Han Han: The WL17 Interview

Purveyors of: A smooth blend of traditional Filipino/Cebuano music, catchy melodies, and hard-hitting rap with a dash of Kulintang
File next to: M.I.A, Santigold, Missy Elliot, Datu, Phèdre, Pantayo
Playing: Wavelength Music Festival 17 – Night 3, Sunday Feb. 19th @ The Garrison. Get tickets here!

Han Han is a Filipinx-Canadian rapper taking Toronto and the world by storm. Being new to Canada in 2006, Han Han was introduced to the Filipino-Canadian arts community through the Kapisanan Cultural Centre. There, she was introduced to a poetry workshop that eventually nurtured her natural talent to rap. Her recent music video for “World Gong Crazy”, in collaboration with Datu and Hataw became an internet sensation with over 600k views on Facebook. Singing in her mother tongue of Tagalog and Cebuano, Han Han’s music seem to transcend barriers, touching those who don’t even understand or speak the language. Wavelength’s Rebecca Hong chatted with Haniely Pabelo of Han Han before her show at Wavelength 17.

Photo credits: Make-up by Charm Torres, Photography by Patrick Estebar and Creative direction by Jodinand Aguillon.

I’ve read that you’re a nurse! That’s amazing. How did a nurse become a badass rapper?
It just happened that way! [laughs] I don’t really know how. I was just lucky to have met creative people who inspired me to enhance and pursue my creativity. I didn’t know how to rap until I tried it.

Some bands who have performed in the past at Wavelength include Pantayo, Phèdre, Datu and Hataw ,who are introducing great Filipinx music and sounds from the diaspora into the indie (and predominantly white) music scene in Toronto. How does it feel being involved in such a supportive community of artists? What has the reception been like at your shows in Toronto?

I feel very blessed and proud to be surrounded by the most creative people in the Filipino-Canadian arts community. We support, inspire and respect each other. It’s like a family. We are a movement. It’s like we are all in the same jeepney (Filipino public transport vehicle) moving to same destination of making Filipino culture and representation alive in the multicultural Toronto art scene – unapologetically who we are, hybrids and all! We are basically making ourselves visible and Wavelength was kind enough to give us the space we are entitled to.

The reception has been positive so far. It’s interesting how “predominantly white Toronto music scene” is embracing my music as the lyrics are in Filipino languages. I guess it’s cool. I crossed the border. Music is the language.

Your stunning music video for “World Gong Crazy” was exceptionally well received around the world, with over 600,000 views! What’s it like receiving such a positive reaction from around the world?
Proud. It was a collaborative effort between everyone involved in the music video. Most of the people involved were volunteers and almost all of us have other responsibilities in real life beyond our art. All of us believe in the goal and I think that’s what draw all of us together. Teamwork always works. I feel validated.

You’ve been touring all over the place! Where are you currently?
Oh I haven’t been touring. That’s an exaggeration. [laughs] I just happen to be in the Philippines so I decided to agree to HATAW founder, Jodinand Aguillon’s invitation to participate in his theatre creation, Ang Pagdidiwata ni Maria Clara (“Maria Clara’s goddess-becoming”) in collaboration with Burlesque PH in Manila.

What has been your most memorable show so far?
So far my most memorable show as a solo artist would be Wavelength’s Bike Pirates show in November. That was the first time I performed most of songs together without DATU, as I usually performed with them. They told me it was my graduation!

That show, with HATAW’s dancing, was stunning! What can we expect this time around from Han Han and HATAW at WL17?

Thank you, Haniely!

You don’t want to miss Han Han play on Night 3 of Wavelength 17 with dance troupe HATAW at The Garrison.

– Interview by Rebecca Hong