Hassan Irufaan, or as most people would call him: Zakitte is a humble and hardworking guy. While most of you might recognize him as a musician or a participant of the second season of Maldivian Idol, there is more to him than just that. He loves surfing, skateboarding, water sports, watching movies, stand-up comedy, basketball, he secretly loves drawing and there is no denying his obvious crush on Rafiyath Rameeza. Just go through his Instagram! And may I note that our interview began and also ended with his declare of love for her singing and timeless beauty.
Although it might seem like he is just a normal guy who happened to join a competition that changed his life – it is not the whole story. He survived tough times and we believe that he could be an inspiration to future musicians and give hope to those who need it.
At the beginning of the interview, Zakitte mentioned that his career officially began after Maldivian Idol, but let’s see how his interest in music began in the first place!
When I was young, I used to watch a lot of music programs and my father used to sing when he was around. Everyone talked about him and complimented him. All the neighbors even formed a band together. So since then, I was really interested in music.
Q. As a musician how did participating in Maldivian Idol impact your career?
It was the kick start that I needed and I was able to participate in shows that big companies hosted. It was a huge thing; the way people saw you, everything changed. I would say that Maldivian Idol is a great stepping stone and I would recommend it to everyone.
Q. How would you describe your first performance after Idol?
It was at Artificial Beach, with the Idol band. It was a huge mess and I was very scared.
The minute I went up the stage, everyone started yelling to get off! I didn’t know what to do, and I just told them that I will get off, but after three songs. By the middle of the first song, somehow, the audience had accepted me and we were all having fun.
That encouraged me and gave me strength because I was so depressed back then. It was Ammadey Sir, who got me out of it. He took me with him to perform at resorts and gave me the chance.
Q. How did you take critics? A lot of people must have shared their opinion on how you were performing?
I did get a lot and I used to be really bad at it! I could not take critics at all. My little brother Amaan took part in Maldivian Idol first and people would criticize him on Twitter and such and I would just bash out on them!
But after I took part in Maldivian Idol, I realized that you are giving people the right to constructively criticize you. So now I take it to heart, bad or good and if it is bad you kind of see that it is because you didn’t perform to the level that person wanted you to. You have to find his or her relating point and perform to their expectations.
Before, I hated criticism and was really bad at taking it. But you have to learn to accept it at a certain point.
“ Talent is not going to grow by itself. I believe in hard work.”
Q. What do you think makes you different from other Musicians?
I don’t know *chuckles* that’s a very hard question! I think it’s the fact that… I hate the word ‘talent’. I don’t like that word because I don’t believe in it. I believe in drive and hard work. I hate it when people say “Oh my god! You’re so talented man” but whoever was told that at one point might also be asked “You were so talented, what happened?”. Someone might have a little bit of talent in something but then there needs to be a drive. If you don’t have that what can you do with the talent?
Talent is not going to grow by itself. I believe in hard work.
Q. What type of music do you prefer or like to perform to?
I like performing English songs but I don’t think I have a favorite genre. I can’t really. If you are working in the music industry, I personally think that you have to know a little bit of all type of music and you have to be able to perform them.
Q. What inspires you?
My mother. After our father left us, she was alone and sometimes we would not even eat. That was the level of life we were living. We would go a week without proper food and we would still go to school and she never let us feel like we weren’t loved. She is our superhero. My mother taught me to not give up.
I got inspiration from a lot of friends too. One of them is Shafai. We had a small band and together we even participated in a local art and music festival called Kattihivvaru. He would always say that he wants to be a great person and that he wants to make a career out of music. And right now he is one of the best young drummers in the Maldives. I got a lot of inspiration from him and he was this little guy! He showed me how to be driven and hardworking. That’s what I want to be.
My fiancé is a very inspiring person to me. I don’t know why but she reminds me a lot of my mother, through the courage she shows against impossible odds.
I know this guy at the airport, I think his name is Hishan, who in his free time just takes care of disabled children. He takes them out, takes them to the sea, feeds them and does all this wholeheartedly.
Affan, he is an inspiration and a huge influence. I would like to rock a show to his level one day.
Ed Sheeran, One Knight Stand, Mezzo, Shalabee Ibrahim, Ibrahim Aman, Haisham Thaufeeg, Nashidhbe; they are also very inspiring to me.
