By Shazwan Zulkiffli

Malaysian rock veteran Zainal Abidin’s inclusion into the 2016’s Rockaway roster may have come as a surprise to many, especially when the festival is known for hosting heavy, hard-wired metal, alternative and punk bands that draw a young Gen Y audience. However, Zainal Abidin is no stranger to gigantic stages like Rockaway – and he may also be one of the biggest local names to grace the Rockaway stage this year alongside Butterfingers and Wings.

Zainal Abidin had it hard during his younger days, as he performed as a trombone player for funerals to earn a few ringgit at that time before making his mark in the Malaysian music industry through his former band Headwind, who was Malaysia’s favorite rock outfit circa in the 1980s. Headwind’s debut and self-titled album received a fair response in 1983, but it was the Headwind 86 album that really got them going into their peak years. However, wanting to try something new through his music, Zainal Abidin left Headwind to officially go solo in 1989.

After his departure from Headwind, Zainal started a new chapter in his career with producer Roslan Aziz as the duo produced his debut solo album, Zainal Abidin, that sparked a lot of the industry players’ interests. In 1994, Zainal released what’s perceived as his best work yet –  called ‘Gamal’, it featured legends like  Paul Simon of Simon & Garfunkel, Randy Bernsen, Armand Sabal-Lecco and Steve Thornton. The response for ‘Gamal’ was the likes of which has only been seen with Yuna since, as the album made Zainal Abidin a world-class success with album sales in the USA, Europe, Australia, and all over the world, inspiring him to write another iconic album called ‘Terang’.

Due to the success of both ‘Gamal’ and ‘Terang’, Zainal Abidin was given the honour by ex-Genesis singer Phil Collins himself to sing in his Bahasa Malaysia-version of Tarzan’s official soundtrack, “You’ll Be In My Heart”.

Zainal Abidin isn’t just a successful Malaysian singer. The veteran made our childhood experiences with his iconic take on Phil Collins’ classic “You’ll Be In My Heart”. For Malaysians who have endured the national service (PLKN) or simply a good five years in a Malaysian public school, you’ll most probably know and loved Zainal Abidin for his masterpiece “Hijau”, a song that was way ahead of its time.

Now a rightful judge for the singing competition Mentor and a Malaysian household icon, It’s pretty justified to see Zainal Abidin in the Rockaway roster, given his success and contributions during his glory years. One thing for sure, thousands will be waiting to sing-along to that iconic bridge from the song “Hijau” to relive their childhood and have a good time.