Wanted: The best young lounge singersBy Jodee Agoncillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The 2010 American Broadcasting Company documentary “ABC News Nightline” labeled the Philippines “the lounge singing capital of the world.”
Go on a cruise, drop by a hotel lounge or a bar abroad, the docu reported, and you will find that most of the talented entertainers are Filipinos. Arnel Pineda, Journey’s front man, for one, used to sing at Hong Kong bars. The rest is history.
Lounge music is described as “mood music that gives the audience a feel of being in a certain place, be it a jungle, outer space or an island paradise.” Today, the term refers to music performed in hotels, casinos and piano bars.
Peninsula Manila is set to provide talented young Filipinos with an avenue to showcase their passion for singing through “Sing@Ning, the Search for the Ultimate Voice” at its popular lounge, Salon de Ning.
Open to college students 18 to 25 years old, “Sing@Ning” hopes to be a platform for promising performers.
Love for OPM
Salon de Ning musical director Onyl Torres said the search is part of the hotel’s efforts to promote Original Pilipino Music (OPM). Part of the contest mechanics is that the contestants should sing OPM pieces in specific genres.
During the first round, they will be required to perform alternative pop and rock; in the second and third rounds, Filipino ballads and Filipino jazz.
In consideration of the Pen’s clientele, the entries should all be in English.
“There are tons of English OPM in the Philippines,” Torres said. “We just have to retrieve it from the treasure chest.”
Trina Belamide, one of the judges for the search, has written award-winning original compositions that topped local charts; several received Awit Awards nominations. Among these are: “Now That I Have You,” “Tell the World of His Love,” “You’ve Made Me Stronger,” “Shine” (second place at the 1996 Metropop Song Festival), and “Today” (which won for singer Raki Vega the gold medal in the Original Works category of the 11th World Championship of Performing Arts in Hollywood.
Later in the competition, Torres said, the top three contenders will be asked to interpret kundiman songs the lounge way. For example, he said, “Sarumbanggi” could lead a lounge singer to many different directions.
Belamide emphasized that lounge singing requires a different style and approach. For one thing, she said, it is not loud. She explained: “It’s one thing to be able to sing and another thing to connect with the lounge audience. It’s a more intimate way of singing.”
“But we don’t want to send out the message that it’s OK to leave school and start working as a singer,” said Belamide, a graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University.
Torres said he would like to have contestants who are studying and, at the same time, starting a career as a performer. “We prefer students who can balance education and passion, and are focused. We don’t want to get the vibe, ‘I need to do this to get rich.’”
Torres is a stage director and vocal coach with 20 years of experience in theater. He has performed with Repertory Philippines, Dulaang UP, Tanghalang Pilipino and Philippine Educational Theater Association.
“Lounge singing is not show biz; it’s not like ‘Star in a Million’ or ‘Philippine Idol.’ If they get discovered after a three-month singing contract with Salon de Ning (one of the prizes), we will be very happy,” he said.
The richly appointed Manila Pen and the elite Salon de Ning could initially intimidate an aspirant. But Belamide said this should not be an obstacle. She pointed out: “Many aspiring singers I’ve met, especially those from the provinces, are gutsy.”
The participants will likewise be trained in performing before an audience, Torres said. “The contest is ultimately a test of character, too.”
He added: “The one we are looking for should have a voice we have never heard. He or she should be an artist with the potential to launch original compositions in the future.
Judges and vocal coaches include singer-actors Pinky Marquez, Menchu Lauchengco and Audie Gemora, stage and TV director Floy Quintos, power singers Dulce, Bituin Escalante, Isay Alvarez and Robert Seña, Moi Ortiz of The CompanY, Sitti, Jacqui Magno, Camille Lopez and Belamide.
Contestants should sign up via a dedicated YouTube channel and upload their entries starting Aug. 1. Aside from a three-month singing contract with Salon de Ning, the winner will get P100,000 in cash, Spotlight Artist Center and John Robert Powers scholarships, and a weekend stay at the Pen.
For the complete contest mechanics, visit www.peninsula.com/singatning.
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