In tune with the times
Musical director and producer Troy Laureta bridges the gap between his Filipino culture and Western music with his newest album, Kaibigan.
There’s nothing like memories of home to spark a little bit of inspiration, but for international musical director/producer and local boy Troy Laureta, the muse for his latest album sent sparks flying around the world.
“When I got to LA, I got to play with so many good musicians,” he recalls. “I started daydreaming about how cool it would be if these bands or artists I work with would sing Filipino music, the songs I grew up listening to.”
Last summer, in the middle of the pandemic, Laureta took the time to turn that dream into a reality.
“All live music was canceled,” he recalls. “I called my friends, and everyone was itching to make music.”
On a whim while talking story, Laureta pitched the idea for his Filipino language music album, and it was a hit. With everyone on board, he was able to put the album together in just a few months.
Kaibigan: A Troy Laureta OPM Collective Volume 1 — OPM standing for “original Pilipino music,” according to Laureta — hit No. 2 in the Philippines and charted in the U.S. and Taiwan upon its release. The goal was to celebrate Filipino music and bridge the gap between Laureta’s culture and Western music.
All the words are sung in Tagalog or Cebuano and feature Asian-American artists who are not only professionals in their own right, but also Laureta’s friends, which is how the album got its name.
“Kaibigan means friend,” Laureta explains. “When I was choosing singers, I wanted to make sure the majority of them were people I knew and understood who I was as a person.”
It’s why his sister Cheesa is a featured artist — “It’s always best when you’re working with family,” he shares — as is Hawai‘i-born Nicole Scherzinger of The Pussycat Dolls.
“Growing up in high school (he’s a 2006 Punahou grad), we’d listen to Pussycat Dolls’ Stickwitu. (Their) songs are part of my upbringing,” Laureta recalls. “And I love working with Nicole now. She is one of the most beautiful people on the planet, inside and out. Whether it’s her Hawaiian roots or her Filipino roots, she’s proud of her heritage.”
For Laureta, the desire and ability to create music is his genes. The former ‘Ewa native grew up listening to Hawaiian and Filipino music, something his parents, Joseph and Tenie, had playing in the house all the time. Even when the family moved to Kalihi, musical melodies continued to fill the home.
“Being from Hawai‘i and being Filipino, music is such an important part of our culture,” he explains. “We were surrounded by that, at church, at parties. My whole family does karaoke, night or day. Both my sister and I knew at a young age what we wanted to do and we did it.”
Troy Laureta’s work as a musical director and producer has him brushing shoulders with the likes of (from left) Nicole Scherzinger, Babyface, David Foster and Seal. PHOTOS COURTESY TROY LAURETA
Cheesa, for her part, was the first Filipina to perform on singing competition The Voice, and made it to the top 12 as part of Team CeeLo Green in 2012. And, her songs have been featured on renowned television series, including So You Think You Can Dance and The Bachelor. (And, she was featured on MidWeek‘s cover back on May 20, 2012.)
Laureta, the elder by two years, took the production route, using his platform to promote Asian representation in the entertainment industry. And create great music, of course. In fact, prior to the pandemic, he was supposed to tour with music executive and producer extraordinaire David Foster, and is hoping to continue touring once things start to reopen. For now, he’s hard at work on various other projects, including some yet-to-be-revealed projects with his sister, as well as volume two of Kaibigan (expect it to drop this fall).
And, Laureta teases, listeners can expect the same melding of Western and Filipino cultures that embody volume one.
“We should unite as a community,” he says. “With something like this album, it’s a small contribution of music, but it’s a way that I can use my voice to not only promote Filipino music but also Asian representation.”
Songs on the album Kaibigan: A Troy Laureta OPM Collective Volume 1 showcase notable artists from the U.S., Philippines and beyond.
1. Intro: Harana
2. Kahit Isang Saglit (featuring Ailee)
3. Bakit Pa Ba (featuring Matt Bloyd)
4. Bakit Pa (featuring Cheesa)
5. Pangako (featuring Nicole Scherzinger)
6. Kailangan Kita (featuring Pia Toscano)
7. Usahay (featuring Jake Zyrus)
8. Patuloy Ng Pangarap (featuring Sheléa)
9. Outro: Hanggang Sa Dulo Ng Walang Hanggan (featuring Regine Velasquez)