Lea Salonga releases album of traditional Pinoy folk songs

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at Dec 10 2018 06:22 AM | Updated as of Dec 10 2018 04:00 PM

MANILA -- When an opportunity to introduce the languages of the Philippines to a bigger world came Lea Salonga’s way, the Tony Award-winning artist gave her nod to the project and recorded an album of traditional Filipino folk songs.

“Bahaghari: Rainbow” is Salonga’s 10th studio album, with National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab as producer. The musical outing contains 15 tracks, with songs in six languages – Ilocano, Bicolano, Ilonggo, Bisaya, Kapampangan and Tagalog.

“The album made for a very interesting process and it was an adventure not just for me, but for the entire team,” Salonga allowed.

Executive producers of “Bahaghari” are Angela Jackson and Rex Niswander of GLP (Global Language Project) Music, who introduce children to world languages and world cultures.

The music label also produced a Spanish album, “Coloreando,” which even won a Grammy Award, and another album in Portuguese titled “Aquarella.”

“They approached me to ask if I would be interested in adding to the series,” Salonga shared. “It’s kind of a nice thing that we’re following.”

In the past, Salonga recorded pop songs, well-loved Broadway tunes and Original Pilipino Music (OPM). In “Bahaghari,” Salonga sings traditional Filipino folk songs for the first time.

Released under Curve Entertainment, “Bahaghari” proved to be really challenging to record for Salonga and Cayabyab, considering they were using different languages.

“We had to phone a friend every day to ask how we should pronounce a certain word,” Salonga shared. “Mr. C had so many people to call for the correct pronunciation and the meaning of the words.

“For Tagalog words, there were enough of us in the room who spoke it. For Kapampangan, we talked to Emy Cayabyab; for Bicolano, we talked to Eloisa Matias. We called a choir director in Ilocos for the Ilocano words.”

Ilonggo and Bisaya are languages familiar to Lea. “I can sort of figured it out because those were the languages I’ve heard,” she said. “My mom speaks Ilonggo and I have enough Visayan friends, but everything else, I might as well be recording in Indonesian or Malaysian.”

The target of “Bahaghari” is children, so the instrumentation is very simple. The release is aimed to reach the consciousness of the young Filipino generation to revive our traditional music’s heritage and preserve the importance and beauty of this art.

“Hopefully, schools in the country will listen to the CD, so the students can understand another language and we’re not so insulated with Tagalog,” Salonga said.

“A world that might not be aware of the intricacies and differences between these languages. Many of these tongues feel very foreign and strange, and since there’s always a danger that these languages won’t be spoken by future generations, there was a need on our part to preserve them in some way.”

According to Cayabyab, the executive producers of “Bahaghari” specified they wanted the sound “not to be very, very heavy, to be light, so we could focus on the lyrics and melody of the song.”

Cayabyab, whose deep knowledge of Filipino music proved key to the project, was able to make the album musically interesting. Not only with the diverse selection of the songs’ languages, but also with the diverse line-up of arrangers tapped for each song. That included Salonga’s brother, Gerard Salonga.

“The songs had to be varied in subject, emotion, tempo and rhythm," Cayabyab offered. “The collection could not be all slow songs or only celebratory songs. We had to have a good representation not only of language, but of a variety of subjects and emotions. This would hopefully make for a lovely aural spread.”

Salonga recorded “Bahaghari” in only three days. Her voice is the thread tying the tracks in the album together. “Because the arrangements were all so different from one another, I needed to stylistically adapt my vocals to fit them while holding on to my own voice and how I sing,” she said. “The melodies are just as informative as the lyrics, so I latched on to them.”

The tracks in the album include “Atin Cu Pung Singsing,” “Waray Waray,” “Matud Nila,” “Sarung Banggi,” “Pamulinawen,” “Ili Ili Tulog Anay,” “Leron, Leron Sinta,” “Paru-Parong Bukid” and “Pobreng Alindahaw.”

Curve Entertainment president Narciso Chan said “Bahaghari” will also be released soon in vinyl, just like the original records.

Compact discs with a special booklet containing cultural notes written by award-winning writer and director Floy Quintos, and original lyrics with English translations, will be available in local record stores starting December 17.