0 Comments 20 June 2010


By Pepper Marcelo

Singing competitions, always filled with drama, passion and impressive array of new vocal talents, are a veritable gold mine for overnight superstars. Programs like American Idol in the U.S. and Pop Idol in the U.K. have showcased the best and brightest in their respective countries. At home, we had the now-defunct Tawag ng Tanghalan in the ‘60s, which produced the likes of Nora Aunor and Diomedes Maturan. Countless other singing competitions followed, including the ongoing talent shows Pilipinas Got Talent and Talentadong Pinoy.

Have you ever wondered what would it be like, say, if our own homegrown singers competed against the world’s best? Outside of the Madrigal Singers and UP Concert Chorus, perennial winners in choral contests abroad, we could only think of one relatively unknown Pinoy talent who shot to instant fame via the World Championships of the Performing Arts in Hollywood, where up to three thousand singers (and dancers) from over 50 countries display their wares in an intense, Olympic-style contest. (Broadway star Lea Salonga, Journey soloist Arnel Pineda and pop sensation Charice earned international acclaim via other routes.)

Iloilo-born Jed Madela is the lone Pinoy Grand Champion of the global competition. Only 24 years old then, Jed reigned supreme in 2005, winning all six categories he joined in, two Champion of the World plaques, the World Star Trophy for Grand Champion Vocalist of the World and the ultimate title, “Senior Grand Champion Performer of the World.” His feat earned this comment from Lea Salonga: “Jed Madela possesses one of the most clean, clear and the most powerful voice that any man can humanly possess.”

Since then, the vocalist referred to as “The Voice” and “The Singer’s Singer” has been working at a breakneck pace, soon becoming one of the most prolific entertainers in the country. His debut album, I’ll Be Around, carried the single, Let Me Love You (From The Bottom Of My Heart), which became a radio hit. His second and third albums, Songs Rediscovered and Only Human, respectively, each went Platinum (with the latter reaching Double-Platinum status). His last album, Songs Rediscovered 2: The Ultimate OPM Playlist, became the biggest-selling OPM (original Pinoy Music) album of 2009.

Jed feels ecstatic about his phenomenal success. “Ako kasi, kapag gumagawa ako ng album, very hands-on ako. Kahit itanong n’yo pa sa Universal (Records, his label), from conceptualizing, recording, arrangement, so, para yung album na umabot ng platinum, malaking reward talaga. Lalo na ngayon na sobrang hirap mag-produce ng album at ma-convince ang buying public na bumili sa kabila ng mga piracy.”

Although Jed never had any formal vocal training, he benefited from a musically inclined family (his father was a choirmaster). “Every evening, yung choir niya dinadala niya sa bahay. Yung training niya napi-pick up ko. On my own I practice, and siguro sa pagbabanda ko rin dati dun ako nahasa. I trained by myself.”

Despite his musical upbringing, his father had wanted a more stable career choice for his son, which included becoming a flight attendant or medical representative. After graduating from the University of San Agustin in Iloilo, however, Jed decided to pursue his dreams of becoming a singer and moving to Manila.

“When I got here in Manila, there was this audition for a band, hanggang nagkaroon ng chance na sumali ako sa contest. So, I consulted my parents about that. I’m glad naging supportive naman sila sa akin.

His first major achievement came in 2003 when he won the People’s Choice Award and the Best Voice of Asia Male Singer in faraway Kazakhastan. Upon his return to Manila, Jed was featured in a TV talk show where he talked about his feat. A surprise was waiting for him backstage: his father, flown specially from Iloilo to personally congratulate him.

“My dad said to me that he had accepted me. He told me, ‘Pinagkait ko sa iyo ang happiness. I didn’t want to let you go because ayoko kitang makitang masaktan. Like any father, I wanted the best for my son, but I can clearly see that you are happy with what you are doing.’ I was crying the whole time he said this. Happy and sad at the same time. That was the time that he gave me his blessing.”

To be sure, competing on the much bigger and most challenging stage, the World Championships of the Performing Arts, was a different experience. Accompanied by fellow vocalist Rizza Navales, he flew to the US without entertaining any great expectations. “In a way, pressured kami kasi pioneer kami. We didn’t know what was going on and what was supposed to happen. Naging underdog kami ni Rizza. We were just in one corner, supporting each other.”

After winning six medals in individual competitions, Jed was already more than satisfied. But when it was announced that he won the Grand Championship Prize, he said “Nakita sa video, blank ako.”

Since that momentous triumph, Jed has been working hard to be the best vocalist and entertainer he can be. “I’m not settling for what I have right now. I’m still honing my craft and striving for more. To continue in this business, you have to maintain the quality of the voice. Improvise. Don’t stay like before. Magsasawa ang tao sa iyo.”

Not only to have the best vocal performance, but it’s also very important for Jed to create the most entertaining live show overall. Thus, he likes to take a hand-on approach behind-the-scenes to make this happen.

“With my live performances, the concept and stage design, I do all of it. I involve myself in the whole production of the show. I tell them my ideas ‘I want it to be like this, ito yung flow’, coz I believe that yung concert for every artist is a story, so it’s your personality na pinapakita mo sa tao.”

Besides displaying his vocal prowess, Jed likes to showcase his talents outside singing as well. “Like for example, there was one time may nag-ask sa akin to perform for their event. Sabi 30 minutes singing, 30 minutes na comedy talk, so para akong stand-up comedian to them.”

He says he is open to appearing in movies or TV shows but stresses that his focus is on being the best professional live singer. “Siniseryoso ko lahat ng mga ginagawa ko so gusto ko pag pinasok ko ang isang bagay, like showbiz acting, prepared na ako. So as of now singing lang muna talaga and performing on stage. Gusto ko talaga live. At the right time, maybe I can get into acting through musical theater.”

Jed says he is happy to be part of a resurgence of Pinoy music in which local talents can bloom and be appreciated around the globe as well. “Actually our music is doing very good. Mahina talaga yung mga albums, but with the recognition of Filipino performers mas malaki na yung opportunities ngayon. It all started with Lea Salonga and then si Lani Misalucha, and then now with Charice Pempengco and Arnel Pineda. Parang nage-establish na tayo ng label na the Philippines is the breeding ground of seasoned performers talaga.”


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