Blind singer Alienette Coldfire's voice is out of this world

Filipina singer Alienette Coldfire won third place in the 2016 France's Got Talent TV contest,.
Filipina singer Alienette Coldfire won third place in the 2016 France's Got Talent TV contest,.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Blind vocalist Alienette Coldfire wants audiences to look beyond her disability

Filipina singer Alienette Coldfire will not mince words.

The 27-year-old from Tapaz wants to be known for her internationally acclaimed voice and not as "another blind singer" cashing in on the audience's pity.

The self-taught vocalist, who won third place in the 2016 France's Got Talent TV contest, performs at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from Friday to Sunday.

She appears in the True Colours Concert, featuring artistes with disabilities. The three-night concert is part of the True Colours Festival presented by The Nippon Foundation and Unesco and produced by Very Special Arts Singapore.

Other acts at the concert include wheelchair dancer Rodney Bell from New Zealand and a collaborative theatre production by Singapore's Very Special Theatrics and Australia's No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability.

True Colours' programmers want the performers to be seen in the context of art, not pity.

Alienette says: "Until you hear me sing, you might think: 'Oh, another blind singer.' Back home, being a blind singer is not very dignified because there are blind beggars singing on the streets. I'm not underestimating what they do, but people do pity them."

Until you hear me sing, you might think: 'Oh, another blind singer.' Back home, being a blind singer is not very dignified because there are blind beggars singing on the streets. I'm not underestimating what they do, but people do pity them.

FILIPINA SINGER ALIENETTE COLDFIRE

Pity is the last emotion one feels

  • BOOK IT / TRUE COLOURS CONCERT

  • WHERE: Singapore Indoor Stadium, 2 Stadium Walk

  • WHEN: Friday, 8pm; Saturday and Sunday, 6pm

  • ADMISSION: $30 from www.sportshub.com.sg/True Colours2018 or call 3158-7888. Tickets are also available at all SingPost outlets and the box offices of the Singapore Indoor Stadium, The Star Performing Arts Centre and Scotts Square.

  • INFO: Alongside the concert, there will be a free True Colours Festival Village at OCBC Square at the Sports Hub, featuring screenings of short films about disability, theatre performances, Paralympic Sports tryouts and food and beverage. Find out more at truecolours.sg

on hearing her full-bodied vocals - Filipina singer-actress Lea Salonga meets legendary French singer Edith Piaf is the best way to describe them. Her set in Singapore focuses on English pop, but she is hoping to perform at least one song in French.

Her interest in the language came from hearing Piaf's La Vie En Rose.

"When a song touches you like that, there's a power in it. That was the power of the French language, it's really as they say: elegant, romantic, passionate."

The singer's real name is Katchry Jewel Golbin and she was born blind because of retinopathy of prematurity, a condition that affects the eyes of premature babies. Her father is a marine engineer-turned-cab driver and her mother works as a clerk in the municipality of Tapaz. She has a younger brother and sister.

Her parents read extensively on support for the blind in other countries and realised that their daughter could be enrolled in a mainstream school if she had some help. Braille books were limited, but screen reader software changed the game.

With software that read text to her out loud, Alienette became a voracious reader, devouring classics by Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Victor Hugo and French feminist Simone de Beauvoir. She graduated from the Central Philippine University of Iloilo City with a degree in English. She took French as an elective in college and continued practising through conversation with Facebook friends.

A self-taught singer, Alienette became better known in 2014, when a video of her singing Mariah Carey's I'll Be There went viral. After that, her friends encouraged her to try out for France's Got Talent and her third-place win made her an international favourite.

She is hoping to release an album, but is upfront about the difficulties of performing. She needs help from promoters and sometimes family members when navigating new venues.

Once on stage, however, all the problems disappear. And she never gets stage fright.

"When I sing, when I make music, I feel like I'm out of this world," she says. "That's why my stage name is 'Alienette'. Singing is an extra-terrestrial experience."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2018, with the headline 'Her voice is out of this world'. Print Edition | Subscribe