Filipino hip hop artist Kiyo has made a name for himself by making music that effortlessly connects and turns the mundane into something worth memorializing.
Finding success in hit singles like “Ikaw Lang” (Only You) and “G,” Kiyo proves himself to be an irresistibly accessible songwriter that wields trends and styles to his advantage instead of becoming enslaved to them. Aside from writing his own songs, he also sings, raps, and produces them. The bar for being a multihyphenate seems to be lower these days, but Kiyo deservedly earns the title. As gifted he is as a hip hop artist, he can comfortably switch genres if he wants to.
HARANASA, his highly anticipated debut, showcases the depth and range Kiyo has already exemplified in his young career. The album centers on self-love and, to a large extent, self-affirmation without the typical rap ego that often comes with it. Kiyo feels more reserved in person, someone who just wants—and enjoys—making good music.
In a press statement, Kiyo describes the 15-track record as a storytelling device that navigates the obvious themes of love but expands the concept of serenade, or harana. “Umiikot yung mga kanta sa iba’t-ibang uri ng pagmamahal,” (The songs revolve around different kinds of love) he said.
He tells HipHopDX Asia that the songs mainly serve as markers of time, with the music videos for each always opening up with an alarm: hanging out with friends in the day, spending a lovely evening with a partner, and being alone at night. It’s about setting time for yourself and your loved ones, he explained.
In the track “Harana Sa Sarili” (Serenade to the Self), Kiyo urges kindness towards ourselves and others, a kind of affirmation that is regrettably easier said than done. “Minsan nakakalimutan natin magpasalamat sa sarili natin, nakakalimutan natin yung mga maliliit na bagay na dapat natin ikatuwa. Masaya lang ako na nandito pa ako.” (Sometimes we forget to thank ourselves… the little things that we should be happy about. I’m just glad that I’m still here.)
With HARANASA intent on taking stock on moments, big and small, Kiyo hopes the songs to be transportive. He adds, “Napakaimporante ng oras, umiikot yung buhay ng tao sa orasan, nasa sa atin nalang kung pano natin gagawing hindi paulit-ulit yung mga araw na pare-pareho.” (Time is so important. Our lives revolve around a clock, and it’s up to us on how we can avoid our days ending up the same.)
On putting his first album together, Kiyo admits he didn’t know where to start. “Simula nung nag-umpisa ako kasi hindi ko expect na sa ganito pala ako mag-seseryoso bigla. Haha! Hinahanap ko pa din yung sarili ko pagdating sa paggawa at pagsulat ng music. Yung unang album yung unang step ko para makausad.” (When I was stating out, I didn’t expect that I’ll take it seriously. Haha! I’m still finding myself with my music. This first album is my first step to moving forward.)
Originally, there were 24 songs for the album, but he ultimately decided to trim it down to 15. When asked which ones are his favorites, he lists down “BRB,” “Hey,” “Pantalan Pt. 2,” “Harana Sa Sarili,” and “Hanggang Kailan” mostly for how stylistically diverse they were. He disclosed that he didn’t like listening to his songs after releasing them, but when “Hanggang Kailan” (which he wrote in 2019) finally came out, he cited it as the first time he felt proud.
However, when it comes to working with others, Kiyo is more than happy to be in great company. His collaborators in HARANASA include long-time friends YZKK, Shortone, and Space Moses, whom he has worked with in the past. Most recently, he appeared in Alisson Shore’s focus single “BETTERMAN,” off GARUDA, alongside Because and John Roa.
He tells us most of the songs were written back in 2018 and put off releasing them because he was saving up while conceptualizing the music videos to accompany them. He draws inspiration from film, confessing that he dreamed of becoming a director as a child. “Yun talaga yung plano ko bago ako mag music, ganon ko gusto ma-express yung sarili ko. Ngayon sinasabay ko na siya sa music, mas naging malaya ako, mas ako.” (It was really my plan before I pursued making music, it’s how I wanted to express myself. Now, I do it while making music. I feel freer, more me.)
Kiyo directs most of his music videos, a lot of which have a home video quality to it—adding more charm to his songs that often capture spontaneously lived moments, the things he said we often overlook. “Yun yung gusto ko, hindi ko alam ginagawa ko pero nagwowork siya, may effect na nagiging wine yung kanta kasi kahit ganito katagal nakaimbak mas okay siya, yun din yung naging mindset ko, dapat di ako sabay sa agos, dapat may sarili akong alon para hawak ko pa din yung galaw ko.” (That’s what I like. I don’t know what I’m doing, but it works. It’s like wine, the process. Even though it’s hidden away, it’s better because my mindset it’s the same; that I shouldn’t go with the flow, I should make my own wave so I can control my moves.)
He ascribes the same mindset to being an independent artist, stating that he had to believe in himself, learning on his own. He said, thoughtfully, “Ginapang ko yun lahat mula sa baba hanggang sa kung nasaan ako ngayon, kulang na kulang pa kaya walang hihinto.” (I crawled my way from the bottom to where I am now. It’s far from enough so nothing’s gonna stop.)
Stream HARANASA below:
(Update: 11/29/2021) Watch the online launch concert via Facebook here.