Ciara: Talented but unrecognized
STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco () - March 1, 2011 - 12:00am

When it comes to determining talent and ability, there are four types of artists, particularly in show business:

1) The overrated. They can blind the public through publicity and people skills.

2) The underrated. They either have poor PR or simply don’t care about trimmings. They only want to explore and express their artistic passions.

3) The undiscovered. I believe, however, that even if you are hiding under a rock somewhere in Cotabato, you will get discovered if you truly are talented (and has the requisite charisma,) especially now that there is the YouTube.

4) The unrecognized. They are talented, except that whatever gift they have got eclipsed by a previous reputation they have yet to shake off from their image.

Ciara Sotto belongs to the fourth one. Like most other second-generation showbiz kids (the daughter of …, the niece of … and the cousin of …), she is under the curse of having to get out from under the shadow of popular parents and various relations.

It’s even double whammy in her case (triple if you trace her ties to Sharon Cuneta). Her father, Senator Tito Sotto, who comes from a long line of legislators, had always been a winnable politician from Day One he ventured into this field. In the entertainment arena, on the other hand, how can anyone else surpass the popularity of Tito, Vic & Joey — the most successful trio act in the history of Philippine show business?

Mother Helen Gamboa is an even tougher act to follow. Naturally blessed with the fairest of skin that would put whitening products out of business, Helen was the biggest multi-media pop star from the mid-‘60s till she voluntarily slowed down toward the ‘70s to become Mrs. Tito Sotto.

But I’ve always had faith in Ciara Sotto. And whatever gift she has was carefully honed through the years. But she never got the credit she had always deserved because everyone dismissed her as the daughter of parents who had the proper connections in showbiz.

In 2003, I threw a get-together for a group of snooty friends, who are overly critical of anything that smacks of showbiz. They’ll cut to pieces any Pinoy performer, especially singers. Not that they are gifted with golden voices. One prides herself as a prized choir member. But listen to her sing. Her voice is so thin, it sounds like a desperate musical squeak from somebody breathing her last while getting strangled in a garrote.

Anyway, when the party was in full swing, I decided to play a CD for them to hear. They kept asking who the singer was, but I hid the CD cover under lock and key in my bedroom. They couldn’t even check out the CD label since the player is atop a wooden cabinet accessible only through a short ladder that only I could maneuver.

After I had played the entire CD, I asked for their comments and they couldn’t deny the fact that they were impressed with the singing. Not a single cruel remark from them. There were even superlatives.

Oh, but were they beet-red when I showed them it was the CD of a local singer — Ciara Sotto — that had them enthralled all along. At that point they could no longer take back all their positive comments. Had I revealed the singer’s identity earlier, they would have nitpicked endlessly just for the heck of putting down a local talent.

Eventually, I explained to them that Ciara’s voice had been trained — no less than by the College of Music of the University of Santo Tomas that had produced some of the most successful sopranos in this country.

After that event in my house came the pre-production meetings for the Gawad Urian. I suggested the name of Ciara to be part of an elaborate musical number. There were protestations from some quarters. But I was confident with the product I was selling and Ciara joined some former Miss Saigon talents during the Araneta Coliseum presentation. They had to sing in varying notes live — and with a band.

One of the ex-Miss Saigon cast members croaked a bit, but Ciara held on way till the end and I was so proud of her. And then everyone was trying to grab credit for having brought up Ciara’s name to be part of that production number.

Last Friday, she made me proud once more when she stood and performed at the RCBC stage in yet another local staging of Rent. The theme of Rent — honestly speaking — doesn’t appeal to me. As a musical, its mood is dark and I have little sympathy for people, either here or abroad, who embrace the bohemian life. And so I didn’t care much for the story.

Surprisingly, I still found the entire Rent production to be totally engaging. The direction is smooth and no-nonsense. But I have to give a lot of credit to the performers — Ciara, among them. Her tragic character, Mimi, could be traced to the original Giacomo Puccini grand opera Le Boheme (based on a French novel by Henri Murger) that was first performed in Turin, Italy in 1896.

It’s difficult to single out who gave the best performance that night without me sounding biased, but I can truthfully say that Ciara was among those who stood out. Her edge over the rest is the clarity of her voice and her very clear enunciation of every single word from her singing.

Her movements were also most graceful and let’s not even get to the part where she does pole dancing that brought her recent fame after winning in a celebrity talent competition.

I doubt if the pole dancing was part of the original Rent production abroad. But I guess it was incorporated into the local version as a come-on — and it worked.

However, I can only hope Ciara gets to live down this newfound pole-dancing ability that had recently been attached to her name. She has more to offer — like a fine singing voice that we should fully appreciate and finally recognize.  

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