Inspired by the likes of Esperanza Spalding, this singer-songwriter-cellist is aiming to make a name for herself as the first and only one of her kind
Ringlight Sessions: The Neighborhood puts up-and-coming or in-the-moment local artists and musicians in the spotlight—or more accurately, ringlight—to show us what they’ve got. Next up: Coeli.
Need help pronouncing Coeli’s intimidating-looking name? Just remember the instrument she plays: the cello. (Coeli and her cello—get it? Okay.) Of course, that’s not the reason why she pursued it; it’s not even the very first instrument she picked up. She started with the piano before moving on to violin and then guitar, and even sang with a competitive children’s choir at one point.
By the time she was 15, she was writing her own songs… yet maybe she was destined for the cello all along. “I took up Music Education at UST and that was the instrument I chose,” she says, but here’s the catch: she had never even played it before. “I was always very curious about it, so I prepared and studied for six months. My lola was a cellist when she was younger and we had this baby cello, like a half-sized cello, and I was just playing with it. But then eventually, I got my own.” She’s now carved an incredibly unique niche as a singer-songwriter-cellist. “I’m kind of the only one who does it here in the Philippines so far,” she says, and cites Esperenza Spalding (known to perform while playing the contrabass) and UK-based Ayanna Witter-Johnson as inspirations. “When I saw that, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to do this thing!’” Poised to release her first EP, it looks like Coeli and her cello are going all in.
Describe yourself as an artist.
My music is raw… I actually don’t know what genre to call it. At first I was listening to indie folk stuff because they’re singer-songwriters with a guitar, but then I incorporated the cello and it just evolved so much. On my page I put “experimental folk,” but I felt there’s more to it than that. Maybe it’s baroque folk, baroque pop, because there’s a cello? I don’t know what to call it… it’s very contemplative, innovative, introspective… yeah, introspective. I think that’s it.
Top 3 songs on repeat. “Emptyhanded” by Cynthia Alexander, “Citywide Rodeo” by The Weepies, and “Wildwood” by Reese Lansangan. I love her, and I love that song.
One song you would recommend to anyone. “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac.
Is OPM dead or thriving? Thriving, of course! I mean, I feel like I wouldn’t drop everything if it wasn’t thriving. I left my life! Ha ha! I think it’s very contagious, it’s a growing scene. What motivated me to do this was when I joined the Elements Music Camp. I was batchmates with sila Reese Lansangan, Clara Benin, Paolo Guico of Ben&Ben. The friendships kind of started there. When I met all these people, I felt like we’re a huge community of singer-songwriters. I feel like slowly, habang tumatagal, mawawala na nga ’yung term na “indie.” It’s just music, and the boundary is blurring. People think na walang pera sa music, but now I truly believe that music and the arts play a huge role in society—especially now. As a musician, I’m nothing but a vessel to convey messages of morality, these very basic concepts of being human. Sometimes we get so busy that we’re functioning like machines. What music and art do, they make us feel more human. People crave for that, even if they don’t know it.
Dream collaboration? Cynthia Alexander and Regina Spektor. And Lorde. Love her.
Photography by Renzo Navarro Art Direction by Mags Ocampo Makeup by Debbie Santos of Center for Aesthetic Studies Hair by Lour Jenna Mendoza of Center for Aesthetic Studies
Nana Caragay is a magazine editor, writer, voice over talent, and former gymnast. When she's not stalking cute dogs on social media, she's most likely shopping, working out, watching E!, or drinking iced tea. She's on Instagram @nanacaragay.