Rico Blanco's advice for young musicians: "Always give your best."

IMAGE Mark Atienza

What was the first song Rico Blanco remembers singing as a child? "El Cielito Lindo," a popular ranchera (traditional Mexican music) song from the 1880's that was eventually revived by various artists, such as Trini Lopez, Menudo, and Los Lobos.


There are but a few people worthy to be called a “music icon.”

One such individual, with his praiseworthy contributions to the OPM and Asian rock stages, is a name that resounds and stirs: Rico Blanco.

With the numerous creative endeavors he has taken on, and several artistic awards received, it makes it hard to believe that Rico has never been formally trained in his field.

A born performer, he recalls his early exposure to music as a child: “Sinabi sa akin ng mom ko na ‘El Cielito Lindo’ daw…iyon iyong [unang] kinakanta ko.

“Pinapatong nila ako sa mesa, tapos iyon daw iyong kakantahin ko.”

Growing up in a family of performers--- singers, dancers, instrumentalists--- there was no doubt that music surged through his veins.

And even though no one in his family, except for him, moved on to become a professional artist, his early acquaintance with the arts would eventually become an influential factor in the development of his musicality and artistry.

The “You’ll Be Safe Here” singer drew his influences from various genres of music--- ranging from his early involvement in chorale singing, listening to his parents’ pop records, his mother’s knack for singing and playing the piano, and his uncle’s guitar-playing.

It was through his uncle that he was introduced to rock, listening to The Beatles and other famous rock bands of the 1970’s.

His first foray into the Philippine rock scene was through the chart-topper band Rivermaya--- first as a keyboard player and guitarist, then later as the lead vocalist, following the departure of Bamboo Mañalac from the band in 1998.

In 2007, after 13 years of being in a band, Rico decided to move on as a solo artist, taking on several projects, which included starring in stage musicals, acting in fantaseryes, and most recently hosting and judging a singing competition on TV.

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As Rico recalls taking on his duties on TV5’s Kanta Pilipinas, he admitted that it has since been both a source of excitement and inspiration for him.

He says that the high-caliber talent that the contestants possess for the show’s first season has set the bar for the future of the music industry.

“Iyong stage na binigay ng TV5 para sa kanila is something na hindi binibigay sa kahit sino lang, so I’m excited… mga two years down the line, I want to see who did the best of the opportunity given to them,” says Blanco.

He adds, “If you put in the work that’s due, you lessen the risk na walang mangyayari sa‘yo.”

Being the show’s host and one of its judges, he admits that, “Tricky siya. Una, performer ako, so malapit silang lahat sa akin.

“Lahat sila, hindi ko kini-criticize. Parang nakikita ko sarili ko sa lahat, so pantay-pantay din sila na binibigyan ko ng kung paano nila mapapaganda [ang performance].

“So, parang lumalabas na iyong pagka-mentor namin, and siyempre ‘pag nagbibigay kami ng comments, siyempre iyong gusto namin iyong makakabuti sa performance nila o sa career nila kahit na matatanggal na sila.”

Now with Chadleen ____,,of Cebu hailed as winner, Rico says he will always cherish this experience.

He says, he will forever savor being part of the Kanta Pilipinas because the contestants never failed to inspire and refresh in him the principles of what it is to be an artist.

Asked what he wants to personally impart to the show’s former contestants and other up and coming young musicians, Rico surprised us with a simple answer, “Wala naman…” rationalizing even that he sees himself not as an artist, but more of a “fan of the arts.”

Despite all the praises he has received in the past, his feet are kept planted firmly on the ground, and whatever project he takes on, his only measure of standard is “Kailangan ko maibigay iyong best ko,” which is precisely the same thing he wants to tell the young ones.

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