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Artstrong Clarion and Kitchie Nadal The fresh faces of local pop music


He’s a hip-hop artist. She belts out rock. He’s into jazz, neo-soul and R&B. She’s a studious gal who struggled her way up to music fame. Artstrong Clarion and Kitchie Nadal may be poles apart when it comes to their choice of music. But they are two of the country’s most promising recording talents to date—fresh additions to the highly saturated genre of pop music.

On November 13, these two young talents will finally shine on the big stage as they perform in a grand concert at the Folk Arts Theater. Dubbed “Pop Ko ’To,” the all-star, all-hits event features Warner’s OPM pop music roster, led by acoustic artist Paolo Santos, R&B singer Nina, ballad performer Christian Bautista, Pido, Dice & K9 and Thor, among many others.

The concert will also serve as Warner’s springboard to promote its latest All-Star Christmas Collection, which features holiday songs from these artists. Nina covers Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” while Paolo Santos adds his signature acoustic style to Vertical Horizon’s “The Man Who Would Be Santa.” Seasoned live performer Pido adds a mellow touch to Kenny Loggins’ “On Christmas Morning,” while Christian Bautista turns up with yet another rendition of “Silent Night.” Dice & K9 brings on the Christmas fun with their hip-hop take of Wham!’s “Last Christmas.”

But enough of said about these popular performers. Clarion and Nadal deserve the attention too, especially now that they’ve come up with hit records and chart-topping singles.

The hip-hop artist

Artstrong Clarion is, hands down, a bonafide hip-hop artist. From his early days spitting rhymes with his crew, Mastaplann’s True Asiatik Tribe, busting B-boy moves in the mid-eighties, hooking up with Kulay’s Boom Dayupay, singing smooth-as-silk R&B in the short-lived lounge act UpperSuite, and fronting for jazz-fusion group Third World Project, Clarion has cut himself a niche with his first-rate musical skills.

After years of testing the waters of local music, he landed a recording contract with Warner. In September 2004, Clarion released a 15-track album that made up for all the hard work he dished out in the underground urban music scene. It’s Meant to Be Like That! is Artstrong’s first major label solo release, an eclectic album that fuses hip-hop, jazz, R&B, dance and neo-soul. Not a surprising move for a guy who listens to just about everything—from his dad’s Louie Armstrong and Billie Holiday vinyl records to hip-hop mad men Outkast, to soul pioneer Stevie Wonder, and on to modern neo-soul heroes Erykah Badu, Musiq Soulchild and D’Angelo.

On top of that, he flavors his musical tastes with touches of dancehall reggae, jazzanova and electronica music.

“I like innovating music,” he explains. “I try to figure out how to tweak music and bring it to the next level.”

This perhaps explains why his album is a cut above the rest of usual R&B fare. Aside from the jazz-inflected single “Jazzy Monday,” choice tracks like the warm, acoustic-guitar driven “Benefit of the Doubt,” the splendid slow jam cover of No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” and “You Must Be” all contain the eclectic music influences that only Clarion could effectively combine altogether.

It’s Meant to Be Like That! is just the tip of the iceberg for this sophisticated and stylish artist. Come concert night, Clarion is expected to break it all down with his exquisite rapping, singing and breakdancing skills. For another sample, you can also check out his Warner All-Star Christmas Collection contribution, which features a spiced up version of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”

The lady rocker

Kitchie Nadal never really left the music scene when she quit Mojofly in June 2003. She wanted to finish her studies, but on the side, she also nurtured a solo career. It was at this period that her solo songs “Deliverance” and “Run” found their way to radio hit charts and major label compilations. In fact, a live recording of her performance of another original composition, “Same Ground,” landed on BMG Records’ latest Radio Live! The Jam Sessions Recordings compilation CD.

“Watch me, don’t underestimate me/you’ve never seen me run, baby,” sings the 24-year-old pop rock princess on her spirited single “Run.” The lyrics seem to strike a truthful chord, for the artist is fast earning a following.

Nadal hardly knew anything about music when she joined Mojofly on a whim three years ago. Before joining the group, she had already composed a number of songs, which she kept to herself for a long time.

When Mojofly rose to music fame, Nadal found herself in a strained situation.

“I had to make a compromise,” she explains, referring to her studies, which was her very reason for leaving the band. She finished a double degree in Psychology and Education recently at the De La Salle University.

“In the beginning, I told myself that no matter what, school is my main priority,” she stresses. “My solo career enabled me to do things at my own pace.”

And she did. The young lady after leaving Mojofly spent countless nights asking gig spot organizers to squeeze her into the night’s bill.  She did not ask for any pay. In between gigs, she labored through schoolwork and started out writing what would eventually become her debut solo album.

Months passed and Nadal successfully bridged the respect of both the mainstream and underground live music circuit. One night, you’ll find her performing in the most lucrative nightspot.  At another time you’ll catch her performing in the cramped spaces of Mayric’s.

In the end, she emerged as a legitimate cum laude contender in her school, and an accomplished album producer with a couple of certified hits. She also co-produced an album with Warner and 12 Stone.

Nadal has turned into a stronger lyrical presence in her 10-track self-titled debut. “Gumising na, bumangon na pagkat ‘di na ikaw ’yung biktima,” she sings in “Bulong,” an anthem for people who refuse to do the right thing.

Most of her songs are tied to her positive spiritual life. “I write songs as if they’re dreams,” she says. “I want to convey the important truths of life as much as I can.”

Bound by wakeful dreams, faith and honest-to-goodness talent, Nadal’s debut album is sure to become a pop/rock favorite in the local OPM scene. In fact, her latest promotional track “Wag na Wag Mong Sasabihin” is currently a chart topper in radio stations and music channels nationwide.

Right now though, she’s stoked on her contribution for the Warner All Star Collection—a cover of The Carpenter’s “Merry Christmas Darling.”

“I’m confident to tell you that you really have to hear for yourself to find out how great I did on recording that track,” she enthuses. “I can’t find the words to describe it.”

Cris O. Ramos Jr.

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Today’s Front Page February 19, 2020

Today’s Front Page February 19, 2020