Young artists are expanding the island's traditional repertoire of pala pala bands busting out chacha tunes – today's talents are bringing electronic, rap, reggae and indie vibes to the local music scene.
One such rising star who's been making a name for himself, is local singer-songwriter and producer Jed Antonio.
But his goal includes pushing music and supporting local music to new heights. To do this, he helped create a Guam music collective that brings together local artists through their common love of music.
Straight Up Music was founded in 2016 by Niel Romero and the late Justin Baldovino as a division of film company Project: Inspire.
“The concept was always meant to be spearheaded by me,” Antonio says. “But it took over two years for me to finally muster up the confidence to bring the idea of Straight Up to life. I credit the team of Project: Inspire, my circle of music friends, my family and God for the existence of Straight Up Music. I wouldn’t be doing what I do if it wasn’t for them.”
Among the group of artists, the newest edition is 20-year-old Harmony Chea, who describes her music as indie pop. Her first Straight Up single “Don’t Ask” dropped on streaming sites Spotify and Apple Music on June 23, along with the music video on YouTube a few days later .
The video opens with Chea viewing footage on an old video camera, reliving sweet moments with a summer love. Aptly named, Harmony Chea’s soft voice croons verses about a Monday afternoon holding hands, deep in thought with the AC blowing and the music turned up: “Don’t ask about the future, just be with me right now, take a look at where we started from, we’re high above the ground.”
“This song represents living in the moment with your significant other,” Chea says. “The future is scary, and talking about it can intensify the tension because you’re trying to live up to expectations created in a relationship along with the societal norms for couples. But ‘Don’t Ask’ is about living in the moment. Loving hard and taking in every second. Summer 2019 felt this way for me.”
Though she wasn’t born and raised here, Chea now calls Guam her home and even plays soccer for the Guam National Team. “It takes a lot of time but just like music, it’s my passion,” she says.
She connected with Antonio after they both opened for Grammy-nominated American singer-songwriter Jhene Aiko in March 2018 at the Guam International Raceway. Putting in the work on a daily basis for the collective and his music, Antonio quickly added Chea to his growing list of collaborators.
Other artists include Angelo Molinos who also recently released a new single with the collective, “Malibu and Coke” featuring Antonio. Straight Up rappers also include Oni-Wan and Ad-Ryan. DJs Sylnt and Samurai are also part of the family, along with videographers and photographers.
“I put in work for Straight Up everyday. Whether it is writing, producing, mixing, mastering, planning or brainstorming, I always have to be working on something,” Antonio says. “We’re just a bunch of artists who love what we do. It is what it is.”