Himalaya - Self Discovery through Words and Music
In the FilCan Music Awards to be held in Ontario this May, and organized by VibeAnt Magazine, an Edmonton artist is in the Top 5 for Solo Artist of the Year and Top 5 Song of the Year. The artist is Himalaya, and the song is Relapse.
Himalaya is Himaleia Junio in real life. She was named after the Himalaya mountain range as her father was a mountain climber with San Beda. In fact, all her siblings were named after mountains. For her professional name, she adopts Himalaya pronounced ‘hi-mah-l-ai-ah’ to incorporate the Filipino word ‘malaya’, which connotes being free.
Himalaya says she’s been singing since she was 4 years old. She was highly requested to perform for school events and family gatherings. She and her siblings were exposed to music early on since her father plays the guitar and he, along with their mother, used to do gigs, like weddings, and other social events. She laughingly remembers being brought along by her parents when she was six, and singing on top of a table in bars.
In 2015, their family moved to Lloydminster from Pangasinan, to join her mother who had been there since 2012. Faced with anxiety of building a new life in a foreign country, making new friends, and dealing with her parents’ separation shortly after their arrival in Canada, proved to be too much for a 15 year old to handle. Bereft of a family and social support system, she turned inwards and started journaling, and hasn’t stopped since.
Journaling has been her coping mechanism, an outlet for her emotions and thoughts. It also enabled her to look at her life objectively by reviewing her previous writings. She was able to acknowledge her traumas, reflect on her patterns, the cause and effect of her behaviours and actions, and work towards redirecting her fears and anxiety to more positive conduct.
Ever the artist, her journaling evolved into songwriting. She has written a few songs since 2018, but has released only one in 2021. And this is the song Relapse. Proof of how journaling was a strong factor in her songwriting, her favourite line in the song is “Isusulat ko na lang”. It is in fact, borne from a heartbreak experience, and using the song to communicate her unexpressed feelings. This song is significant in that it was the lightbulb moment in regards to her pattern with relationships, and is probably why it had the strongest pull for her amongst all the songs she has written. Relapse is a collaboration with two other friends, John Matias and Darwin Decena - vocals, lyrics and arrangement by Himalaya; lead guitar, bass, keyboards & pre-production by Darwin; and guitar, drum programming, keyboards, production, mixing by John. It is released in most music and social platforms, ie Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, TikTok, Amazon Music and Google Play.
At the moment, Himalaya has paused her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology studies at MacEwan University to concentrate on her music. Music is where she derives the greatest happiness. She regards this time, not only as a way to explore her capability and versatility in the music field, but also as a period to find and prioritize herself. She recognizes the importance of making herself stronger as a person and as an artist, and that one influences the other. Himalaya has also obtained a Makeup Artistry Certificate with MC College, to supplement her income.
Himalaya is appreciative of the support she receives in all her endeavours. She recalls fondly how she learned how to play the guitar from her father. Then later having her first guitar which she knew was the cheaper and easily damaged variety, but at the same time recognizing the sacrifice and expense it took. The acceptance that you had to start somewhere, and a greater appreciation for the blessings one receives. For her high school graduation, her father gifted her with an expensive guitar which brought her to tears, making her think of how many children in the Philippines the cost of the guitar could have fed. Aside from her family, she counts friends who have stepped in as mentors, production crew, agents, publicists, etc., extending time and resources to help her in her aspirations.
Before the release of Relapse as a solo artist, Himalaya was part of Kustika, a collective with her older sister and friends. Performances included gigs at Casa Laurel, front act performances for Bamboo, Parokya ni Edgar, Sanctuary, December Avenue, Sponge Cola and Introvoys, and participation at the Edmonton Filipino Fiesta.
Himalaya would like her songwriting to be in line with her influences Rice Lucido, Kitchie Nadal, Yeng Constantino, Joey Ayala and Noel Cabangon. At the same time, she would like to test her boundaries by writing and experimenting with rap. And while Relapse is in Tagalog, she is also writing songs in English. Her future plans include another release in the coming months, producing an EP with Relapse as the banner song, upcoming performances in the JROA Live tour, busking during the summer, and a performance at the Kultura Filipino Festival in September at the Sir Winston Churchill Square.
For someone who turned to writing because she felt she had no voice, Himalaya is finding her moment and space for expression and empowerment. True to her name, she is setting herself free. I wish her all the best and look forward to what she accomplishes in her life, and with her music.
To know more about Himalaya, check her out: @himalaya.official for Facebook, Instagram, @himalaya_official for Tiktok, Himalaya Official for YouTube and SoundCloud
* This article was published in the March 2022 issue of the Alberta Filipino Journal.
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