Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Christopher Santos

UTAWIT 2013 Champ: John Alejandro

January-February 2014

A few years back, UTAWIT's champion was contestant #13 who sang Nais Ko. This year, another contestant found himself in the exact same disposition. Some speculated that history might repeat itself. Others were skeptical that it was too much of a coincidence to warrant favourable odds. That contestant proved that the fine line between history and odds is simply perseverance with prayers as he emerged as this year's reigning UTAWIT champion. In the tradition of ushering in the new title holder of the most coveted award for pinoy vocalists in Japan, Jeepney Press presents to you your new UTAWIT champion, John Alejandro.

Jeepney Press (JP): How did you start singing? Who influenced you to sing?
John Alejandro (JA): I started singing when I was in high school. My grandfather is a well rounded musician but although love for music runs deep in our family, I feel I found music on my own. Or I guess music found me, as well, because no one taught me how to sing from an early age. I grew up loving it. In high school, I have a friend who listened to Beatles  and we just sing along to the music. I grew up surrounded by the voices of great singers like Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Presley coming out from an old phonograph player. Nothing can be more basic than that.

JP: When and where did you start performing publicly?
JA: 1987, at Shakey's Pizza in Cebu. I am thankful for the discipline that comes from collaborating with other musicians  from the start.

JP: What music genre do you love performing? Why?
JA: Pop rock, rap, rock & roll; dance music. I think it fits my personality and my husky voice. I love adapting my vocals to various genres of music. It's a challenge but I am happy to be able to cover a wide range after years of singing.

JP: What was your biggest achievement as a performer?
JA: Apart from winning the UTAWIT 2013, waxing a recording album under Vicor Music Philippines in 1996, singing at   Planet HOLLYWOOD in Indonesia,  and singing in a European and American tour cruise ship.

JP: How did you know about UTAWIT ? How many times did you join before ?
JA: I heard about UTAWIT through a friend. I joined six times before winning. But those times helped shape me to being the performer that I am now.  I am happy I got the grand prize at a time that I have solid grounds, vocally and  professionally, to represent the Filipino music in Japan.

JP: Why did you join?
JA: For my son, and I want to prove that I can really sing.

JP: How did you prepare for the contest this year?
JA: Physically, I exercised really hard and sleep a lot for vocal resistance. Mentally, I just prayed and relaxed.

JP: Why did you choose Nais Ko ?
JA: NAIS KO is not an easy song. Vocally, it's very challenging. I love the fundamental message and lyrics of the song.

JP: Which artist(s), local or international, influenced your singing the most ?
JA: John Lennon, Bon Jovi, Brian Adams, Rod Stewart, and our very own Mike Hanopol.

JP: People have always known you for your ethnic image. Why did you decide to build on that image ?
JA: I visited Thailand in 2007 and found these ethnic clothes sarongs that look like pants but very soothing to wear. I  just love the unique fashion of it ! From then on, I started using wrap around sarongs, sandals, and bandanas. It's a mixture of expression for being Asian, Filipino, and cultural, which I am proud to maintain as I blend it with the modern  music I render. It marked a striking distinction for me.

JP: How do you plan to grow as an artist going forward?
JA: I realized that I need to adapt my style here in Japan. That calls for me to embrace the creative need as an artist to  reinvent one's self constantly and cater to my audience.  God willing, I want to have a trusted manager to help me grow  in this business.

JP: Now that you are the reigning Utawit Champion, a title that can only be bestowed to only one person in a year, how  do you plan to create the most out of it?
JA: The title is a platform that comes in a trophy. That aspirational platform is for me to promote my music and the vision of all other Pinoy talents here to represent our artistry with excellence. Personally, it puts me into sole command  responsibility to bring myself to the next level in all aspects.

JP: Did you expect to win?
JA: You don't join a contest not hoping to win. It's different from expecting. Definitely, I did not expect to win but  certainly I wanted to. But when you're out there competing and the pressure is on, eventually you will just find yourself praying so hard and simply  wanting to perform well.

JP: What was your feeling when they were announcing the winner? How did you feel when you emerged as the new  champion?
JA: Very nervous during the announcement, and totally overwhelmed. I was very emotional specially when I saw my kid.

JP: What was the symbolic meaning you wanted to impart when you removed your bandana at the end of your song?
JA: That I respect individual freedom and the right to be able to try different things. Luckily, the judges' attention and the audience impact came as a bonus.

JP: Any message to our readers and to the Filipino communities in Japan?
JA: To all our kababayans, specially my contemporaries, you will never fail if your determination to succeed is strong  enough. Sometimes it's not mere talent that will lead you to win. Through PRAYERS, be thankful for whatever you have. Learn to always give back. All for the Glory of God. Mabuhay po ang Utawit, ang musikang Pilipino, at ang  pagbangon ng Bagong Pilipinas!

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