Freeman Cebu Entertainment

Amid typhoon Ompong, Latin hotties of CNCO heat up Cebu

Karla Rule - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  Even the oncoming typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut) couldn’t dampen the spirits of fans as Latin boy band CNCO visited Cebu Friday, Sept. 14 for their Asian Promo Tour.


 The group, who won Univision’s musical competition “La Banda” – which was executive-produced by Simon Cowell’s SYCO Entertainment, Ricky Martin, Univisión Communications Inc. and Haim Saban’s Saban Brands – flew into town to meet Cebuano CNCO fans at the Northwing Atrium of SM City Cebu. They performed hits like “Hey DJ,” “Mamita,” “Se Vuelve Loca” and “Reggaeton Liento.”

 Formed in 2016, CNCO is made up of five young lads from different countries: Christopher Velez from Ecuador, Erick Brian Colon of Cuba, Joel Pimentel of Mexico, Richard Camacho of Dominican Republic and Zabdiel De Jesus of Puerto Rico. They are among Latin music’s brightest stars.

 Winning a five-year recording contract with Sony Music, the group was able to tour with Ricky Martin and has managed to become a Latin Grammy-nominated pop phenomenon. Their first album “Primera Cita” quickly became a global success and was a certified Diamond, Platinum, and Gold in the United States, Latin America and Europe.

 Throughout their two years, CNCO took home six Latin American Music Awards, five Premios Juventud, three Premios Tu Mundo, three Latin Billboard Awards, three Premio Lo Nuestro Awards, one Kids Choice Award, one Teen Choice Award and one iHeartRadio Music Award.

 Just last year, the group wrapped up 40 concerts in 15 countries, and joined Latin musical icons Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull for their North American tour in the US and Canada. CNCO has also released their second album “CNCO” in April this year.

 Coming straight from Japan, CNCO will also be visiting Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia after their trip to the Philippines where they’ve had a taste of Filipino fast food, street food, and met with Filipino CNCOwners (fans).

 Christopher, Richard, Zabdiel, Joel, and Erick Brian sat down with Cebu press inside the Santiago room of Radisson Blu Cebu on Friday afternoon, giving us the lowdown on their first albeit quick Filipino experience, how they got along after the competition, their biggest influences, their secret talents, and their wish for Latin music.

 How has Cebu been? Did you get to look around?Richard: No not yet. But we want to. We arrived this morning but we can see from the rooms. It [the view] looks very nice. The ocean looks super nice. We want to go to the beaches and stuff. It would be super dope. We are right now in an Asian promo tour.We were just in Japan. This is our first time in the Philippines and then we’ll go to Malaysia and then Indonesia.

Christopher: [In Manila] We tried the best fast food. It’s amazing honestly. You guys put spaghetti in everything. I like it a lot. We tried the squid ball. It was really good.

 Since you guys came from a competition, how was the transition from being competitors to bandmates for the past two years?

Erick Brian: It’s incredible. I think it’s a pretty cool experience because we never met before “La Banda.” It was weird. We got to know each other in the whole process of “La Banda.” But now after that, I think we have a really good connection. We get along a lot, and always with respect and communication.

Richard: Some of us didn’t like each other at first because we never really got to talk. Say, for me and Joel, it was hard to talk in Spanish. We weren’t used to talking in Spanish so we would never really talk with nobody. But then after we made it to the show, we all started talking. We all started talking more and we started getting along and after that it was super nice.

 Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself? Maybe something that fans don’t know about?

Christopher: Well it’s not like a talent. I don’t know. But we were on the plane coming to Asia… but I can impersonate a dog [dog bark] really well.

 How did you discover that?

Erick Brian: We asked him the same thing!

Christopher: I don’t know. I liked dogs since I was little.

Zabdiel: I can beat box. But everybody knows that.

Richard: For me, I draw and I do parkour.

Erick Brian: For me? I can… (Unsure) I can play soccer very well? (earns laughs from bandmates). I have something else that I can do…

Christopher: Oh he [Erick] plays the guitar! He learned it about five months ago.

Erick Brian: Yes but I can’t do an impersonation… I think that’s it pretty much.

Joel: Something that I discovered. I can put my thumb behind my hand. I’ve never shown this. Yeah, exclusive.

 What flavor does each member bring to the table?

Erick Brian: I think I put the tropical thing about Cuba.

Richard: All of us, we all have a different kind of genre that we love to listen to. And the artists we admire are all different, different genres, with different languages. For me at least, I grew with R&B and a lot of Dominican bachatas… stuff like that. I feel like I can add that to the group.

Zabdiel:  I think I add the romantic thing, maybe. I like soul music, very romantic stuff. I think I have that flavor, super romantic.

Chris: Me too, I really like ballads a lot but I really like rock music too. And I’ve been listening to a lot of reggaeton since I was a kid. So I have those to flavors.

Joel: I’m Mexican, I grew up in the States. I think I can add that American sound to the songs.

 Who is CNCO’s biggest influence?

