Leah Salterio – The Philippine Star

November 13, 2021 | 12:00am

A Filipino-American singing or recording the Tagalog romantic ballad of an Original Pilipino Music (OPM) artist is perhaps not really surprising. What is remarkable is a full-blooded American singer crooning an OPM hit of more than two decades, Jaya’s Dahil Ba Sa Kanya.

That is exactly what young American artist, Sahara, recently did when she recorded the Freddie Saturno composition released by Jaya in 1997.

“I had never heard the song before,” Sahara honestly says. “I first heard it in the background of a travel video around the end of 2019. I was instantly drawn to the melody and the pain of the singer’s voice.

“I could feel the song’s meaning in my soul and when I translated it, I felt even more connected to it. That was when I knew I had to learn Dahil Ba Sa Kanya and my dream was to someday record it.”

Thanks to the Shazam application in identifying music. It was easy to find the title of any song in merely seconds. That was how Sahara came to love Dahil Ba Sa Kanya.

“After that, I spent a couple of months trying to learn the song on my own,” Sahara discloses. “Then, I worked with a Filipina voice coach to refine my pronunciation.”

It took Sahara six months to finally polish singing the Tagalog ballad. “My co-producer, Dennis Quila, helped me put the finishing touches to the song,” Sahara recalls.

The girl is not totally a stranger to Tagalog ditties. She even has the passion for them early on, after getting familiar with the melody. Her Fil-Am friends in high school often played OPM tunes which Sahara discovered and conveniently heard.

“I’m an emotional and sentimental artist,” Sahara admits. “OPM has so much passion that it speaks to my heart. My Fil-Am friends in high school would play OPM tunes. Since then, I’ve always included OPM in my playlists.”

Sahara has always been drawn to music even when she was still a child. Her interest in music was apparently rubbed on to her by her mom and dad.

“I always remember loving music, wiggling and dancing, whenever my mother played music while she was cooking and cleaning,” Sahara grants. “I was fortunate that both my parents love lots of different kinds of music. Since then, I’ve always explored music from around the world in many languages.”

She discovered OPM 15 years ago. The complexities of the language attracted her to sing OPM and understand the translation. “I love the challenge of singing in Tagalog and more so, I love the sound of Tagalog when I sing,” Sahara allows. “It brings so much passion to the music.

“I work closely with my co-producer to understand the precise meaning of the songs I sing. We don’t just translate them. We really sit down and talk about the deep meaning of every word in the song. Of all the languages I sing (English, Italian, French, German and Spanish), Tagalog is, by far, the most challenging.”

When she was growing up, Sahara’s love for animals made her want to become a veterinarian. In college, she pursued the medical field and became an obstetrician-gynecologist ultrasound technician in a private school.

“I also loved to sing growing up, which I always kept it to myself,” she says. “When I decided to take a break from ultrasound and pursued music, I was actually pursuing a childhood dream no one but me knew I had.”

Sahara is inspired by such other OPM artists as Regine Velasquez, Kyla and Morissette. “All of those women have amazing voices and talents that I strive every day of my life to emulate them,” Sahara insists. “I’m especially inspired by the Filipina singers on my list. They sing amazingly in English and Tagalog. My dream is to sing in Tagalog as beautifully as they sing in English.”

She expresses her desire to collaborate with Filipino artists, especially with someone like Regine. “As a classically trained singer, I have reverence for her abilities,” Sahara says of Regine. “There are a lot of amazing up and coming OPM talents that will make great collaborations, as well.”

Naturally, Sahara also has her American music idols. She is inspired by Celine Dion, Cher, Barbra Streisand and Christina Aguilera.

Since Sahara recently signed up with a local recording label, MCA Music, she plans to visit and tour the Philippines as soon as life returns to normal. “More than anything, I want to meet my new fans, try as much food and visit as many beaches as possible,” she excitedly says.

Sahara even recorded an original Christmas song, Tanging Hiling, written by her co-producer and Tagalog coach, Dennis Raymund Quila, an OPM icon.

“Dennis actually wrote Tanging Hiling over 20 years ago and saved it for all these years,” Sahara reveals. “One day, about a month ago, he shared it with me and I fell in love with it. We started practicing immediately and before we knew, the song was recorded.”

Tanging Hiling is now out in time for Christmas. Sahara will release new, original Tagalog songs in the new year.





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