Tuesday, June 08, 2010

usapan with vehnee saturno

vehnee saturno (aka venancio saturno) is now on his 30th year in the music business as a very successful songwriter. he had composed over 500 songs, and brought countless artists to stardom with his monster hit songs. he had helped singers like martin nievera, randy santiago, jaya, sarah geronimo, and others to attain their biggest dreams. he is very much respected and a mentor to all aspiring filipino songwriters and music arrangers.

i had been a fan of vehnee since i was a kid. i used to be one of those musical kids in the 80's dreaming to become a singer. i would always be so thrilled when friday comes and i would buy a copy of a songhits magazine (a local song magazine) at a nearby newspaper stand and sing all of its songs thru the weekend. i'd often see vehnee's name on the song credits and admire his great distinctive talent. that's why i was quite static upon receiving his email telling me about his interest to meet for a personal interview.  me and delia were invited to visit vehnee's fully refurbished office.  they've moved from their old office in balete drive, to their current office in
new manila, quezon city.  we were so delighted to get a glimpse of his workplace.
vehnee came from a very humble family. they're ten in the family.  his father was a farmer and a carpenter, while his mother was a housewife and a tinderathere was no specific person that had inspired him with his songs, although he could say that it was mainly poverty that pushed him to do his best.  he didn't want to be like his father, a farmer all his life, not that it's a bad thing.  he said, "kaya sabi ko sa mga anak ko na mag-aral silang mabuti.  kasi yung may pinag-aralan, daig pa ng kahit anumang kayamanan."   

he'd always wanted to be a journalist but never had the chance to finish his college.  he'd also tried advertising but he wasn't lucky enough.   he joined the philippine air force right after high school.  he had worked part-time in a photocopying shop for 7 straight years.  scared of doing the same boring job for the rest of his life, he'd decided to quit his job and went back to his first passion: songwriting.  vehnee's parents thought that music will not put food on the table.  inspite of their discouragements, vehnee continued to pursue his dreams to become a composer.  two years after, he competed in the 1982 metro pop music festival.  then in 1983, then newcomer singer, martin nievera sang vehnee's metro pop song "be my lady," and the rest was history.  "well, classic, until now.  may joke nga na yung kantang yun, yun daw yung sumunod sa 'my way' at dapat bago mo kantahin, humingi ka ng lisensya kasi baka mabaril ka.  nakakatuwa kasi that song was also personally selected and recorded by matt monro"  showing us a photo of him working with monro in 1983. 

one of my most favorite songs he'd written was a song of ted ito called "maghintay ka lamang." the song was originally entitled "blue sky" and he shared a short story of how it was made. "i need to come up with another idea," vehnee told ted. "hindi ko type yung theme kasi ng kanta. tungkol kasi sa kalikasan. sabi ko, may mas maganda pang kuwento dito para mas ma-motivate yung mga tamad."  some of ted ito's songs were actually taken from japanese melodies and vehnee and some other lyricists added more feelings to them by changing them into filipino. "ted ito was the only artist na nagrelease ng album na hindi nakaranas na magpromote at lumabas sa tv" he proudly added. ted ito's first album hit 8 times platinum, and it sold nearly 350,000 copies in the philippines alone.

so what can he say about today's music piracy?  "wala, ngingitian mo na lang yun.  unless, we do the same thing as china.  some websites are prohibited to be opened in china like youtube, limewire, twitter, and facebook.  if our country would do the same, then piracy will be somehow controlled.  thus our public will be encouraged to buy original cds," vehnee said.  

he believes that we filipinos mostly love ballad music.  we wanted to be the subject or at least be incorporated in the songs.  the words should be honest and timely.  we also love novelty songs but unfortunately, vehnee doesn't do that.  when i asked him how willie revillame approached him to compose him a song, he said, "basta nilapitan lang ako ni willie,  then sinabi niya sa akin na gumawa daw ako ng kantang love song para sa mga pinoy.  di niya ako pinapagawa ng upbeat para hindi kami magkaroon ng problema ni lito camo.  si lito, hindi naman siya pinapagawan ni willie ng love songs.  so pinoprotektahan kami ni willie.  maganda ang ginawa niya.  nung ginawa ko yung kantang 'kung para sa yo,' naramdaman namin yung masa, mukhang pasok eh."

vehnee already has everything.  fame and fortune, friends, and a loving family.  just when you thought he would need nothing else in life,  "well, of course, meron.  hindi naman mauubusan yun. siyempre, gusto kong ibalik sa iba yung nangyari sa akin, makatulong sa mga songwriters.  of course yung mga aspiring singers, tulungan nating maipasok sa industriya.  kasi, wala nang mahihingi pa.  yung biyayang binigay sa akin ng nasa taas, hindi naman sobra sobra, pero tama lang, para masabi mo na fulfilled ka being a songwriter.  yung respeto, tapos yung popularity being a writer, at yung appreciation ng mga listeners" he said sincerely.

when asked to give advice to his fans, he said these very inspiring and rational words, "walang hinto ang songwriting.  hindi siya yung pag nakagawa ka ng isang kanta, eh iyon na lang ang magiging baby mo at don ka lang nakaconcentrate.  keep on writing songs.  huwag maging pusong mamon.  if your songs got criticized, just listen to all their feedbacks.  sundin mo yung hinihingi ng record company hindi lang sa gusto mo, kung saan ka lang masaya.  kasi maling attitude yun.  gawin mo yung gusto ng record company kasi don ka kikita."

recently, vehnee participated at the 11th asia new singer competition 2010 held in beijing, china.  his song won first place, outshining 32 other participants from 18 countries.   ms. lordenn panganiban who interpreted his song "within" also won first place.  vehnee's music are powerful, filled with emotions, soulful.  they're written straight from the heart.  his songs were written for philippines' biggest and shiniest stars.  most composers are overshadowed by their singers, but not vehnee.  he is a star on his own.  there is only one vehnee saturno, and it has been a great honor we've met.  more photos

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