Q. Struggles that you have faced and how you overcame them?
The struggles that you face reflects who you become.
Back then, it was really important to come from a proper family. We struggled to get recognition. As a musician, the difficulties were like not having enough money to be able to buy a guitar and such. I got my first proper guitar after the end of Maldivian Idol when Shalabee gave me the guitar that he got.
If you want to be a musician, it’s not going to be easy. It is going to have a lot of rough patches and you’re going to make a lot of enemies. There are going to be a lot of people who would not want you to come out in the industry because you might be a threat or a joke, or because you are getting in their way.
One of the biggest struggles that you face will be earning money by playing music. You might be a really good musician, but since people don’t know you, they can’t hire you.
Because I was taking care of my family, I had to pause my music career for a very long time. Since grade 9, I’ve been working to support my family.
It will be very difficult to get over the feeling that you’re not good enough. Because people will put you down and people talk about you behind your back. Even if you do something good, they will. If you do something bad, they will double it. So just do it anyways!
It’s not easy to pursue music and you have to have someone to get you through all that and encourage you. It could be your mother, brother, wife, anyone! And I’m actually very proud to have overcome so many things to reach this point from where I was before. To overcome a bad reputation, learning that these good friends that I thought I had were not and more.
And coming from a poor background; my mother didn’t go to work, father was always in jail and it was our uncle that took care of us. I remember one day when my father was released, he threw all of us out of the house. It was raining heavily that night and I was not even wearing clothes. It was messed up.
Whatever you go through, use it and harness it. You have to use all those emotions and channel it, into your music and people will accept you. It’s not going to be easy. But come out of it and embrace it. It’s worth it. It’s beautiful.
“Oh my god! I am living my dream to be a musician! I am earning my money through music!”
Q. What is a quote that you live by?
“Adhi Okay Vaane” (It will get better).
Q. How would you describe your journey from when you started till now?
It’s been a rush! It actually feels very normal now for me to just go to a resort and perform there for an international audience. But sometimes after the end of the gig, I would think, “Oh my god! I am living my dream to be a musician! I am earning my money through music!”
I never thought I would reach this point at this age. After Idol, I went into a dreary state. I felt like a failure and it was constant failures, one after the other. I felt like my whole family was a failure, my brother was a failure and this whole thing was coming down on me because I failed miserably. The whole country hated me… well, most of the country. But, I have been trying to change it slowly. Imagine me at a wedding. I would have the opportunity to change a lot of people’s mind. Just like that, slowly I have been changing more and more people’s mind about me. At these weddings, people have said that they cannot believe it is me because of how much my performance has changed! *laughs heartily*. I do admit that Dhivehi music is not my best side. But now I would proudly say that sometimes I like my singing too! *with a huge smile* It’s been unreal.
Q. So what are your future plans?
I don’t want to be like someone and I’m only out here to compete with myself. I want to be that musician who people would say is very professional at his work but you can have a really good time with him as well! The dream is to be a well-respected, top-level musician in the Maldives.
So this year I am planning to publish three songs, sometime in March, on October 10th and the last song will be published on 31st December.
Q. Do you have any advice for upcoming musicians?
Stop looking for fame, I made that mistake. Stop looking for money because that will come when the time is right. But for now, just focus on your work. Put the work in and live. Live your life to the fullest and do stupid things, go on dates, have fun, sing to girls, sing to boys, everyone sing to everyone! And learn that when people give their opinion, if it’s not constructive, don’t think too much of it. And don’t do drugs man. It will ruin you, I’ve seen enough of it.
“I don’t want to be like someone and I’m only out here to compete with myself.”
Q. Do you have anything else you would like to add?
I would like to thank a few people. I would like to thank the three most beautiful women in the world. My mother, my best friend and my fiancé. And everyone who helped me work towards where I am today. Ali Shaan, Fizan, Haamim, Yaafiu, Haibe, Moosa Samaau, Mr. Dhamika and the list goes on! I would also like to thank my biggest inspiration Raafiyath Rameeza and Ismail Affan! Last but not the least, I appreciate and would like to give special thanks to those who were and are still part of Team Zakitte and anyone who has helped Team Zakitte.