MY MONEY STORY
Bossa Nova Music
By Sitti as told to Excel V. Dyquiangco
Photos by Wilson Chua
Not many people know that there are a lot of underground bossa nova singers even before I burst on the scene. Eileen Sison and the Guarana Band, for example, started their repertoire way back in 2001. Touted to be the leading proponent of bossa nova music in the country, the band indeed fields in great music until now. So when Warner Music at that time took a risk and hailed me as the “Queen of Bossa Nova” as part of the marketing strategy, that tipped the scales. I had to admit there were a lot of raised eyebrows – and I mean a lot!
The thing that truly affected me was all the criticisms and flak I got off Internet blogs. I didn’t desire to be a “queen” in the first place but here in the country, I guess you need to have a title so that the public can easily remember you. But if you ask me, the real “queen” should be Brazilian Astrud Gilberto, who introduced bossa nova music to the whole world back in 1950’s. Not one, lest me, can really compare with her music.
So a couple of months and several albums released later, I got used to the setup of the whole industry – criticisms and all. I still receive a couple of “remarks” now and then, but I just look at it constructively. This is how I learn and how I grow as a singer – the process is indeed difficult, but the end result is none short of amazing.
I wasn’t your ordinary artist who joined every singing contest there was, but just occasionally sang during family reunions or flag ceremonies at school. At that time, pop was still my favorite genre. When I graduated from high school, they were looking for singers in bars and hotels so I just tried it out. The songs they made me sing were lounge music, jazz, pop, and bossa. It was only during a Vina Morales concert in Laguna (I was 16 then) that had me thinking: wouldn’t it be great if I get to be like her?
When I turned junior in college – that was when management and I decided to concentrate on my bossa music because a lot of people were saying that this type of music complements my voice. The transition from pop to bossa was easy. A lot of singers don’t actually like the music they sing but for me, I like it because I think I have finally found my niche.
When an American Idol-inspired reality and talent-based competition started in MTV, known as the MTV Supahstar in 2004, my former manager kept on pushing me to join since it was the first MTV competition and he said that it was probably different from any other competition. So I decided to have a taste of what it was like – my first competition shown on nationwide television. That time, I was already a graduating student of the University of the Philippines in Diliman with Business Economics as my major, and even while I was in the contest, I still kept on thinking of the needed requirements at school.
In the end, seven of us won the contest. They were supposed to turn us into a group – something like the S Club 7 – but that didn’t play out. Since I was already singing bossa nova music at that time, and I had a demo CD, I let former head of Warner Music Ricky Ilacad listen to it, and the rest is history.
I can’t believe it when I signed a contract, and they promised to release the album by October 2005. When this didn’t happen, it was moved to November of that year, and then to December. I was really feeling hopeless at that time – I had thought it was one of those “frozen delight” promises. But when January of 2006 rolled around, Warner called us up for a meeting and my first album was then released.
Hostings and learnings
I got to be a beauty queen (having won the Ms. Silka pageant), have hosted for Pinoy Big Brother in Studio 23 and Wowowee, and have acted in the soap opera Ysabella. But despite all these sidelines, singing is the one thing that I would always have the hots for – my passion for my career has no boundaries or limits. And even if I still get stage fright at times, have lost my voice in some parts of my rousing performances, got distracted in the middle of the performance, and even felt sleepy in one gig, nothing can ever come between me and my singing.
I consider myself fortunate to be a bossa nova artist because in some way, you can say that I’ll always be there. It’s difficult to have an actor’s life because the pace is fast. In our case, I still consider it stable because we still have gigs and guest appearances on television shows. I have also learned to be objective when it comes to criticisms and to focus and just enjoy every gig. When you’re not really focused, your singing, the band, and the audience get affected by your whole performance.
I feel that I have also matured as a singer. Before, I wanted to win at the Awit Awards and to have a major concert at Araneta Coliseum, but now these are not as important anymore. My focus is on staying long in this business, to improve more as a singer, and to have an album that’s totally “Sitti.” I’m not really sure what that means but when I have come up with such an album, I would know.
Eventually, I also see myself deviating from bossa to something like Beyonce’s performance level.
Save, invest, then spend
So how do I use my money? Two concepts stuck out while I was reading Francisco Colayco’s “Wealth Within Your Reach” – save before you spend and put your money into something that will earn with inflation. On my first payment as an artist, I invested on a life insurance policy because I have read that the younger you are, the more you’ll get. I also invested in mutual bonds and in shares of Ayala Land and I get quarterly dividends from them. And here what’s astounding – I have also invested in my friend’s horse importation business which has huge returns monthly. This sounds like a scam but it really isn’t, and there is such a thing. And I earn from this!
I used to have a strategy before – I save 50% of my income, give 10% to tithes, and the rest to myself. But since I recently bought a townhouse, it’s not as easy to follow but I still manage to save at least 30%. When it comes to the townhouse, my goal right now is just to shorten the paying period and settle it this year.
I also have an expense ledger to list down my monthly expenses, and have my own stylist for my clothes as it really gets too expensive when I keep on buying clothes for all of my shows.
MY MONEY LESSONS
Bossa nova queen Sitti shares her career and money strategies:
- Ignore the critics. Promoted by her studio as the queen of bossa nova, Sitti got a lot of criticism. But the title stuck and she quickly rose to popularity. Now, she doesn’t let nasty remarks bother her and just learned to take them constructively.
- Stay focused. Getting distracted can affect your performance. In Sitti’s case, she has learned to be focused and enjoy every gig. And she has set goals for herself as an artist, but she’s not after awards and packed crowds anymore but career longevity.
- Save aggressively. An entertainment career can be fleeting. Although Sitti has every intention to last long in the business, she tithes 10% of her income and saves as much as half. Although with amortizations, her savings have decreased but remain a significant 30%.