MANILA — Kapamilya singer KZ Tandingan made history on Tuesday as she was introduced as the voice of the first-ever Filipino-language song from Disney, for its latest animation feature, the Southeast Asia-themed “Raya and the Last Dragon.”
Dubbed “Asia’s Soul Supreme,” Tandingan was handpicked by Disney Philippines to perform “Gabay,” according to its studio marketing head Allie Benedicto.
Noting that the film is “inspired by various Southeast Asian cultures,” Benedicto said the group “found it fitting to launch ‘Gabay’ as a way for us to celebrate the film and connect with our Filipino fans.”
The track, the first official Disney song to be sung in Filipino, “demonstrates our commitment to work with local creative talents to tell our stories in a locally relevant manner,” she added.
“Gabay” will be released on March 5, coinciding with the Disney+ premiere of “Raya and the Last Dragon” in the United States. A Philippine cinema release will follow “soon,” according to Disney Philippines.
Tandingan, the Philippines’ only “X Factor” winner who then made waves internationally through China’s “Singer 2018,” said she is “very grateful" and "feel very proud to be singing in my language, and show off its beauty to the rest of the world.”
“I am proud to be part of history,” Tandingan said.
“I grew up watching Disney movies. Finally, there is a Disney Princess who I can feel a very strong connection to, and that is Raya as the first one inspired by Southeast Asia,” she said.
Set in the fantasy world Kumandra — which blends cultures of Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines — “Raya and the Last Dragon” follows the title character (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran) as she embarks on a mission to “restore peace” by finding the last dragon, Sisu (voiced by Awkwafina).
Fittingly, “Gabay” is a song about trust, strength, and unity, according to Tandingan.
“I love that the song reminds us that sometimes we feel we are weak, especially when we are alone, but if we just learn to trust each other, to come together, and to unite, only then are we able to change the world,” she said.
Tandingan follows the likes of Janella Salvador (“How Far I’ll Go” for “Moana”), Moira Dela Torre (“Reflection” for “Mulan”), and Darren Espanto and Morissette Amon (“A Whole New World” for “Aladdin”) as Filipinos who have been tapped to officially record a local version of a Disney theme song.
Tandingan, however, has the distinction of performing the first, and so far, only Filipino-language version of a song from a Disney title.