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Original Bicolano Music through the mind of real-life enchantress ‘dwta’

Original Bicolano Music through the mind of real-life enchantress ‘dwta’

My discovery of dwta was a surprise. I was scrolling through a playlist called Tothapi Radio when I stumbled upon a song called ‘An Satuyang Istorya’ (‘Our Story’). Although I am not familiar with contemporary Bicol songs, I really think that dwta‘s songs are top-notch quality. To say that I am thoroughly enchanted is an understatement.

dwta
Image: dwta’s concept shoot for Santigwar | Alliece Cuadra

Discovering dwta

Jhasmine Villanueva, dwta‘s human form, is a Tiwi, Albay native and currently a third-year BS Music Business Management at Meridian International College. But before she delved into the study of the professional maneuverings in the music industry, she initially tinkered with songwriting back in 2017.

“Natuto akong magsulat dahil sumali ako sa mga songwriting workshops katulad ng The Dawani Project.”

The Dawani Project, Inc. is an organization that aims to support young Filipino creatives through cultural events and also creative camps. Additionally, they conduct other platforms for artistic expression and development such as public performances, art exhibits, and concerts.

Before her participation in one of the writing workshops organized by The Dawani Project, she admitted to having been more inclined with other forms of art. But, as the universe intended it to be, Jhasmine found her passion in songwriting.

“Actually, at first ang hilig ko talaga ay ang pag sasayaw at pag drawing. Pero noong nasali ako sa mga songwriting workshops dun na ako mas nahumaling sa pagsusulat.”

Like any true artist, she picks up her artistry from anything and everything.

“Ang inspirasyon ko pagdating sa pagsusulat ng kanta ay ang mga bagay, kaganapan, at mga tao na nasa paligid ko. Kung anong makita ko o maranasan ko, nagagawa kong makakuha ng inspirasyon out of it.”

Out of all her publicly released songs, her most favorite one is ‘Panganoron’ (‘Cloud’), which she wrote while drawing inspiration from her grandparents.

“This song reminds me of my Lola and Lolo. Like ito siguro kakantahin ni Lolo pang serenade kay Lola kung nabubuhay pa sila. Napaka pure lang kasi ng mensahe ng kantang ‘to para sakin…”

Showcasing her Bicolano heritage

Besides the fact it was inspired by her Lolo and Lola, ‘Panganoron’ is her favorite because it’s written in her native language.

Her love for the language and her origins paved the way for the composition of her Bikol songs.

“Gustong-gusto ko ang sarili naming lenggwahe. Sobra kasing sarap ipagmalaki at gamitin nito. Gusto ko [rin] ma-promote hindi lang ang Bikol language kundi pati na rin ang lugar mismo namin.”

Additionally, she expressed that the music scene in Bicol is remarkable. There are many talented artists from the region who deserve to be seen and heard, according to her.

dwta‘s artistry

Jhasmine has released seven original songs in total, and three of these are in the Bikol language — ‘Panganoron’, ‘An Satuyang Istorya’, and her most recent song ‘Santigwar’.

She shared the inspo behind ‘Santigwar’.

“Hindi naman sobrang lalim ng paliwanag ko dito sa kantang ‘to. Pero yung inspirasyon ko dito ay ang mga naging crush ko dati na hindi ko nagawang umamin…”

But what made her like this concept is that it’s not the typical Bikol love song.

Santigwar, in its definitive form, is an indigenous healing ritual commonly practiced in Bicol provinces and other parts of Visayas. The locals’ reliance on the practice of Santigwar reflects the belief that healing is also a matter of faith. 

She also shared that, as of now, she is writing more songs with the intention to write an extended play or an album, approaching a new genre.

“Gusto ko rin kasing ma-explore naman ang ibang style. Pero syempre hindi mawawala ang pag gamit ko ng mga indigenous instruments sa mga kanta ko.”

Definitely, dwta will be around for a very long time because Jhasmine said so.

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“Hindi na maaalis [sakin] itong pagsusulat ko ng kanta. Mahal ko ang musika at ang pagsusulat ng mga kanta kaya nakikita ko ang sarili ko na kahit matanda na ako eh patuloy pa rin akong mag-aalay ng oras sa paggawa ng kanta.”

dwta
Image: dwta’s Concept Shoot for Mapagbirong Tagpuan | Alliece Cuadra

Message for her supporters, fellow musicians, and younger self

On the other hand, Jhasmine fervently thanked her fans, family, and friends for all the support they have given in her musical journey.

“Sobrang nagpapasalamat ako sa kanilang lahat. Wala ako dito ngayon kung hindi dahil sa kanila, sa totoo lang. Kaya sobrang blessing din talaga sakin na mapalibutan ng mga taong sobra kung sumuporta sa aking musika. Kaya salamat talaga at mahal ko kayong lahat.”

As for her fellow aspiring musicians, especially Bicolano artists like her, she shared pieces of advice and tips that also catapulted her pursuit towards achieving her dreams.

“Gawa lang nang gawa. Sulat lang nang sulat. Tugtog lang nang tugtog. Dyan mo makikita kung gano ka magiimprove sa craft mo. Wag ka panghinaan ng loob. Magpatuloy ka lang sa ginagawa mo as long as wala kang masamang ginagawa sa kapwa mo.”

And finally, 20-year-old Jhasmine gave her heartfelt message to her younger self.

“Proud ako sayo dahil hindi ka sumuko. Maraming mga bagay ang humadlang sayo pero hindi mo hinayaang lamunin at pigilan ka para abutin ang pangarap mo. Tandaan mo lang na may mga araw talaga na di aayon ang mundo sayo pero darating din ang araw na tayo naman ang sasangayunan ng mundo.”

Surely, your supporters and loved ones are also proud of you! As a Bicolano, thank you for putting our language and our art forms out there for the rest of the world to see and appreciate.

Keep on enchanting the world with your ingenuity, dwta!

Stream her songs on Spotify and Youtube.

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