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Look on the bright side of love, life with TJâs Puhon
TJ Monterde, a PolyEast Records artist: ‘It has become a part of my vision to release every now and then a song that is written in my mother tongue, which is Bisaya.’

Look on the bright side of love, life with TJ’s Puhon

Jerry Donato (The Philippine Star) - June 27, 2020 - 12:00am

Singer-songwriter TJ Monterde has added Puhon to his collection of pop songs. Yes, the melody is catchy (and easy on the ear). The narrative about loving and longing to be with someone is universal and told in TJ’s soothing voice. Then, listeners are off to look on the bright side of whatever plight they may be in (like living in the “new normal”). Puhon is written in Bisaya, which makes listening more pleasurable.

“It has become a habit of mine or somehow part of my vision to release every now and then a song that is written in my mother tongue, which is Bisaya,” said TJ of the idea behind recording Puhon, which means “someday” or “in God’s time,” in a Zoom group interview. It is released under PolyEast Records.

“It is an advocacy. A lot of my artist-friends are trying to push ‘hyperlocalism,’” he added. By the way, the term is used to refer to local news coverage, but one may view it as a way to produce and popularize a music of a particular place. “For me, it’s (an opportunity) that I’m able to bring a Visayan song to a national scale. Sobrang daming magagandang kanta na iba (ang dialect).” Essentially a poem, Puhon is not only TJ’s letter to the world (I’m referencing Emily Dickinson) but another contribution to the thriving Vispop that deserves mainstream playing and appreciation.

“It was written three years ago,” recalled TJ, who got engaged to with KZ Tandingan last December, “kami na noong time na yun.” Kung Sya Man was his first venture into this kind of music.

Given the quarantine milieu these days, TJ decided to finish the song while he was in his place’s “balcony with a sunset,” as a backdrop, “parang perfect visualization of Puhon (the song), which means ‘someday,’ ‘God willing’ or ‘in God’s time.’ Napakaganda (nitong) word and (it) can turn (a challenging) situation into something positive. That was my drive to write this song. I also didn’t expect (the good reception of the song)... It’s a Visayan song and (I think it) has a niche market. Sobrang natutuwa po ako na mga Tagalog (ay) nakikinig sa kanta, kahit hindi nila na iintindihan. I have proven somehow that you don’t really have to understand (the lyrics of the song). If it (the song) feels good, then it feels good. Then, you listen to it.”

All TJ’s compositions, including Puhon, usually start with a word that is written on a piece of paper. He doodles words around it. After having written down enough words, he begins to make connections among terms and from there, he forms thoughts. “I go to my cellphone, in which I have put lots of tunes in it. In the voice memos and notes, I have tunes na naka-bangko dun, which I thought randomly. I look for the tune that matches the lyrics. That’s how I build a song.”

Although TJ is a singer to many, he sees himself more as a songwriter.

“Personally, I don’t consider myself na magaling na singer. When you say singer, (what comes to mind) are the ones like KZ na magagaling talaga vocally. For me, a songwriter does both the lyrics and the music (of a song). Most of my songs, ako ang gumagawa ng music and lyrics. Very basic yung nagagawa kong chords. When I’m done with the tunes, then I pass it now to the arranger.”

The artist also shared that he would rather be known for his songs than the name, and if one may add, the persona people initially recognize. “Gusto kong mas sikat yung kanta ko kaysa sa akin (I wanted my compositions to be more popular than me.).”

Aside from Puhon, TJ said he also has recently written a song for a fellow PolyEast singer and will continue to explore pop. With his Development Communication degree from the Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan, TJ might come up with songs that tackle social issues in the future. He has Gary Granada and Bullet Dumas, among his influences, to bank on. This could be another “soon” or “someday” in the singer-songwriter’s career.

(Listen to Puhon on digital platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon. For updates on TJ, follow @PolyEastRecords on Instagram and Twitter and PolyEast Records official Facebook page.

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