Latest album ‘Bahaghari’ a labor of love

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NEW YORK—Finally, it’s out! All of us involved have been waiting a long time for this one to be released.

In cooperation with the Global Language Project (GLP), I have released a brand-new album titled “Bahaghari” (Rainbow), featuring 16 songs in different Filipino languages, including Tagalog, Bisaya, Ilonggo, Bicolano, Capampangan and Ilocano, recorded over a span of four days.

One of the first things we needed to take care of was to find a producer for this unique undertaking. After initial consultation with Gerard, we decided to ask one of our musical superheroes, Ryan Cayabyab, to produce the album due to his wide musical knowledge, vocabulary and resources.

Next, we had to narrow down the repertoire of traditional music to just 16 tracks. This part was probably the most difficult, as the final cuts were chosen not only based on language and tone, but also because of their pervasiveness in their respective regions and beyond.

There were a few that were nonnegotiable tracks that had to be on the album—“Ili Ili,” for example, which I remember my mother singing to me.

Third, we had to pick our arrangers. Given that “Bahaghari” would be the third in a series of albums for GLP, after the Grammy-winning “Coloreando” in Spanish and the Portuguese “Aquarela,” instrumentation would have to continue in the vein of simple but effective orchestrations, since the primary audience for this album would be children.

The intention is to use the recording primarily in a classroom setting, to introduce school kids to Filipino languages and, by extension, Filipino music. Joining us were Nikko Rivera, Mic Llave, Ric Mercado, Ria Osorio, Arnold Buena and Gerard.

Ryan then suggested the perfect venue to record the tracks: Soundesign, owned and operated by our good friend, Sheila Francisco. We made the studio our home and truly enjoyed the atmosphere she created, which included having us try some of her amazing cooking.

The powers that be behind GLP—Rex Niswander and Angela Jackson—made the long trip from New York City to join us in Manila. They not only got to listen in on every recording session, but were also able to sample our famous Filipino hospitality.

This hospitality was also extended by a larger group of people whose help with the respective languages we recorded in was nothing short of invaluable. So, to Janice Dee, Floy Quintos, Eloisa Matias, Sherween Cabrales, Mae Magdamo, Priscilla Magdamo and Emmy Cayabyab, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

This is an album I am extremely proud to have done. Besides getting to sing songs in my own language, Tagalog, I got to record in the languages of my mother, father and very good friends, including our “Once On This Island” costume designer, Clint Ramos, who hails from Cebu.

The languages I was more familiar with were easier to navigate, even if I didn’t completely understand them. However, Ilocano and Bicolano were an absolute challenge, as I’ve never actually heard either language in conversation. I might as well have been singing in Malay or Indonesian.

But, this album is truly a labor of love. We enjoyed every song we chose, and every minute we spent in the studio.

We bring you “Bahaghari.” Like a rainbow, each language is distinct and separate, but they all come together to form something beautiful and unified. We hope you enjoy it!

“Bahaghari” is available in CD format on the author’s website, LeaSalonga.com, as well as digitally on iTunes, Google Play and Spotify.

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