Exaltacion, or simply Kenji, returns to the music scene with five songs to strum your emotional heartstrings in his EP titled Liham. It is released under actor and producer Piolo Pascual’s indie label Just Music, a unit of Cornerstone Entertainment’s recording arm CS Music.
It was in 2013 when the then 14-year-old Cebuano crooner was first introduced to music fans as one of the members of the G2B Boys under Star Music. It was the group that rendered Ikaw Na Na Na Na, composed by Jonathan Manalo, the official theme song of the Kapamilya TV series Got To Believe, starred in by Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo.
Kenji readily shared to The STAR during a virtual interview why he had to temporarily turn his back on his then-budding music career.
“What happened was, I began (my music career) when I was in high school and in my fourth year or graduating na ko sa high school, me and my dad decided that I finish my studies first,” began Kenji who is dubbed as the male version of Moira dela Torre. “Studies muna bago ko ituloy ‘yung (singing) passion ko so that whatever happens, I have something to fall back on.”
He didn’t join any singing competition prior to becoming part of the band. The Star Magic summer workshop, where he attended singing classes, paved the way for him to meet Jonathan Manalo who was instrumental in introducing him as part of G2B.
Now 24 years old and a Mechanical Engineering graduate from the University of San Jose-Recoletos in his hometown Cebu City, Kenji is once again ready to serenade listeners with songs that reflect life and love.
His initial offering is the EP Liham, now available on all digital music platforms. It contains five songs that speak about the joys and pains of love. They are Done, Paraiso Ko, Night and Day, Her (song for moms) and the title track Liham.
Kenji not only sings but also writes his songs. “Most of my songs are based on my life story. So, every time I write, it’s not as if I just wanted to relate to other people’s stories. Most of my compositions actually happened to me, para siyang episodes sa buhay ko.”
Oftentimes, Kenji draws inspiration from the affairs of his heart. “Hindi naman marami ‘yung nakarelasyon ko pero siguro sa isang relasyon, I was able to write four songs expressing different emotions like happiness, sadness or whatever I am feeling while in a relationship.”
Kenji can turn words into songs of love at no particular time of day but “there are times na parang kahit may pumapasok sa isip ko, hindi ko masulat in words because the emotion has to be present. I just feel like I’m in the right zone whenever I begin writing beautiful words about how I feel.”
He admires Ed Sheeran and Coldplay for their songwriting skills and “of course, among our local artists, si Moira talaga who I already met last December and I can say that it was a beautiful meeting because we talked for an hour about songwriting.”
Kenji said Moira advised him to always use the emotions or experiences he had and try to put them into songs in such a way that people can easily relate to.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenji made use of his time by writing more songs. In fact, it only took him 15 minutes to write Night And Day after watching the 2018 film Through Night and Day.
He was in first year high school when he began composing songs. “I used to play the guitar for my friend s’ya ‘yung kumakanta sa mga birthday parties ng classmates namin or we would perform for our classmates in school and then there’s was time a gospel singing contest in school pero hindi s’ya Catholic so hindi s’ya pwede um-attend dun sa program. So, I was forced to sing, ako ‘yung kumanta para sa section namin. I sang Warrior is a Child by Gary Valenciano,” said Kenji of how he began honing his vocal talent as well.
Between performing in a band and going solo, Kenji prefers the latter “although okay naman ako to work with someone else, I think I’m more into working on my own music in order for me to be better at my craft.”
However, he looks forward to the day of sharing the stage with Moira. “That’s one of my goals that I’d like to achieve.”
Asked about his dream gig, Kenji replied, “To sing in a very large crowd with my guitar and I can hear them sing along to my songs.”
Apart from singing, Kenji also attends to his business as supplier of solar lights in different companies in Cebu.