The Courage to Try Something New
I have a new digital album out - Electro Sitti - and to tweak the story of my recording life a bit, it’s not bossa nova.
The idea to make an electronic album came to me back in mid-2016. Nope, I’m not having a crisis or anything of the sort, haha! I just simply wanted to try my hand, or to be more apt, my voice, at something new.
Some people may think that I embarked on the project to ride the electronic trend. In Filipino, “nakikiuso”. But it’s not really that. Given, there are some benefits to it such as enlarging my market base and appealing to the younger ones. But truly and in all honesty, this is simply me satisfying my inner artist and allowing her to play in a different playground.
You see, I firmly believe that we should all be responsible for whatever and all talents we have been given. It is our duty to make sure they are continually used, honed, and challenged so as not to be rusty, never to be stagnant. What a waste certain gifts would be if they were just kept as is! And to the artist, to do the same things over and over again with no change to approach or style is a straight path to creative death - nothing kills passion like mindless repetition.
(This is why I love jazz and bossa nova so much. The songs’ lives change every single time we perform it, as opposed to pop songs that structurally do not usually allow much freedom for interpretation.)
True, muscle memory works like a charm for all of us, especially for singers. Of the countless times I’ve sung Para Sa Akin, you would think I wouldn’t need to vocalise for it. But it is precisely because of the many times I am expected to sing that beloved song that I have to be more intentional in tweaking even just a little note to keep it fresh for me, at the risk of leading some who may be singing along astray. I don’t do it all the time, I just change it here and there especially on those times when I feel like I’m on the verge of going on autopilot.
It doesn’t even have to manifest on the approach to the song itself. It can be a mental thing - like imagining a different scenario or setting every time I sing. One of my more memorable gigs was singing three songs in a venue where trucks seemed to outnumber people. Interesting, right? Change the setting a bit, or change a little teeny note, and the adventurous, sometimes slightly rebellious artist in me is satisfied. The more satisfied she is, the better I’m able to perform, the more I can pass on my love for singing to the audience, the happier I am with how I’ve used my talent.
Forgive me for referring to my inner artist like she’s a separate entity apart from myself. I got the concept from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, in which she says that all of us have inner artists whose interests we have to feed and nurture, as if we have a little child, so that they can grow and continue creating. She recommends exposing our inner artists to whatever we feel may be good for her: eating ice cream, going to a music festival, reading books, etc. What’s important is to constantly create an environment where she would feel safe - and brave enough - to create.
I digress. But I believe that I have made my point clear - in my inner artist’s constant process of creation, it is essential for her to roughen things up a bit time and again. And really, I’ve been singing mostly bossa nova since 2003. Fifteen years, ladies and gentlemen! Surely, I am allowed to experiment a bit?
But even if we took away the musical aspect, I know in my heart of hearts that I am doing this for my own personal growth. I really believe that trying different things can only lead to one’s horizon expanding, to a deepening of your understanding of yourself. It is true, that you will never know unless you try. For me, this even applies to welcoming heartaches and enduring tribulations. If we all just kept ourselves in the shelter of our cocoons, never trying something new, then how could we have truly lived?
If I limited myself to singing only bossa nova, I would never know that my voice could also fit electronic music.
All these things, the people you surround yourself with, the books you read, the music you listen to, the different sensory upheavals you allow yourself to participate in, the risky things you try, all of these add up to who you are, ingredients to the constant creation of your individuality. And as they all simmer in your heart and mind, they would eventually pour out of you - as words, as songs, as your footprints in this life.
I would never leave bossa nova, as some of you may be wondering. I still hold fast to my dream of recording an album in Brazil, to working with the greats like Sergio Mendes and Gal Costa, to singing Girl From Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro. It’s still here, I’m still working towards that.
But in the meantime, I hope you'll give Electro Sitti a listening chance. I wrote four songs there (Tangled, Bid You Love, Cliche But True, and Never Be Far). And as you listen to it, close your eyes, kick off your heels, and dance silly with me.
Happy listening and dancing and chilling <3