EXCLUSIVE: Fern, Jason Dhakal, And Massiah—3 Rising Artists You Should Be Listening To Now
These young and talented artists are poised to make names for themselves in an industry that's theirs for the taking
That's the beauty of Filipino musicians—they're not only diverse in sound and words, but also in backstories, origins, and motivations. Their music is a beautiful reflection of this impossible-to-pin-down or put-in-a-box quality and it's exactly this that 88rising, an American media company, has fallen in love with when it comes to Filipinos in the industry.
In fact, it's fallen so hard that a decision was made to finally bridge the gap between Filipino musicians and the rest of the world—it was only right that talent like theirs wafted through the air in different countries, where audiences are sure to be thrilled about their latest international musical discoveries.
Through 88rising's Philippine sister label Paradise Rising, five Filipino artists were chosen to represent the country, each with a different vibe and style.
There's Los Angeles-based Kiana V whose neo-soul and future R&B tunes are as smooth as chocolate on lips.
Fern, whose eclectic approach to his songwriting is his greatest asset and whose goal is to create what he calls "dream pop"
Massiah, whose African and Asian heritage has resulted in an exciting take on rap, as he merges two cultures through his music
Jason Dhakal, a Filipino-Nepalese artist who offers a powerful spin to contemporary R&B
and Filipino-Australian Leila Alcasid whose gorgeous eyes are set on the prize—becoming the next big thing in pop music
All five artists' songs have been featured in semilucent, a mixtape released in July (distributed by 12Tone Music) that's a true treat from them to you, dear listeners.
Get to know three of these young artists—Fern, Jason Dhakal, and Massiah—more below, and bop along to their beats!
Youth can be a double-edged sword. On one end, it's a powerful tool to have in your arsenal as you take the steep path to success—it makes you brave and resilient. On the other, youth can also make you feel small in comparison to bigger players, and that the journey to the top might be too tough for you, after all. For Fern, a 20-year-old going on a quest to mash musical genres together to find his very own sound that's like no other, he chooses to identify with the former.
As the son of a guitarist father and a mother who plays classical piano, Fern is no stranger to experimentation. His willingness to explore has allowed him to create original music since his days as a high school battle of the bands contender, and he's never stopped since.
These days you'll find him writing about things that people often feel and think of, but rarely openly speak about; the twin experiences of pain and love and personal struggles guide his lyrics and melodies, a process that serves a double purpose. He's shy, he admits, and is a minimalist talker. But through his music, he's unafraid to express as much as he wants, however he wants to, and it's in the studio where he feels most free.
Fern is one out of five Filipino artists who 88rising has chosen, and he expresses his gratefulness for this opportunity by doing the best he can, as clearly proven by his track for semilucent, "Kaori."
"I knew they were great artists so I wanted to be the best out of everyone... If I were alone, I don’t think I would’ve done so good," he says.
"The fact that there were other talented artists made me work twice as hard... Talented artists always help me make myself better. So, when they were a part [of this], it made me really hustle," Fern adds.
Young as he may be, Fern has already set the ground rules for his career: that he refuses to let his art be controlled by others, and that it'll remain as personal and authentic as it was always meant to be. Stepping up to the plate and saying this out loud is what he considers his biggest career achievement, too, by far.
Looking to the future, Fern's feelings are a potent formula of pride at how far he's come, appreciation for those who have given him chances along the way, and excitement about how the best has yet to come.
For some people, their calling and vocations are clear and decided on from day one. For some, they come by way of accidental—yet no less beautiful—happenstance. 19-year-old Jason Dhakal belongs to the latter group.
Jason, who was born and raised in Oman, was 15 when he wrote his very first piece of music. "I never realized it was that serious," he said. "One day, I was at my friend's place and her dad had this home studio. He was like, 'My daughter said you could sing; do you think you could write something?' He put this melody out and after 20 minutes I wrote something."
When he realized he enjoyed hearing his voice on a track, he knew that making music was what he wanted to pursue. A few years later, he has released a handful of songs and music videos, all of them reflective of who he is as a person.
As a musician, he writes a lot about the different types of love—"romantic," he says, "or loss of love, or love of yourself." In his most recent release in semilucent, "Endlessly+Tenderly," he sings of love, tender and complete. “Just pause all the tears, fears, cruel / Years, doubts, pain, greed, and vain / 'Cause now, right here, currently / My darling, I'm endlessly yours," he croons.
As an artist chosen alongside other emerging and up-and-coming young musicians, Jason didn't realize how big it was until it happened. "I'm really happy that I'm not alone in this. I have Fern, Massiah, Kiana, and Leila," Jason says.
Jason has named Amy Winehouse and Mariah Carey to be some of his musical influences, but he draws inspiration for his songs from everything. "Shows I watch, songs I listen to, every little thing that surrounds me, really," he says. "I try to express that into my music and lyrics, and my vocals, too." Making music, for him, has always been a natural feeling, and this shows in his creative process, too. "It depends," he says, when asked whether lyrics or the beat typically comes first. "I make songs differently; sometimes I hear the melody in my head then I would write the song, or I would be given a beat then I would write to it."
He wants to help boost the Filipino music scene and wishes to contribute to its success. But as a young artist, Jason, for now, just wants to focus on the music. "I would like to impact something," he says, but currently he's at his happiest getting more and more resources to keep making music—fortunately for him, and for the local music industry.
A dream has to start somewhere. And for rising rapper Massiah, it started when he and his friends joined cyphers (a.k.a. formal group made up of rappers, songwriters and singers, beat boxers, and a host of other talented characters from the scene), an experience they didn't realize would polish their skills to become good enough for a record label. He was a teenager in Ghana then whose main musical tastes were Afro beats and rap—plus, a preference influenced by a mom who listened to New Wave.
Some might stop and think that those influences could never possibly blend; they could clash and clang, and could never sound like a coherent whole. But Massiah proved otherwise, as he even added more to the mix. Good old punk rock and Filipino rock entered his consciousness when he eventually moved to the Philippines, and with his ear for sound and soul, he was able to elevate all these influences to create something great.
The Dumaguete-based artist wouldn't have to wait long for someone to take notice of his talent—four years to be exact was when he was given the break he needed. He'd become a frequent guest in Cebu rap shows, and by 2018, his fellow musician Bret Jackson made him an offer he couldn't refuse: to come to Manila and record some songs.
The rest, as they say, is history. And while Massiah has done a ton of growing up as an artist since his adolescence in Ghana, there are some things that haven't changed—like what he often writes about.
"What I talk about most in my music are relationships—that stuff is interesting—like pain, pleasure, lahat. All of that, it hits, it hits different, especially for an artist," he shares.
And while Massiah has just gotten the wheels of a promising career turning, he's already had a recent success worth celebrating. His first solo video for his semilucent track "On God" was released just this month, and seeing himself get the sleek transition from cypher to record label has been nothing but mind-blowing.
For his fans, old and new, worry not—it's only the first of many more to come.
While this is the first mixtape to debut under Paradise Rising, fans can soon expect more song releases that will be amplified by promotional events, digital content, and music video exclusives via their official pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Dive in and listen to the tracks from semilucent at bit.ly/semilucentmixtape.
Photos from @ferntan_ @massiah__ @jasondhakal
Special thanks to Tricia Pablo