Filipino singers breaking into international stardom

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — LEA Salonga was the very first Filipino artist to put the Philippines in the entertainment map of the world when she was recruited by Cameron Mackintosh to play the lead role of Kim from the award-winning musical play, “Miss Saigon” which was first staged in London in 1989 and on to Broadway earning for her various awards as Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical which include Laurence Olivier, Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle. She also played the role of Eponine in the Broadway production of “Les Miserables”.

She also performed the song “A Whole New World” (of Disney’s “Alladin)” in the 65th Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles, California, where the song won an Oscar. Lea sang the song in the movie as the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in 1992 and for “Mulan” in 1998 and more notable international projects followed.

Another Filipino singer, Marlene de la Peña, made it really big in Japan in the late 70’s to 80’s. Freddie Aguilar’s “Anak” made its mark in the international music scene when it was interpreted and recorded in over 80 languages by different foreign artists. Asia’s Queen of Songs, Pilita Corrales was the first Filipino singer-performer to have performed at the Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas in the ‘70’s. She also wowed Australia where one street was named after her.

The late Reycard Duets (Rey and Carding) also left a mark at the Las Vegas strip during their prime (70’s to 80’s) while S.O.S. or the Society of Seven (where Martin Nievera’s dad, Bert Nievera started out) was already wowing crowds at the Outrigger Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii for decades. When Bert left the group to re-settle in the Philippines, Jun Polistico took over and eventually, the late Gary Bautista replaced Jun. Even up to his death, Gary was performing. (They’re now performing at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas with Lani Misalucha.—Ed.)

We’ve heard of other Filipino artists making waves in the international music scene but their achievements were not as big as Lea’s.

Due to advance technology, Internet has become an important part of our daily lives. Fourteen-year- old ABS-CBN’s “Little Big Star” third placer Charice Pempengco became an overnight sensation when her rendition of Whitney Houston’s hit, “I Will Always Love You” was posted on YouTube which brought to the attention of Ten Songs Productions in Sweden.

In June last year, she recorded seven songs on Stockholm which included three cover songs, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” and Shakespeare Sister’s “Stay” plus four original songs, “Amazing,” “All The Money in the World,” “It can Only Get Better” and “Born to Love You Forever”. A few months later, the music video of Charice singing “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” by Dreamgirls was again posted on YouTube which paved the way for her to get invited by Seoul Broadcasting System, the biggest TV network in South Korea to perform in “Star King,” a popular talent show in that country where she sang “And I Am Telling You”. That music clip was re-posted again on YouTube which led her to American TV network’s “E!s”. Her Star King performance in South Korea was featured in The Daily Ten with the headline, “A Star is Born” on November 14, 2007 followed by “Queen of the Week” on the Hollywood Royalty segment and “A Queen is Born” on November 16. It was also fea ured in “The Ellen Degeneres Show” on its November 28, 2007 episode.

In that episode, the host showed web videos of different people she would like to have as guests on her show. This prompted Ellen to personally invite Charice to perform on her show. And on December 19, 2007, the young singer sang her already popular version of Dreamgirls’ ”And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” and Whitney’s “I Will Always Love You” where she was given a standing ovation by the audience on both songs.

Now under contract with ABS-CBN’s Star Records, heard that an American record producer has already shown interest in signing up Charice.

While Charice is on her way to international fame, another Filipino, forty-year-old rock artist and lead vocalist of The Zoo (being managed by TV director Bert de Leon), Arnel Pineda is on the verge of international recognition after he was picked out via Internet’s YouTube as the newest lead vocalist of America’s rock band, Journey, the group behind the classic hits such as “Open Arms,” “Faithfully,” “Eversince The World Began,” “Separate Ways,” ‘Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Who’s Crying Now,” “Anyway You Want It” and more.

Come February 1, Arnel is U.S. bound to face a bigger challenge in his musical career.

“Dreams do come true,” he enthused after his electrifying farewell performance with his former band, Zoo at the Hard Rock Cafe in Makati last Friday night.

The 5’3″ rock artist is just a simple guy who came from a poor family. But his dreams and visions are bigger than he could imagine.

“Don’t stop believing,” that has always been the mantra of Arnel since he focused on his singing career at a very young age.

He first joined Hijos Band which eventually evolved into the AMO Band. He also tried his luck in Hong Kong but came back to the Philippines after his separation from his former live-in partner. He was so devastated to the extent of destroying his voice. When he had his throat examined, he was informed by the doctors that he will never regain his good voice again and he can’t be singing anymore.

“Pakiramdam ko noon, kalaban ko ang mundo. Hindi ako makapaniwala because singing is my life,” says Arnel.

But his will to regain his voice remained. After six months of rehabilitation, he continued singing and touring until he was signed up as a solo artist by a major record label but luck was still elusive to him until he crossed paths with TV director Bert de Leon in Hong Kong.

De Leon convinced Arnel and his mentor, Monet Cajipe to return to Manila and form a new band called Zoo which was immediately signed up by MCA Records headed by music stalwart, Ricky Ilacad (OctoArts’ big boss younger brother). Zoo released their debut album called “Zoology” (with “Pain in My Heart” as its carrier single) late last year. “Pain In My Heart” is Zoo’s guitarist’s (Monet Cajipe) original composition. The music video of the song, directed by Gino Nacianceno was premiered last January 13 on MYX.

Despite Arnel’s leaving Zoo to embark on a bigger journey, the band formed by Bert de Leon will continue with its new lead vocalist, Reujenson Lista together with Emil Bondoc (bass), Edgar Mendoza (keyboards) and Nathaniel Baruelo (drums).

Arnel, on the other hand, will be facing a tough schedule ahead which include rehearsals, recordings and tours with his newfound ‘family’, The Journey.