Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Like brother, like sister

Teens' love for music courses through their veins

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THEY might not have become The Next Star, but there’s no question Moises and Mimoza Duot are among their community’s new generation of musical stars.

The Winnipeg siblings were finalists -- in separate seasons, two years apart -- on the YTV reality/competition series The Next Star. Neither ended up winning the title, but each took lessons from the experience that have helped shape the ongoing pursuit of their musical dreams.

Since being on the show in 2008, older brother Moises has expanded his interest in music beyond playing and singing, learning the basics of the production end of the recording process, as well. And since her Top 6 finish in the 2010 season, younger sister Mimoza has landed a deal with a Toronto-based management company, shot a video for her song Love featuring an appearance by Canuck rapper Kardinal Offishall, and has begun work on an album project with the production company Gimme More Music and producer Tyson Kuteyi.

These are, it is clear, just natural steps in a musical evolution that has lasted most of their admittedly short lifetimes.

"Ever since I was very little, I have loved music," says Mimoza, a 15-year-old student at Sisler High School. "And so has my brother (Moises, who turned 18 this week, will graduate from St. Paul's High School this June). We really just grew up with it, and our parents have inspired us to keep it going. They've been very supportive, so, yeah, we love music."

The young Duots, along with parents Moises Sr. and Mimi, are like so many families in Winnipeg's culturally rich Filipino community in that music -- singing, performing and even competing -- is deeply ingrained in the fabric of their lives.

Moises Sr. has always been a singer (as well as a guitar and ukulele player), even when he was a member of the Philippine Army before emigrating to Canada in 1987 (he met his wife Mimi in Winnipeg in 1988 and they married in 1992). Mimi listened to cassettes of Céline Dion and Bon Jovi on her Sony Walkman while she was pregnant with each of her children. When the young ones couldn't sleep, Moises Sr. would turn on the karaoke machine and croon his babies into slumber.

"There's sort of a coincidence there," teenage Moises explains. "The songs that our mother used to listen to on her Walkman back in the day were the songs we sang when we won our first competitions."

Mimoza found her voice very early in life, singing in angelic tones as soon as she could speak. At age six, she was a finalist in the local Asian Idol contest. By the time she was 13, she won the junior division of Pinoy Got Talent and landed in The Next Star's final half-dozen.

Moises, however, was a bit shy as a child; he didn't discover singing until he was 10. Two years later, however, he won the junior category of Tuklas Talino, the annual talent-search competition in Winnipeg's Filipino community (Mimoza, then nine, was a finalist), and a year later he auditioned for the YTV show's first season.

"Winning that (Tuklas Talino) competition really sparked my confidence," he recalls. "I thought to myself, 'Yeah, I can do this.' And everything went from there."

Along the way, there have also been countless opportunities to perform live at weddings, birthday parties, family gatherings and special events; as youngsters, Moises and Mimoza also occasionally served as the opening act for Filipino musicians whose tours stopped in Winnipeg.

For the teens, growing up musical has been made more interesting by the fact they've also grown up in the age of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. They've been posting homemade videos of their musical performances -- seamless duets, of the sort that can only be produced by the layering of sibling voices -- online for several years and have developed quite a fan following.

"YouTube is wonderful, because it's one of the best things you can have nowadays to showcase your talent as an artist," explains Moises, who cites Bruno Mars as his greatest musical inspiration. "We have relatives in the Philippines who can't see us sing in front of them, so we posted videos to let them see us from there. The great thing about YouTube is that people can watch you in the comfort of their own home, even if they're miles and miles away overseas. That's sort of what inspired us to start posting (videos online)."

Of course, posting a musical performance on YouTube can produce other results, as evidenced by what happened to another young Filipino singer, Maria Aragon, last year when her rendition of Lady Gaga's Born This Way became a global Internet sensation (nearing 50 million views at last count).

"It's really cool to see someone from the same city break out like that," says Mimoza, whose own musical idol is Céline Dion. "It's interesting to see how it can happen that way -- I guess Perez Hilton saw it, and he sent it to Lady Gaga, and then everything happened."

Moises adds Aragon's sudden success reinforces the notion that a lot of what happens in the music business is a result of being in the right place at the right time.

"It's all about making the right connections," he says. "Being lucky is a huge factor -- if this person sees it, he can show it to other people who are connected with major labels."

For Mimoza, it seems, The Next Star may turn out to have been both the right place and the right time.

"After The Next Star, the music producer from the show wanted to work with me because he knew there was more that I could do," she says. "Going into the recording studio and writing and co-writing with my manager and my music producers was really fun, and it's a great experience because I'm really growing and becoming an artist. It takes time and a lot of work, but it's happening."

For the parents of the two young stars in waiting, there's still the very important matter of balancing dreams and opportunities against the practicalities of adolescent life.

"We always have family meetings, and we talk to them about balancing their education and their music," says Mimi. "Education is always first, I say to them -- wherever they go or wherever their careers take them, at least they will know how to stand up for themselves.

"We're not going to stop them from singing, but education is very important. We just thank God for this gift he has given our children."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 3, 2012 J13

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