Culture

‘Music is common and goes past languages’

When Beverly Caimen moved from the Philippines to Japan in 2016 she was a relative unknown who could barely speak the language. Several months later, however, an unexpected encounter with actor Shun Oguri drastically changed her life.

That meeting led to him introducing Beverly, as she prefers to be called, to the producer of a Fuji TV drama he was starring in, “Crisis.” He was impressed and that resulted in two of her songs being used on the show: “Empty” and “I Need Your Love,” which served as the tune for the opening credits.

Beverly then landed gigs opening for pop superstar Ariana Grande last year and performing for world leaders such as U.S. President Donald Trump. Not bad for a 24-year-old who was too afraid to sing in front of others as a child.

A star is born: After one of her tracks was used for a popular television drama, singer Beverly was invited to open for Ariana Grande in Japan.

“I was very shy in my younger days,” Beverly tells The Japan Times. “At the same time, I always had this desire to perform before an audience.” The singer recalls putting on little concerts in front of the TV, using the remote control as a microphone and imitating divas like Beyonce, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. “I only did it when I thought nobody was around, but my mom heard me and thought I should enter singing contests.”

Given her bashfulness, the youngster needed some convincing before she felt ready to perform in front of a crowd. She eventually managed it at 14 during a festival in her hometown of Calamba in Laguna Province.

Among her competitors that day was Charice Pempengco, now known as Jake Zyrus, who won the contest and went on to become one of the most famous singers in Southeast Asia, even landing a small part on musical TV show “Glee.” Beverly, on the other hand, left the venue in tears. Trembling on stage, she forgot lyrics and struggled with her timing as nerves got the better of her.

“I knew I was capable of performing well, but couldn’t overcome my stage fright,” she says. “My mom suggested going for vocal lessons and that made a big difference. Aside from learning valuable techniques, it helped build my confidence.”

As a result of the lessons, Beverly’s self-confidence increased and she began going far in contests. In 2013, she flew to Los Angeles to take part in the World Championships of Performing Arts. It was the first time for her to appear on stage without her mother close by.

“There were competitors from over 50 countries and many from the Philippines, including 4th Impact (who finished fifth in the 12th series of the U.K.’s ‘X Factor’), so I didn’t think I had a chance,” Beverly recalls. “I gave it my all, belting out Whitney Houston’s ‘One Moment in Time,’ which has always been a special song for me.”

The modest star managed to win the senior vocalist category, and celebrated with a trip to Disneyland. The joy of finishing first, though, only truly hit home when she arrived back in the Philippines.

“There were lots of media at the airport but all I was interested in was seeing my mom,” Beverly says. “She ran over to me with tears in her eyes and gave me a big hug. It was probably the best moment of my life.”

Having achieved success on an international stage, Beverly was suddenly in demand. Various offers were put on the table with the most enticing one coming from Japanese talent agency Avex Inc.

“The three cities I’d always dreamed of working in were Rome, New York and Tokyo, so this was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” says a beaming Beverly. “My interest in Japan began as a kid due to anime shows like ‘Flame of Recca,’ ‘Slam Dunk’ and ‘Dragon Ball,’ and I was also excited about seeing the Hachiko statue. My only major concern was the language barrier.”

Beverly, who graduated from Batangas State University with a degree in psychology, only knew a few Japanese phrases when she arrived in Tokyo. From a professional point of view, things got off to a pretty slow start as she spent her first few months here focusing heavily on improving her language skills while playing the occasional show. She released her debut album, “Awesome,” in January 2017, and after that came the encounter with Oguri.

“He was in the audience at one of my shows,” she gushes, adding that, as a fan of the TV show “Boys Over Flowers” (“Hana Yori Dango”), she was incredibly excited to meet the young actor. “We had a chance to speak briefly afterward. My Japanese wasn’t fluent, so I couldn’t understand everything, but I know he suggested I sing the theme song for his drama. That was really when things started to happen for me here.”

“I Need Your Love” hit the No. 1 spot on various download platforms and its music video currently sits at more than 6 million views on YouTube. Following that success, she was then asked to open for Ariana Grande’s “Dangerous Woman” tour at Makuhari Messe last summer. Beverly says she became a fan of the Florida-born singer after hearing “Almost is Never Enough,” Grande’s 2013 duet with Nathan Sykes.

“My manager got me tickets to see her when she played in Japan and I was hoping he would be able to arrange for it to happen again, but instead he gave me news that was much better,” Beverly says. “I couldn’t believe I would be supporting one of my idols.

“Before the show, Ariana came to my changing room. I was overcome with emotion and immediately started crying. She hugged me and told me I was ‘going to kill it.’ To hear those words meant so much. I sang five original tracks and the fans were great. Some are still supporting me now. It was a huge moment in my career.”

Facing the crowd: Beverly has performed in front of screaming fans and heads of state — not bad for someone who used to get nervous at the thought of going on stage.
Facing the crowd: Beverly has performed in front of screaming fans and heads of state — not bad for someone who used to get nervous at the thought of going on stage.

Bigger things were to come. In the autumn of that same year Akie Abe, wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, invited Beverly to perform at a banquet for her husband and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. Impressed by what he’d heard, Duterte then asked her to sing at an ASEAN gala dinner in Manila, an event with more than 20 heads of state in attendance. Beverly admits it was a “terrifying experience,” getting up on stage in front of the likes of Trump, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but she would “happily do it again.”

Despite the initial bout of nerves, Beverly’s star continues to rise. Earlier this year she released her second album, “24,” which was well-received by fans and critics. She also recently began her third and most extensive tour of Japan, though in the future hopes to spread her wings even more.

“I don’t want to limit myself to one place. I want to play all over Japan, then the Philippines and after that maybe America and Europe. Everywhere,” she says. “Music is a universal thing that goes beyond languages. It allows us to dream big and that’s why I love it so much.”

Beverly kicks off her winter tour at Nagoya Jammin’ on Nov. 17 (5 p.m. start; 052-320-9100) before hitting Niigata (Nov. 24), Yokohama (Nov. 25), Osaka (Dec. 1), Sendai (Dec. 2), Fukuoka (Dec. 16) and Tokyo (Dec. 23). Regular tickets cost ¥5,800 and premium tickets cost ¥9,800. For more information, visit www.avex.jp/beverly.

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