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Ainna Antiporda

How a small voice reached big dreams

By Annicca Albano Published Jul 23, 2021 6:00 am

Which kid hasn’t been asked to show off their talents in front of their relatives?

We all did at some point in our lives, even Ainna Antiporda. Except her performances didn’t just wow her family. At age one, she recorded the music video of Bie Billy D, a nine-song cassette she co-gibbered with her sister, which turned into her debut as Jimmy Antiporda’s daughter and protégé.

Even if she was busy all week promoting Mister Sunshine, her third single this year, the 27-year-old indie singer-songwriter was her sunny self when we had our coffee chat, albeit virtually.

She took me back to the start: how the baby-talk album went platinum and amassed three accolades from Awit Awards and Katha Awards. The title track, she swore, was once upon a time everywhere — from radio stations and television shows, to clubs and houses of friends she would later meet.

Despite her early triumphs, she hasn’t quite forgotten one classmate’s unsolicited comment after she sang her dad’s Anak ng Pasig in high school: “You’re not the best singer, but your voice is my favorite.” She did admit, however, that her voice wasn’t the kind that made the charts. She didn’t sound like the artists whose wild, winning performances merited “Hayop!” from her dad whenever he judged.

With every If I Ain’t Got You her mom made her perform in family reunions, she came to believe that belting was the hallmark of great singers. Although the voice teachers and music genres she sought confirmed she sings wonderfully, she couldn’t sing birit songs well enough. But for all that, she stayed the course.

Around the turn of the millennium, western music took center stage: American boy bands and contemporary R&B artists forced local musicians to cover songs or change styles in order to survive. Since Jimmy didn’t see breakthroughs in OPM, he was hesitant for his daughter to pursue a career in the industry. Instead of becoming a musical theater performer, Ainna took up BS ComTech in Ateneo de Manila.

“My dad didn’t listen to it until the next morning. As I was walking downstairs for breakfast, he was like, ‘Ayan na. Ayan na ‘yung hayop mag-arrange!’” the singer recalled the memory with fondness. 

I first met Ainna in 2016 when we stepped into corporate life. No matter how exhausting work was, she’d burst with energy during weekends when she opened for her dad in Neocolours concerts.

Each event she was invited to was a chance to make a comeback, so she pushed herself harder with full sets of the toughest songs. One time, she overstrained herself while belting high notes and almost lost her voice. No one foresaw she’d ever stop making music, but she did after cutting her performance short that tragic night.

While she was living an artistic limbo, pop culture was also evolving. With the rise of streaming, listeners craved new, unfamiliar and exciting music that Ben&Ben, IVOS and Moira Dela Torre offered. As their songs found Ainna during a ride home, she recognized her soft but sincere voice. Still stymied by stage fright from her last show, she first wrote lyrics for other artists, then recorded their demos. 

Her turning point happened during a band rehearsal: she listened intently to her dad practice Maybe and saw how happy he was, doing what he loves. She once asked herself where she’d be in five years, and the answer wasn’t at a cushy job pursuing others’ dreams. Before her return to the stage, she went to a cafe, ordered coffee, and wrote the first verse of Perfect Match.

Toward the single’s release, Ainna left marketing for music. Shortly after, she penned Kapit Lang for Idol Philippines and produced her first commercial jingle for a competition. “My dad didn’t listen to it until the next morning. As I was walking downstairs for breakfast, he was like, ‘Ayan na. Ayan na ‘yung hayop mag-arrange!’” the singer recalled the memory with fondness. 

Having witnessed parts of her switchback journey, I’ve constantly admired her unwavering passion and endearing stubbornness. Even if she was given the chance to rewrite her past, she insisted she wouldn’t. “I had to discover that I wasn’t meant to be a belter, learn about myself, and experience heartaches, hardships and rejection. There’s a sense of maturity that came from those (lessons). Otherwise, I might be taking things for granted today.”

 "It's a blessing to be my dad's daughter," Ainna says of dad Jimmy Antiporda.

In her dad’s home studio, she goes on a weekly songwriting binge with her childhood friend and musician, Lian Kyla. Her creative process is uncanny; words come to her at random moments: lying in bed, cooking, or showering.

“Some people write lyrics first, while others begin with melody. I sing out the lines like a cartoon princess,” she explained, showing a video diary of her metamorphosing a 10-second voice memo into a near-finished song. Lyrically, her songs are full of naked emotions, bittersweet love stories, and stealth puns. Together with her dad’s arrangement, they become inimitable happy-sad songs that sometimes move listeners to tears but always inspire them to be true to themselves.

“Listening to songs makes you realize there are people out there going through the same things as you and there’s a sort of unspoken solidarity. It feels great to sing those ‘anthems’ with them and release those suppressed emotions together. I want to be remembered as a girl with a small voice who overcame her fears, opened up, and set herself and others free with each song.”

Those who catch wind of her story naturally ask what it’s like to be a music director’s daughter. “Every merienda time, he would get on the piano and the entire family would jam,” she revealed. All Jimmy hopes is for his children to enjoy music and its magic of bringing people together. Ainna striding down the same path he took is simply a bonus.

As her friend and fan, I’ve often wondered if she minds the long shadow cast over her. “It’s a blessing to be my dad’s daughter, and I want Antiporda to be a household name in the industry,” she reassured with a dimpled smile. “He’s the reason why I picked up the mic in the first place,” referring to her idol, mentor, and the audience member she looks to during her performances.

When I asked what she thought of the baby-talk album that propelled her to fame two decades ago, she laughed: “It’s funny that I unknowingly made my dream come true.” With 16 songs written, mood music in the works, and upcoming revivals of her dad’s greatest hits, the sentimental songstress is blissfully living the sequel to her dream.