Japanese musician finds connection with Cebu music scene

·3 min read

No other safe space comes close to music when enjoyed in its purest form. While some people find solace in the multiple meanings a beautiful verse is able to provide, some are content with melodies that linger in one’s consciousness even long after that track has ended.

For Japanese songwriter and musician Ken Iwamoto—who writes and performs music under his artist name iwapt—he is able to tap into the best version of himself making and producing music here in the Philippines.

“I sent my demo tape to a music studio in Manila,” iwapt shared when he first touched base with the Philippine music industry more than a decade ago. “They accepted me, and I made music with them.”

According to iwapt, he has done work with Manila-based musicians with the likes of Nino Regalado (Neocolours), Kris Gorra-Dancel (Cambio) and Richie Gonzaga (Apo Hiking Society, saxophone player).

Interestingly enough, iwapt’s connection with the Philippines became stronger when he had the opportunity to interview entertainment icons like Christian Bautista and Ogie Alcasid when they were in Tokyo, Japan to celebrate the Philippine Festival.

After his run of releasing music collaborating with Manila artists, iwapt discovered Cebu through a friend who’s relative worked with a local radio station.

In 2014, iwapt sang an unplugged version of his song “Dr. Clinic” on the morning newscast of GMA Cebu. In 2016, radio station dyHP RMN used iwapt’s track “Dr. Clinic” as part of the soundtrack to its drama entitled “Yakusoku.” The drama tells the story of a Filipina-Japanese who falls in love with a Filipino, and the former’s parents are against the relationship.

It was during the production of “Yakusoku” when iwapt met the legends of Cebuano radio and television, Goliat and Teban.

“They were so friendly,” said iwapt, recalling his time with the two stars. “Goliat messaged me that, unfortunately, Teban passed away.”

A few years later, iwapt managed to touch base with the local Bisaya rock scene. During this time, he worked with numerous Bisrock artists. One of his latest accomplishments was when he was declared winner of an online song cover contest hosted by Cebu rock band The Agadiers during the height of the pandemic.

The Japanese artist was awarded first prize for his Japanese/English cover of The Agadiers track “Move On.” He donated his cash prize for the surgery expenses of a Filipino cancer survivor.

More recently, iwapt has found success in his home country by winning another contest, this time, creating a tourism promotional video that promoted the beauty of Hokkaido’s Shintotsukawa City. Iwapt understands the significance of this promotional video for Filipinos, as he is aware of its place in the popular Filipino film, “Kita-Kita.”

He created and provided music to the video entitled “Attractive Shin Totsukawa,” which he won a Grand Prix Championship merit for.

“Hokkaido is 50 minutes away by limited express train from Sapporo,” he said. He also shared that Hokkaido was the place setting for the Cebuano drama, “Yakusoku.”

“The number of Filipinos visiting Hokkaido for sightseeing has increased drastically, and their interest and understanding of Hokkaido and Japan has deepened, and I am happy that the distance between the Philippines and Japan has become much closer through this movie.”

“After the Covid crisis, I hope that Filipinos will visit Hokkaido’s Shintotsukawa City with the same experience as ‘Kita-Kita,’ and for that I have added an English translation to “Attractive Shin Totsukawa.”

The mission continues for iwapt, as he is set to release a new track entitled “Smoke” on May 15.

While travel restrictions and border closures remain, in the meantime, enjoying what the rest of the world offers is still possible. Iwapt has done this through the power of music.

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