Sheng Belmonte steps up

Sheng BelmonteÆs story is one for the books---to be filed under the section ôAlmost Never But CouldnÆt Have Otherwiseö if ever there was one.

While many singers knew at a young age that theyÆd pick up the mic and perform later on, and hopefully make a living by doing so, Sheng was sure sheÆd never take that route.

ôI didnÆt even think IÆd be able to sing by myself in public,ö she confessed. ôI was a painfully shy girl.ö

So, while she comes from a karaoke-crazy family, ShengÆs most daring move next to singing in front of a kitchen sink was joining a choir. Beneath a sea of harmonies and an ocean of vocal blending, Sheng felt safe; content in the knowledge that it was as far as her musical dreams would go.

Until fate stepped in and shoved her to front and center.

One day, in BoyÆs Town no less, Sheng was compelled to sing impromptu onstage with two other girls. She recalls what happened upon finishing her part.

ôEveryone started yelling at me---and I got scared! I thought they didnÆt want me. It turned out they were shouting, æMore! More!Æàö

Did that clue her in on her calling? No. Sheng blossomed into her tweens with dreams of becoming an actress. She enrolled in a theater company, going as far as performing at their recital.

Still, inside her, and despite the strides she has made, Sheng knew that she, to borrow a phrase from U2, hasnÆt found what sheÆs looking for.

It was only when she turned 15 did she embrace music. By 18, she was lead singer of a show band so good, they made it all the way to China, Korea and Indonesia.

Sheng has found her voice---except that she was in danger of losing it and fast.

ôI had no vocal training and I abused my voice to the point that I would come on stage some nights completely hoarse! Some of my songs were not suited for me at all. The only reason I stuck to doing the whole OFW thing as long as I did was because I wanted to help the family out financially,ö she said.

Back in Manila for good, Sheng hatched a plan: To put singing on the backburner and try out other things.

Such as pole dancing. And belly dancing. And doing stand up in a comedy bar. Anything and everything. ôTry lang,ö she mused aloud, laughing.

Those didnÆt last long. A few months later, Sheng auditioned for ôPinoy Dream Academyö Season 2 and made it. Then came the whammo: Her elimination from the show just three weeks after it started.

A few weeks later, Sheng met arranger Jonathan Ong who knew Gloc-9 who would later feature her in one of 2011Æs biggest hits - but thatÆs getting ahead of the story.

Initially, what Jonathan had in mind for Sheng was to cast her in a group ala Black Eyed Peas. Soon, the singer and two rappers were recording demos intended for an album. But just as Sony Music was about to sign them up, a member of the group backed out and the pyramid crumbled.

And as before, Sheng was left to sort out the rubble.

ôI was seriously thinking, æIs this a sign? Is this HeavenÆs way of telling me, æItÆs not for you, Sheng,Æö she said.

But, it turned out that the heavens had bigger plans for her. Sony Music did not pursue signing up the group but they did offer Sheng a recording contract. Indeed, they couldn't pass up on the girl with the unique voice and inimitable singing style that's a cross-section of many musical ministrations.

More, the label chose her as featured artist in Gloc-9Æs single, ôWalang Natira,ö over more established artists. Later, that song was picked as carrier single of the rapperÆs latest album. These days, and even this early, ôWalang Natiraö is turning out to be contender for song of the year.

Finally, things have fallen into place for Sheng.

Funny, but she who sings ôWalang Natiraö will soon have it all.

ôSheng Belmonteö under Sony Music contains the tracks ôModern Pilipina,ö ôSino Bang Love Ko,ö ôBig Time,ö ôGaling Galingö and the promotional song, ôGigilö