'When we allow other people to define what is beautiful, we fail to express and accept our own individuality'
MANILA, Philippines - Kat Agarrado of the blues supergroup Kat Magic Express is going to Memphis, Tennessee, to represent the Philippines in the 2013 International Blues Challenge from January 29 to February 2, 2013.
About a decade ago, she was the teenage singer of successful R&B cover band Passage. After that stint, Kat did classic rock and sang blues tunes with Wally Gonzales. And 7 years ago, she won NU 107’s Vocalist of the Year award during the station’s annual Rock Awards in 2006.
Steeped in music, she is probably more popularly known as the “Pinoy Soul Siren” of SinoSikat? a band she created, wrote songs for and even managed. It was in 2004 — when only TV stars were signed into music labels — that she dared to form the band. Without the backing of record labels, and without the safety of cover songs that more cautious singers and producers usually opted for, she just went ahead and recorded songs.
“Every musician’s dream is to record his or her own album,” Kat says, explaining her decision then to throw caution to the wind. For the love of music, the band members did free gigs for months until they were noticed by Warner Music Philippines. Their passion paid off as their first album won the Awit Awards 2007’s Best Jazz Recording and People’s Choice Best Group honors soon after.
Kat says she is inspired by equally passionate singers like Lea Salonga, Ella Fitzgerald, Erykah Badu, Gwen Stefani and Adele. “When you see them, you know that they know what they want, and they were able to do it because they’re so passionate about it and so determined; they really pursued their dreams. I look up to those kinds of women.”
In 2005, a group of artists led by Lourd de Veyra, Buhawi Meneses, Tado Jimenez, Noel Cabangon and Ronnie Lazaro formed Dakila, the Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism. They support a number of causes ranging from ending enforced disappearances and prioritizing education for all, to fighting climate change.
Dakila is also responsible for the popular Rock the Riles concert series held yearly at Manilas's MRT stations.
In 2009, the Dakila collective approached Kat Agarrado and asked if she would be a willing advocate for Tik Tok Pilipinas — alongside Oxfam Philippines — against climate change. The advocacy group sought to educate Filipinos about environmental issues through concerts, events and seminars.
Kat says she got attracted to Dakila’s cause when she realized how simple acts could lead to great changes, and how her ideas about art, music, beauty and performance were aligned with Dakila’s.
Kat says, "Beauty comes from within, and it radiates outward. It's the same as performing: when you are enjoying yourself onstage, people can sense it, and they enjoy themselves too. But if you aren't enjoying yourself, no matter how good your music is, the audience won't appreciate it."
Representing the Dakila collective, Kat is teaming up with Mayor Pie Alvarez and Cream Silk to create “Project Her Difference,” a sustainable development program for San Vicente, Palawan, a stretch of pristine white sand and the country’s longest beach.
On November 14, she flew in to inspire local women to manage waste and keep their hometown a beautiful paradise. She stayed for 4 days, and while Mayor Pie talked about her views on women empowerment, Kat shared her knowledge of the impact of fossil fuel usage and improper waste management on the environment. She even showed the locals artist renditions of Puerto Princesa in the event of a full polar ice cap meltdown.
From the 20 women who originally attended these talks, over a dozen locals — from fishermen to policemen and firemen — joined in to cap off the sessions with a coastal cleanup activity, completing the first phase of Project Her Difference.
“Hindi pwedeng nakikitira ka lang sa isang bahay tapos wala kang gagawin, kailangan tutulong ka (It can’t be that you stay at a house then do nothing, you have to help.),” Kat says.
Find out more about the Her Difference Project in Palawan by watching this video:
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