Jul 17, 2007

Joel Garcia a.k.a. Jalen: Filipino sensation in Hawaii

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”THINKING of You” was the debut album of the Hawaiian sensation Jalen, who, most people, on first hearing the smooth high-pitched voice, think is a female in the genre of Janet Jackson, or reminiscent of the young Michael Jackson. Make no mistake about it, Jalen is all-male and the stuff idols are made of, with a voice both exotic and sensual, and the handsome features born of his Filipino, Italian and Spanish heritage.

“Girls were screaming when I performed ‘Heartaches and Heartbreaks’ (from the album) for the first time,” recalls Jalen. “So much so that it scared me.”

Born Joel Garcia in Manila, he moved to Hawaii when he was 10, and lived with his family in the Liliha-Kuakini district. After graduating from St. Louis School, he moved to Los Angeles, California for one year to study voice under Seth Riggs, famed vocal coach for Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. He also started writing pop music there.

In doing “Thinking of You” album, Jalen collaborated with famed music producer Carlos Villalobos, who split his time between Hawaii and the mainland, working with Glenn Medeiros and Michael Jackson, among others. After the hit, Jalen went to the mainland to pursue other interests.

But music will always be in his heart so he went back to Hawaii to do the album “Coming Home,” this time, joining a group called Five by 5, composed of childhood friends.

Having grown up together as young kids in Hawaii, they each went their separate ways as young adults to pursue music and other careers.

The band drew its name from a phrase dating back to World War II, from radio voice communications. When operators used to talk to each other they first used the phrase “loud and clear” to describe their reception among each other. With a desire to be more precise, they adopted a numerical scale from one to five. Shortly thereafter, these radio operators incorporated the phrase “five by five,” “five out of five for volume and for clarity” or “loud and clear.” With their debut album “Coming Home,” Five By 5 was compelled to use musical influences they grew up with on the islands and music many of their parents enjoyed. Drawing from other Hawaiian artists such as Ka’au Crater Boys, Kapena, Na Leo Pilimehana, Sean Na’auao and B.E.T.; as well as Motown artists like The Temptations, Jackson 5, and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Five by 5 has created their style of island music. In collaboration with Carlos Villalobos, the Hoku award winning producer for Oshen’s reggae album of the year “Iron Youth”, Five By 5 brings a vibe with a soulful twist to the Hawaii music scene, demonstrated through their interpretation of “I Want You Back” and originals such as “Meant to Love that Girl” and “Get Down With You.”

Garcia wrote or co-wrote all the songs in the album but one of the originals.

Garcia is evidently still a languid and androgynous-sounding falsetto balladeer at heart since many of the songs are of that type.

Now, Jalen, or Joel Garcia, who is now again in the mainland USA, is contemplating on visiting his native Philippines for a concert, or, perhaps making an album here, to let his kababayans know what they’ve been are missing for a long time.
People's Journal

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