Karl Vincent Villuga had it all figured out. He was about to leave the Akafellas and had his eyes set on pursuing his MBA degree at a top business school in Singapore.
Then PhilPOP happened and all of a sudden, Karl’s plans have changed for the better, if only slightly.
“Yes, I plan to write more music!” the grand winner of the songwriting competition exclaimed. “My win allowed me to establish relationships with many important people in the industry. I am excited to explore collaborations with them as well as with performing artists.”
“But I’m still sticking to my original plan. Pursuing an MBA scholarship does not mean shutting doors to music. I can say I have always been successful in balancing both my professional career in finance and in music,” he added.
A brilliant financial consultant who describes his work as “geeky,” Karl hinted that what would probably change or at least put on hold is his impending departure from the Akafellas where he has been a mainstay since 2001. The eight-man vocal group that specializes in their unique “pop capella” sound is supposed to be transitioning to new members.
Villuga’s victory in the PhilPOP has somewhat thrown a monkey wrench to that declaration as the group that interpreted his winning song “Bawat Hakbang” with Mark Bautista are suddenly all over the place again.
This Sunday evening, the Akafellas, which are also composed of Ikey Canoy, Jhett Baroma, Reuben Uy, Robi Joseph, Myke Salomon, Paulo Navarra and Roger Sigwa, will be singing the Philippine National Anthem at the PBA finals and will also perform “Bawat Hakbang” during halftime.
The group has new members in Daryl Reyes, Ian Millare, Jhett Baroma, Paulo Navarra, Chino Datu, Jona Paculan and Danny Moynihan. Replacing Karl is Luke Dacles.
The Akafellas will have their first ever online concert on July 26 on live streaming video at RadioRepublic.ph, an online media channel dedicated to Original Pilipino Music.
And it’s all because of one song that Karl wrote at a very low point in his life.
“I remember being so enervated at work, stressed at solving some financial problems, and also unsure of my big leap to a solo music career. I made the demo using my laptop and I recorded my vocals using only the webcam microphone. ‘Bawat Hakbang’ was part of a collection of songs in a demo CD that I offered to at least two recording labels.”
The fact that the song was rejected by the record companies did not discourage Karl.
“I kept it in my ‘baul’ so to speak. I knew the song had a deeper meaning after that. I knew that someday, it will be put to good use.”
So when PhilPOP was launched and invited amateur and professional songwriters to join, Karl saw an opportunity to dust off the R&B flavored ditty and entered it in the competition.
And when the song made it as one of 14 finalists, Karl was even more overwhelmed to find himself in the company of seasoned tunesmiths like Gary Granada, Trina Belamide, Soc Villanueva and Mike Villegas.
“Being part of the Top 14 was already a big win for me. Honestly, I never expected to win. But I was sure that I put a lot of heart into the song. And having my brothers, the Akafellas, with me in the song gave me a lot of confidence,” he enthused.
Although originally envisioned as an Akafellas-only track, “Bawat Hakbang” got a big boost when PhilPOP suggested the idea of bringing Mark Bautista to co-interpret the song.
“I have to say it was a great idea on the part of the PhilPOP organizers,” Karl conceded. “Mark took the song to a different level of awesomeness!”
As Karl and the rest of the Akafellas continue to ride on the euphoric high of the song’s PhilPOP triumph, their immediate plans include recording their own pop capella version of “Bawat Hakbang.”
With his win, the songwriter considers himself very blessed for having the best of both worlds in his chosen careers.
“Getting a scholarship in a very prestigious school while winning the Philpop competition is, for me, not a contradiction,” he proudly stated. Why put one of them on hold if I can do two things at the same time? Who knows? I might even be inspired to explore an innovative business model that would better Philippine music industry.”