Richard: I feel like Ricky [Martin] is the biggest influence on us since he was our mentor for a while. We learned so much from him. He was the one who took us on tour for the first time. It was in four countries and we were just super excited and nervous because didn’t know how the people were going to accept us since we had just started. And he’s doing massive shows with like 45,000 people and we didn’t know how to even act on stage. It was super cool. We saw him on stage, he did a full two-hour show—like energy, up. You’d never see a downfall on the show. For us it was just super mind-blowing how a person with such a long trajectory in the industry could keep up a great show. And also outside the stage be super humble, super grounded, and very calm. I feel like that inspired us to keep going and to really achieve what we want.

 What have you guys learned from Ricky from your time with him?

Zabdiel: He always gives us a lot of advice. One, I remember is to always be humble, keep your feet on the ground. And always try to rest as much as you can. We’re always learning about him. Not only when he talks but also when you see him as a person—he’s a super humble, spiritual guy. I think that makes a big difference.

Richard: It gives us a lot to learn and admire. To be able to see him outside the stage, so humble, so grounded after all these things he’s gone through and achieved. It’s a big lesson to learn and to see and take into consideration.

 For new fans, what CNCO song would you recommend for them to discover you and learn more about you?

Richard: “Reggaeton Lento” – that was the song that took us here and opened a lot of doors to a lot of places. I feel like that’s our mark. If you know CNCO, you know “Regaetton Lento.” And that’s the first song that they should be introduced to. And then our new single “Se Vuelve Loca.” It’s just us dancing, just us. No other people, girls, no nothing. It’s very personal.

Christopher: And after those two songs, the whole album.

 Who do you guys want to collaborate with?

Richard: We want to collaborate with everybody. Chris Brown, Bruno Mars, Daddy Yankee, J Balvin.

Zabdiel: Hopefully we could do a collaboration with artists from the Philippines. That could be amazing.

 Have guys spoken and met with Filipino artists?

Richard: Hopefully. Right now, we’re trying to focus and see and meet our news fans here in the Philippines. And see if we could come back here and do a show and meet new artists. We saw yesterday a few artists on YouTube, it was super nice. We like the music, everybody’s so beautiful here.

 What can we expect from your tour?

Erick: For our new tour, we are preparing. Two months in Miami, practicing and practicing the whole tour. There’s a lot of dance. For the whole show, you can expect a lot of music, a lot of dance, lights, energy. There’s a lot of surprise. Hopefully we can come back here in the Philippines for the tour. It’s going to be amazing.

 Being a band, do you guys have a leader? How do you make decisions?

Richard: I think all of us, we’re all like fluid. We try to come together to just come to one conclusion. We’re five different minds, five different cultures. So somebody has a different idea… so why not just take all of those ideas and make a great one. So it’s super cool.

 Do you guys think that you could venture into something different aside from music? Acting, maybe?

Christopher: Of course. That’s the goal, we plan hopefully to do a lot of things… Movies, documentaries, touring around the world, winning Grammys. That’s our goal and we try to do our best.

 If you could paint a picture of CNCO five years from now? What would it look like?

Zabdiel: We’re still together. A little bit fatter… (laughs)

Christopher: Still together and still doing really cool music. Travelling around the word, living the dream, still. And accomplishing a lot more things.

 For the past two years, was the life of a star everything you thought it would be?

Richard: It’s harder than we thought. We thought it was just like getting on stage, performing, singing here and there. But there’s so much behind it. There’s so much interviews, so much travelling, so much hours of not sleeping. It’s a lot of things we didn’t expect but we love it, to be honest. It’s cool. It’s not as easy as we thought. It’s actually work as well apart from the fun. It gives us a lot to look forward to and learn from. It’s super cool.

 As celebrities, do you guys feel like you have to act a certain way to keep up with a sort of image?

Richard: For us, I feel like that’s what’s special about CNCO. We’re very genuine wherever we go. We don’t try to act like someone else. We don’t try to put up a face. We are how we are off camera, on camera. I feel like that’s what the fans love about us. And that’s what we want to kind of keep. Even between each other, when any of us is acting kind of stupid, we’re like hey come back or smack them in the head or something. We’re always on top of that. And our team also, our team is very humble, they keep us grounded. Our family as well, when they see something they don’t like they hit us and they’re like ‘Oh I didn’t like how you said this…’ So it helped us. And we read the comments as well. We love to read the good and the bad, so we take the bad to build up from.

 How do you guys deal with stress and schedules?

Zabdiel: On our free time, we like to do fun stuff. We always play futbolitos. Foosball. Go kart, bowling, pool. And we always try to take everything step by step.

 What is CNCO’s dream for Latin music?

Richard: I think our dream for Latin music is to take it around the world. Right now, Latin music is trending as you can see, because of ‘Despacito,’ because of J Balvin and so much Latin artists taking it global. I think for us is to spread that Latin culture, that flavor. And also to be an example to the youth that we were just like them—we were just in school, working. And because of one dream, because of music, we all get together. We’re different countries, different cultures, so much cultures coming together for one thing. We got together for our dream, we’re travelling together and just showing everybody. That’s what we want to accomplish, to show them that they can really achieve their dreams if they go for it, work for it, and put a lot of dedication and hard work into it.

 What is your message for Cebuano CNCOwners?

Richard: We love them. We’re super thankful and super grateful for the love that they showed us coming into the Philippines. We didn’t expect to have fans outside the airport. It was super cool that they had signs and were singing our songs, they were super nice. They’re very passionate.

Christopher: We hope to come back soon and do our concert here. Salamat po.


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