By Patricia May P. Catan
Photographer: Kurt Fick, assisted by Clark Jolbot
Stylist: Resbon Despi
Designer: Eva Marie Aguspina
Hair & Makeup: Karlo Damolo & Jerwin Bastatas
“YOU can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.” This line holds no less true for Cebu-born artist Karen Ann Cabrera, or more famously known for her stage name Karencitta. Although she’s currently based in Los Angeles, Karencitta never fails to look back to her roots and pay homage to her first home through self-written songs. One song that recently gained serious attention is “Cebuana,” an instant hit with more than a million views on Facebook and Youtube since its release last November 2. Now reaching a wider audience than expected, Karencitta knew it was only apt to return home and promote the song from where it drew inspiration.
Before finding herself in the limelight, Karencitta was a typical girl who grew up in Lorega, one you’d see playing on the streets with nary a care in the world. The singer shared it was at the age of two when she started getting into music. She grew up listening to Michael Jackson and Britney Spears, humming to their songs when she was little. Now 22, Karencitta has built her own style and branding, and eventually released her first mix tape in 2013 called “So Help Me God, Vol. 1.” Taking inspiration from her musical influences, she leaned more into hip-hop, but then switched gears to pop. This move brought her on a different level since the release of her first track, “Fckroun” followed by “Cebuana,” which has been dominating airwaves and capturing avid listeners from across the globe.
According to the singer, Cebuana was written and is dedicated to her hometown, Cebu and the Senyor Santo Niño. A full-blooded Cebuana, Karencitta not only returned to promote her hit single, she’s here to pay homage to the island that defined her. Every year, she tries her best to come back in January to celebrate Sinulog and see her family as well as her fans in Cebu. This year, however, is quite different since Karencitta acquired an overwhelming number of followers because of “Cebuana.” Like how most artists would feel, the response was unexpected. And unprecedented.
Aside from her hit single gaining more than a million views on Facebook within 24 hours of its release and then a million views on Youtube, the song also went No. 1 in the Most Viral Music on Spotify Philippines and came in Top 2 on MYX this month. Getting such response from the audience came as a surprise, although Karencitta’s music team knew that it was a killer record. With the success of “Cebuana,” Karencitta has become one of the most sought-after artists in Cebu. “The hustle is still the same,” said Karencitta on how her life changed after her hit single. “I just feel like I’m on the same building, but on a different level now. More opportunities are coming in and the people I used to chase are now chasing me. The tables have really turned and it feels overwhelming,” she continued.
In a way, Karencitta has introduced a new style to music with her edgy and bop beats that one can’t help but sing and dance along to. Her song indeed propelled the music industry in Cebu to new heights as it gave leverage to original pop music or OPM internationally. Karencitta shared that her true intention was to bring OPM to the next level and avoid stereotyping it. While mentioning that she is an all-around artist — meaning she uses a mix of Bisaya, Tagalog and English when writing her songs — she also expressed that she doesn’t have any classification when it comes to her music.
“I’m not really fond of genres and classifying my music because I am constantly evolving,” Karencitta shared. She added that artists don’t need to explain things because their job is to “inspire, eliminate and juxtapose.” She doesn’t classify her music into a certain genre, because like her fashion sense and sensibilities, it is always evolving. That doesn’t mean she isn’t particular when it comes to her image and branding.
For her overall look, she chose the color yellow to represent who and what she is. She says like her song, yellow is both catchy and memorable, and so leaves an imprint in the mind. “When my fans think about or see yellow, they remember ‘Cebuana and Karencitta.’ It makes a remark or impact when they actually remember you,” she expressed. And while Karencitta feels the color yellow, with its bright shade, best defines her, it succinctly reminds her of what Cebuanas are — vibrant, free-spirited, loving, and beautiful.