by Anthony Capirayan, SSP
He sits a little fidgety on the bar stool. The intro flows in lightly. He closes his eyes and gently lifts up his voice: I’m jealous of the rain
/ That falls upon your skin . . . Then almost instantly, all the jitters dissipate.
Ryan Tamondong is doing a cover of Labrinth’s “Jealous” on Wish 107.5 TV. But he renders it as if it were his own. He plunges into the tragedy of the story. He rolls in the pain of every line. He embraces the melancholy of the melody. And with his controlled yet penetrating voice, he cradles every listener to the inmost soul of the song.
“I still get nervous whenever I perform. But I pour out my heart in every song I sing. I imagine that the story is about me,” Ryan says.
It must have been the same powerful and achingly conveyed performance that captivated the judges during the Euro Pop Contest held in Berlin, Germany, in 2015, and led him to the top of the competition. Amidst a throng of talented Europeans, Ryan belted his way to the trophy.
“At first, contestants from other countries were a little hostile to us. But after the first day of the competition (where he sang an original song entitled “Be Strong”), everybody became our friends,” he reminisces.
Ryan is one of the many musical forces that prove to the world (or maybe to the universe) that Filipinos are a people to reckon with.
Where It All Began
Music came into Ryan’s life so unexpectedly. When he was in grade school, he was steadfastly committed to achieving academic success. Extracurricular activity was to a minimum. But during his last year in elementary, on one fairly ordinary afternoon, his life took a different turn. After their exam, they headed to his friend’s house to while away some time. He basked in a hammock and started singing Journey’s “Faithfully.”
His friend’s jaw dropped as Ryan hit every twist of notes effortlessly. “Sabi niya ang galing daw,” he recalls his friend’s reaction. Coincidentally, a singing contest would be held in their school in two days. Right off the bat his friend decided to sign him up. The contest day came, and to the surprise of his classmates, and even more so, of his parents, Ryan bagged the first prize. With the interschool competition drawing near, his parents decided to enroll him in the Center for Pop Music Philippines to polish his musical prowess. From then on, Ryan slew every school and interschool singing contest there was. What followed then were a string of invitations to perform in various events.
When Ryan stepped into high school, he continued working on his craft. However, when he told his parents that he would pursue music seriously in college, they were a little hesitant about the idea. Music is undoubtedly a “tough business,” so they tried to convince him to consider other courses. But the lad was relentless. “Sinabi ko kay Daddy parang biglaan lang akong natutong kumanta. Magha-high school na ako hindi pa rin alam kung ano ang gusto kong gawin sa buhay. So baka may ibig sabihin yon, na bigla nalang akong binigyan ni God ng gift sa pagkanta,” he muses.
At present, Ryan, eighteen, is a second year college student at the University of Sto. Tomas Conservatory of Music, majoring in musical theater. “This is it! I’m happy with what I’ve chosen,” he declares. “Some friends would ask me, ‘What’s your fallback when this does not turn out as planned?’ Hindi ko talaga alam eh. Ito na yong nasa utak ko talaga. As of now, all I want to do is to perform and make people happy,” he adds. Whenever he is nagged by doubts, he would simply go back to the cradle of his story, to the time when he first started singing, and then he’s ready to take on the stage.
And indeed, Ryan lightens up the occasion whenever he sings. In fact, he has been a suki (regular) in the Battle of the Champions of St. Paul National Bible Quiz (one the bible ministries of the Society of St. Paul), serenading and lifting up the spirits of the contestants. On a personal note, I have seen him grow from a timid, chubby boy to a fit young man who performs with bravado and showmanship.
Road to Pop
Pop music suits Ryan’s soft, warm, and flexible voice. Though he can certainly deliver other genres of music with the same soulful vibe, pop is his territory, his home. He considers Arnel Pineda, Jovit Baldomino, and Gary Valenciano as his musical inspirations. But as he matures as an artist, he develops his own style. And with his unique vocal storytelling he has been nominated as the Most Promising Artist in the Wish 107.5 Awards. He has just also recorded a new single entitled “Since You Went Away,” (written and composed by Joel Mendoza, in collaboration with Vehnee Saturno and Mark Santos) which would be released early this year.
Ryan’s musical career is now taking off, propelling him to stardom, but he promises to stay humble in every way. “Nandito pa lang ako. Kung darating man ako doon, hindi ko kakalimutan na nanggaling ako dito,” Ryan professes.
In order for him to avoid the peril of complacency in his calling, he holds on to the words he once heard from an animated film: “The moment you start thinking that you are perfect, that’s the moment you’re gonna stop evolving.”
Ryan says that singing has given him direction in life, formed his values, and deepened his faith in God. In like manner, with his heartfelt performances, he will continue to cradle the hearts and souls of his listeners to life and light and love.