Mindanaoan artists aim to break into mainstream music scene

Charmie Joy Pagulong - The Philippine Star
Mindanaoan artists aim to break into mainstream music scene
Singer-songwriter Jean Alejandro is from Cagayan de Oro (CDO).

MANILA, Philippines — After the likes of Arthur Nery, DJ Loonyo and TJ Monterde, another set of music artists from Mindanao hopes to make it to the local music scene.

In a Zoom interview with The STAR, emerging artists Jean Alejandro, Nier V and Chinoy Valmorida introduced their brand of music. They articulated why now is a good time for indie and regional music newbies and other artists as well to “step up” in this time of digital platforms and learn how to thrive amid popular foreign music like K-pop.

The rising musicians from the South reached out to Curve Entertainment, Inc., submitted their demos and got signed up by the record label. “We believe that they are the fresh batch of talents that have huge potential when it comes to working into the mainstream. That’s why we signed them,” Curve VP for marketing and business development Mario Joson remarked.

Singer-songwriter Jean from Cagayan De Oro (CDO), who earlier collaborated as sound engineer with Pagsamo crooner Arthur, just dropped his 10-track digital album Quarter After 2:00, which tackles “dark themes such as infidelity, toxicity of a relationship and so on.” In December 2021, he released his first two singles Hostage and Flex.

“He’s been really an influence,” Jean said of Arthur, a fellow CDO native. “He’s guided me a lot and (shared) a lot of knowledge in terms of writing and composing.” The two met years ago in a Komunidad event in CDO.

Jean is also an aspiring lawyer who was inspired by the American legal drama series Suits. He is into underground R&B and trap-soul music and his musical influences include Bryson Tiller, Summer Walker, Frank Ocean, Shanti Dope, Skusta Clee and Because.

Another music newcomer from CDO is trilingual rapper Nier V.

The 21-year-old learned to play the piano, guitar and drums at an early age. When he was in high school, he started joining “battle of the bands” contests and also performed in church with his bandmates. When he reached senior high, he found his footing in creating his own songs and participated in the Mindanao Music Camp to hone his talent.

He believed that now is the “right time for artists to create original music, which is unique to yourself because it’s very easy now to get an audience on TikTok and social media. It’s very much helping a lot of artists. So, I think artists have to take advantage of this technology.”

Amid the availability of digital platforms, he said it is still important to enter into partnership with a record label.

“I think the important thing being in a record label, especially for us regional artists, is that we have a shot at going to Manila and testing the water per se in the music (business) there,” he told The STAR.

“Because the reality is, if you can’t make it in Manila, you are not gonna make it in the whole Philippines. Also the networking of record labels (is an advantage.) Record labels have a really broad network and it really helps the artist(s) expand their fan base and connections,” he added.

“And then lastly, finding a record label is hard but it’s worth it. Because record labels will help you in releasing your music, and (in terms of) distribution and publishing. Because that aspect alone is very difficult for an independent artist.”

Another music newcomer from CDO is Melanier John Viado, who goes by the moniker Nier V. He is currently working on an album and has previously released tracks such as Push/Mid, Empire, Kobe, Heaven’s Door, and the more recent ones Rent Free and Meet Me at the Café. Nier’s upcoming album is a “reflection of my thoughts on romance, love and things like that.”

His musical interests include rap and hip-hop related genres but he plans to “branch out into more diverse genres.” Nier’s musical style is greatly influenced by Japanese bilingual rapper Kazuo, American rapper and songwriter Kendrick Lamar and Indonesian rapper Rich Brian.

Nier was born in the Philippines and moved to Kuwait to join his family at the age of two. He is also an avid fan of Japanese culture.

He was able to incorporate his multicultural roots into his sounds and lyrics as evident in his music’s “signature style,” which is to switch between languages from English to Tagalog to Bisaya to Japanese.

The trilingual rapper started out writing lines and poems but it was just late last year that he discovered how to make music. “And once I started, it kind of just continued,” he shared. “I felt that I started off pretty bad like I started off with music that I really wouldn’t enjoy hearing for myself.

