Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Emerging Artist Series: Young Morrie

Apart from opportunities to work and collaborate with established artists, one of the satisfying moments in an arts career is taking note of emerging artists and following their career trajectory. Admittedly, some of those I’ve observed did indeed soar to dizzying heights, and some have crawled to frustration and oblivion. As someone who has gone through the artist’s ups and downs, I always harbor high hopes for an emerging artist. And one such fellow is rap artist Young Morrie.

Young Morrie is Ralph Giralao in real life, 25 years old, born in General Santos in the Philippines, and was on his third year of nursing studies when his family moved to Edmonton five years ago. And like any young man eager to claim independence in a foreign adopted country, he worked different jobs mostly in the food and entertainment service industry.

As a young child, Ralph remembers accompanying his father to the video rental store and seeing a drum set in the store next door. And because he was still too small to play that particular drum set, his father started him on piano lessons instead. He would later train himself on drums by observing and imitating other drummers, using the couch and whatever was handy at home as his drums. His love for music was established during his elementary years - performing with school bands and composing his first song in Grade 5. The band gigs and song writing would continue up to his adult years. His favorite music artists and influences would include Eminem, Andrew E, Blink 182, Bamboo, Salbakuta, Kawago, Story of the Year, Snoop Dogg, and Powerspoonz.

In Canada, he looked for a band to join but for some reason, it just did not pan out. This lead him to a period of frustration, desiring for an outlet for his music. Being an introvert, music was his way of connecting with people. This period also lead him to a period of introspection, of self-discovery, and a mature way of looking at life. He saw the inability to join a band as the universe’s way of telling him that he just might need to go in another direction. He thought, “If I can’t find a band, why not use my music writing myself?” Fortuitously, at work, where he has the habit of singing/rapping out his latest beats, a co-worker encouraged him to come up with a mixed tape. This was when Ralph decided to use the stage name Young Morrie, inspired by Mitch Albom’s book Tuesdays with Morrie. The emergence of Young Morrie was in August 2015. Since then, he would record and upload his music, and perform during Open Mic nights at Tavern on Whyte.

I first came into contact with Young Morrie through the Edmonton Filipino Fiesta last June 2016, where he was one of the performers for the Entertainment Program, of which I was the organizer. He then struck me as a very easy person to talk to, respectful and at the same time intense. He was one of the few performers in the Fiesta who sang original works, instead of doing covers. To date, he has a total of 25 compositions, 14 of which still need to be recorded. Among those recorded and available in the Young Morrie YouTube channel, Facebook page and iTunes are: In It, Get the Money, After 5, Blue Wave, Moment with You, High, Question Air, I’m Sorry, Drive, Hold on Tight, among others. His album was produced by Juno-nominated, Western Canadian Music awardee, and Canadian Independent Music awardee, Mr. Sandro Dominelli. Based on public feedback during the Fiesta, Young Morrie was one of the favorite performances.

Since then, we’ve been in touch through social media - listening to his new music, providing feedback when solicited and keeping up with his various guestings. I am struck by the contrast in persona of the Young Morrie and Ralph Giralao. Whereas Young Morrie comes across in performances as the confident, ready to face the world and its challenges, young man, Ralph on the other hand, portrays the typical young artist treading on career insecurities, obstacles and wistfulness of one yearning for validation and recognition. His dialogue in our conversation vacillates from a determination of living out the dream, to the practicalities - facing the realities and hardships of life. He counters this conflict by inspiring and motivating himself through his favorite books: Tuesdays with Morrie, Steal Like an Artist, Awaken the Giant Within, and Relentless.

The music of Young Morrie is a snapshot in time of Ralph Giralao’s life. Music is Ralph’s way of verbalizing and expressing his thoughts and feelings, and once it’s out there, causes him to reflect and understand his behaviour and dreams. It is admirable when someone makes himself vulnerable, opening one’s heart and mind. He is focused in being true to himself and in living life to the fullest - essential lessons and guiding principles learned from Tuesdays with Morrie. I am glad that Ralph has the Young Morrie alter ego to channel and harness his aspirations. In this quest, how can one not hope but only for the best for him in all his endeavours? For Ralph Giralao/Young Morrie, music is his journey. With or without fame and fortune, I wish for him an awesome and extremely fulfilling ride.

For all artists, both the established and especially the emerging ones, a rapport with the audience is essential, and a validation of your work. Go check out his music and connect with him through the Young Morrie YouTube channels, Facebook page and better yet, purchase them through iTunes.

This article was published in the January 2017 issue of the Alberta Filipino Journal.

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