Swedish musical artist Carl Johan Kihl, aka Caloy Juapo, launches his “Duyog in Caloy” brand at the Casa Gorordo Museum. Photo by Tristan Laput

The Duyog ni Caloy brand
Karla Rule (The Freeman) - December 30, 2017 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — It would be safe to say that Bisaya music is experiencing a renaissance. The local music scene has been reinvented and yet holds its sensibilities firmer still, the public no longer sleeping on the pool of talent that cradles Bisaya artistry.

Cebuanos aren’t the only ones rediscovering their craft though. Even people from other parts of the country and even the world are watching all of this unfold.

Swedish performer Carl Johan Kihl is testament to that.

After becoming an online hit with his covers of Bisaya songs, Carl – who goes by the moniker Caloy Juapo – extends his love of Bisaya and Filipino music by being on ground as well. Now managed by Bruce Cortes Bollozos of Guru Ads and Marketing Consultancy, Caloy is taking strides in realizing the brand that is “Duyog ni Caloy.”

“Duyog” is the Bisaya word for accompaniment, and this is Caloy and Guru’s strategy into putting not only Caloy’s talent but also his passion and love for Binisaya out there. It’s not so much as an entirely brand-new Caloy. However, it’s a fresh way of appreciating Bisaya music and culture.

Having been in Cebu for almost a year now since moving to the country for work, Caloy, who grew up on the countryside of Sweden near the town of Västerås, is grateful for the warmth he has received from Cebuano. Being a musician himself, music has been his way of learning the language and the Bisaya sensibility.

“We wanted to come up with a concept that’s tailormade for Caloy. We don’t want him to sing just any song so the genre and songs he performs are filtered,” Bollozos, who is also a good friend of Caloy’s, begins of their partnership during the recent “Duyog ni Caloy” launching at the Casa Gorordo Museum.

Notably, Caloy is Guru’s first attempt at creating a brand for a personality as they  have normally worked on events and marketing consultancy.

“After a series of brainstorming, we came up with something. Caloy would be singing anything that relates to emotions that are so strong. We want people to see him as someone who sings with emotions, and that means performing songs that capitalize on real emotions whether its celebration, or joy, or pain,” says Bollozos, adding that Caloy has the edge, the passion, and the audience and it was just a matter of improving and polishing his content.

With music ingrained in his blood having performers for parents, Caloy got his first piano at the age of four and started composing music at 12 years old. By 16, Caloy performed in bars at his hometown and eventually decided to travel the world and perform after college.

Caloy moved to Turkey and performed five nights a week in a hotel in the Alyana area, working with a show tune group, and even portrayed Slightly, one of Neverland’s lost boys in a staging of “Peter Pan and the Lost Boys.” He lived and performed in Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Cyprus, Egypt, and Thailand before zeroing in on the Philippines.

“I know gamay lang. I understand a bit. I’m learning everyday. That’s the thing, because for me singing is also part of the progress. Every song I learn, I start with listening to this very beautiful song but I don’t understand all of the words. I translate every word, and find out the meaning,” Caloy, who works in the IT industry, says when asked how he’s improved in his Bisaya.

Caloy also likens his learning experience to the awe and excitement brought by unwrapping a gift.

“It’s [translating Bisaya] like opening a Christmas present. Here’s a very beautiful song but you don’t really know what’s inside. It’s a very beautiful experience. I learn every word every meaning of the songs. I just got to continue learning songs and eventually Bisaya as well.”

Caloy began his musical journey in Cebu unexpectedly when he was dared to sing Kurt Fick and Medyo Maldito’s hit track “Hahahasula” during a Christmas party. Admittedly, it had been difficult for Caloy, having zero Bisaya skills whatsoever at the time.

Today, Caloy has more or less 30,000 Facebook followers and has published covers of other Cebuano songs like  “Duyog” by Jewel Villaflores and “Pero Atik Ra” by Jacqueline Chang. Everyday he interacts with followers online, remembering those who have been with him from the very beginning.

Caloy acknowledges that maintaining an online presence is something he can always keep an eye on, but he also wants to keep up with his followers’ expectations of him and decided to partner with Guru Ads and Marketing Consultancy to help him expand his platform and love for Binisaya, and to continue giving followers content since they remind him everyday of his passion for Bisaya culture.

“I want to spread Bisaya music all over the world,” Caloy declares. “You have so much great talent here. You can’t compare it. I like the culture here, and you have it [music] everywhere here—in every street corner. Whether it’s a big stage or just a small karaoke bar at the corner. You can’t see those things in Sweden.”

He further says that at first, the country’s landscapes and scenic views took his breath away, but even more so the people who were willing to take him in and helped him as he moved to Cebu.

Caloy also shares that he doesn’t know where to start, hasn’t even thought about who he wants to collaborate with should he be given the chance since there are so many talented people in Cebu. However, Bollozos quips that they would also like to collaborate with local talents who have not broken ground just yet in order to give them the opportunity to expose their gifts through the “Duyog ni Caloy” platform and showing the world that Cebuano talents are globally competitive.

The singer may have been known for his renditions of Bisaya and Filipino music, but that doesn’t mean he’s limiting himself to that. Caloy, who also loves to paint, has written a bunch of songs which stem from the very core of his emotion. He even wrote an entry for the fourth staging of Vispop alongside his friend Jorem Egnario Belasoto. But Caloy sheepishly admits that he’s too shy to debut them for now, especially the ones written in Bisaya. He promises original content in the near future though.

“I want to write hugot songs. I love hugot. This is how I started getting attached to Cebuano music. I heard of a song and it just grabbed my heart even though I didn’t understand the words yet. That’s so powerful,” Caloy says.

Cebuano talent have now joined Swedish band ABBA and international acts like John Mayer, Seal, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Presley and Michael Buble in Caloy’s list of influences.

Since Filipinos are generally very welcoming and hospitable, the mere mention of Filipino talent abroad causes a surge of pride among the masses. Sure it’s not everyday that you get to see a blue-eyed blonde singing his heart out to a version of “Sana Ngayong Pasko” on the piano—there’s always going to be a novelty to it but come to think of it, Caloy isn’t the first foreigner to do this sort of thing. But Caloy isn’t here for the competition.

“The thing is I don’t have to make myself unique from other foreigners singing Tagalog or Bisaya songs,” Caloy shrugs. “I just have to continue doing my thing and playing the songs I love to do. I love to sing Bisaya and Tagalog. I wouldn’t say I would compete with other foreigners.”

Caloy has some wise words to those who would be interested in treading the same path he is taking.

“Just do it. Learn. Try your best to learn. I sing because that’s the key for me to learn. Find your key to do it, everyone is welcome to. Do your very best to appreciate culture and show your respect,” Caloy shares.

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