“But the more I made music, I felt that I improved a lot. And it’s this improvement that I kind of keep really going because seeing how far I’ve come from where I started is giving me this motivation (to create more music),” he said.

Chinoy Valmorida is a Bukidnon-born and raised R&B music artist.

When asked why now is the “right time” for regional artists to rise amid other popular genres, he echoed what Jean said and added, “Not only that now is the right time but it’s always been the right time for regional artists to step up to the plate. The only thing for me is it’s always been the right time but our voices just weren’t heard for the past few years.”

“They’ve only started becoming more popular and we’ve only started to get our voices heard because of what Jean said things like TikTok (and) social media. Our voices coming from this small corner in Northern Mindanao have become amplified because of the use of social media,” he opined.

“I think it’s the right time, especially for artists like us, who live in places like CDO and Bukidnon in Mindanao to kind of show our art since it’s not only good for the people, like for the communities within our regions but it’s also good for the overall music scene in the Philippines,” he continued.

“Considering that you have all these people and all these new styles, these new sounds coming together creating more new sounds, that’s a lot more inspiration to give to people who still haven’t found their sound.”

He also agreed about the need for artists to ink a deal with record labels, saying, “Those social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram have allowed these and the artists to have a broad reach. Having a record label will increase that reach even more.”

“Aside from that, if you are an indie artist, to get distribution (from) all platforms like Spotify (and) things like that, (you) will have to get a distribution service. But with a record label, you don’t really have to subscribe to a service like that,” he added.

“As an indie artist, it’s really, really hard to get airplay on radio. You’d only get airplay on radio as an indie artist if you’re really, really popular with like millions of followers. But with the record label, airplay is way easier as compared to being an indie artist,” he explained.

Born and raised in Kibawe, Bukidnon, Erich Vonn Valmorida, a.k.a Chinoy Valmorida, was formerly in a band called Natural Roots that popularized the track Tribu Bukidnon. The song highlighted the seven different tribal groups in his hometown.

The 27-year-old R&B and ballad singer-songwriter pursued a solo career in 2022 and went on to churn out ditties Gitna and ALAS (Abot Langit ang Saya), which was featured in a GMA K-drama series My Shy Boss.

He is still exploring his genre but has named John Mayer, Justin Bieber and R&B Prince Jay R as musical influences.

Chinoy began understanding the world of music when he was in Grade 4, but it was during college when he developed a passion for songwriting and sang his original songs.

“In my opinion, it’s always (the) right time talaga and God’s will po na yang araw na yan or yang taon na yan is para sa’yo talaga. Depende rin po yan sa paggawa mo ng kanta kung pang-masa siya and patok siya sa mga tao,” he said about pursuing a music career.

According to Chinoy, he signed up with a record label to gain more support from the music scene and for financial reasons as well.

“Here in Bukidnon, based on my experience, dun lang sila sumusuporta sa may pangalan na po. I was able to compare my experience in terms of supporting music artists, mas kilala ako sa Luzon and Visayas than in Mindanao. Yun po yung na-compare ko po and na-realize that here in Mindanao, not all. Hindi ko naman nilalahat but it was just based on my experience,” he mused.

“Curve is really a big help for me and also for the new artists who are just starting to make music,” he added.

Curve Entertainment, Inc. chief executive officer Narciso Chan Jr. remarked that the main purpose of the label is to “develop and grow independent artists” and it hopes to “produce and create more music” with the signed artists.

The Curve’s roster of music artists includes Sharon Cuneta’s daughter Kakie Pangilinan, Northdrive, Kurt Tijamo, Reggae Mistress, Faith Cuneta, Geneva Cruz, among others.

The industry veteran further urged Jean, Chinoy, Nier and other aspiring artists to “keep the passion burning.”

“Don’t stop. If you have a local music na dialect, do it. You know that the market is open for everyone. Ang kailangan lang din sa lahat is like no retreat, no surrender. You keep on doing it. You keep on producing it. And if all the stars align, that’s it,” he said.

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