it is best if we can see the world from a different perspective. Instead of focusing on one, why don’t you put that energy and time into creating?”
“If you are angry that people are talking bad about you, use it to drive and create your music. That is what art is all about. If you don’t express it and keep it muted, you will forever be trapped in that box.
“Not Today (one of Airliftz’s latest songs) is basically about ‘I used to feel that way, but not today. I used to go through that, but not today. Today is going to be a different day.’
“I have always loved creating things. I am bad at putting words together, so I used music and melodies to express that. Music is the easiest for me because I can’t do anything else. Being able to express myself and my feelings with music helps me a lot.
“My music has a lot of storytelling. A lot of pain, struggle, and love. Stories that I wanted to share with the world. What keeps me going is the process of being able to work with other people collaboratively.
“How do I show my ASEAN identity? I think ASEAN Pop is the way Southeast Asian musicians induce their flavour and style into this whole pop. It could be through lyrics, instruments, or visuals in the music video.
“The hardest challenge for us (ASEAN young musicians) is expanding our music regionally. If you don’t have the right people around you, it will be a problem. For local creatives, we need to help each other and not step on or hate on each other. We have had enough of that.
“ASEAN can spend more time supporting local creatives. Pay more attention. It is not just about money. I know many starving artists are out there—you can’t lie that money has always been an issue. But please, also provide us with more platforms, not social media platforms, because we already have a lot of them. Instead, we need venues like live performances. You can bring artists from Malaysia to perform in Singapore, for example, something like exchange students.
“Let’s do things collaboratively in different countries. We could all share different cultures and views in creating music and ideas. Have live shows and tours. That will be great.
“On my side, for the short future, I hope I will be able to release more songs in the next six to seven months. I also plan on doing more shows and doing more things collaboratively.”
Interviewed by Ixora Tri Devi. The conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity. The views and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the interviewee and do not reflect the official policy or position of ASEAN.