Syd Hartha brings social issues to the forefront with her music

Syd Hartha brings social issues to the forefront with her music

Her debut single ‘Ayaw’ is an anthem about consent.

Photos courtesy of Sony Music


Listening to Syd Hartha’s Ayaw, you can tell right away that the 17-year-old singer-songwriter isn’t here to play. Over some somber guitar strums, the chorus alone packs a mean punch by teaching a lesson on consent. “‘Pag sinabi kong ayaw, ayaw ko talaga/ ‘Di ako nagpapapilit, masyadong mahigpit ang kapit niya/ ‘Ba’t pinapatawad pa nila/Ako pa raw ang may pakana,” she sings..  

The song — packaged as a tune that’s got the same viral possibility as IV of Spades’ Mundo — is a first person narrative of a victim of harassment. With its sharp lyrics and catchy sound, Ayaw can easily serve as an explainer on the topic, covering everything from the issue of consent, to victim blaming, to skewed power relations between genders, all within five minutes and 30 seconds. Brilliant, isn’t it? 

Social awareness, accompanied by concrete action is one trait that we see a lot in Gen Z, and we’re not kidding when we say that Syd pretty much embodies the zeitgeist. Currently a college freshman taking up Music Business Management, Syd grew up in the age of social media, where it’s hard NOT to know what’s going on in the world. 

Makikita mo agad lahat ng baho ng mundo sa social media,” she says when asked about how she decided to go in the direction of writing songs about social issues. “As an artist, isa sa mga main objectives ko is ipalakasan ko lalo ang boses ko when it comes to my advocacies and the things that I believe in like women empowerment and basically pagmamahal sa sariling wika and gusto ko panindigan yan sa buong music journey ko.” 


We got to sit down for a short chat with Syd Hartha at last week’s Sony Music Launch, where we got to ask her about the inspiration behind Ayaw, her origins as a musician, and her reasons for writing socially relevant music.  


Young STAR: Hi Syd! So where’d you get the name Syd Hartha? 

Syd Hartha: It’s my real name! Pinili siya ng mom ko kasi yung favorite book [niya] nung pregnant siya sa akin is about Siddhartha Gautama. 


Did you always want to be a musician? 

Original plan was I wanted to be a pilot, but ang daming nangyaring sagabal, like yung height limit. So naghanap ako ng ibang schools, and I found out about Mint [College]. That time hindi pa ako sure kung gusto kong mag-pursue ng music as a career. Akala ko na parang hobby-hobby lang. But I found out about Mint and I thought na baka ito yung for me talaga. Eventually, napa-ibig na ako sa ginagawa ko


So how did you get into the music scene? 

As I was scrolling through YouTube, nakita ko yung series of videos from SoFar Manila. The artist that struck me the most was Reese Lansangan, dun ko lang nalaman nung time na ‘yon, that was around 2016 or 2015, na may ganung eksena pala dito sa Philippines. Doon nag-spark yung interest na, “I can write music. I play the guitar, I can sing. Why not put my music out there?” Tuloy-tuloy na lang siya, I fell in love with songwriting. 

Caption: Syd Hartha captures the Gen Z spirit with her socially relevant songs.

What was the feeling when you heard that Sony wanted to sign you? 

Super nagulat ako because at first I didn’t plan to sign sa label. I planned to stay independent. But after hearing what Sony wants to happen, in-explain ko sa kanila yung direction na gusto kong tahakin, and yun. With Sony, kausap ko sila Maan and they were super supportive dun sa direction. I really felt that they see me as an artist. 


One of your songs, Ayaw, went viral because of how you tackled the issue of consent. Where’d you get the inspiration for it? 

Ang hirap sagutin kasi pakalat-kalat siya. It’s literally everywhere. The song talks about sexual harassment and catcalling and victim blaming. It’s everywhere and I think it’s something na kailangan nating pag-usapan, lalo na sa generation ko. I want them to be aware of these topics na taboo.  


I was wondering about it because that’s not something local artists your age usually think to write about in music these days, and with as much depth. 

Feel ko as an artist, yun yung role ko. Ako yung magiging voice. Last year ko lang na-realize na gusto kong mag-rebrand. Kasi dati, yung first two songs na na-release ko puro hugot, typical pop songs. There’s nothing wrong with that, kung gusto mo ng ganyang music. Ang akin lang is feeling ko lang na sobrang daming music na ganoon? Gusto ko lang umiba ng onti. I want to be known as an artist who talks about issues na hindi masyadong nata-tackle. Like now, tago pa siya sa iba kahit na alam natin sa mga sarili natin na kailangan siyang mapag-usapan, kailangang marinig ng mga tao, lalo na yung ka-henerasyon ko. But the thing is, sa social media pa lang, yung age ko lalo, very into social media and everything. Yung sexual harassment, hindi mo siyang maiiwasang makita. Like every day halos. It’s literally everywhere. 


“As an artist, isa sa mga main objectives ko is ipalakasan ko lalo ang boses ko when it comes to my advocacies and the things that I believe in like women empowerment and basically pagmamahal sa sariling wika and gusto ko panindigan yan sa buong music journey ko.” 



What was it like opening for Ben&Ben?

Sobrang kinilig ako. Who knew, diba? It was such an honor to open for them kasi fan talaga ako ng Ben&Ben. I really love their music. Isa sila sa mga pinapakinggan ko talaga


Who else do you listen to? 

Iba iba. Sa folk, si Bullet Dumas, Dong Abay — yun yung mga influences ko. Also, usually hip-hop. Lagi ko din name-mention sa mga interviews na yung hip-hop talaga, since I was 10, super big fan ako. Feeling ko since then, ang laki ng impact ng hip-hop sa songwriting ko. Lalo na ngayon. Local hip-hop like sina Loonie, Ron Henley, BLKD. But not really that scene lang, also others. Sa songwriting, for me kasi, sa rap, sobrang daming mga salita ‘tas nagpapakasiya nila. You know, compared to acoustic. 


The symbolism that they pack into a song is also thick.  

Parang poem talaga ang rap kasi. And I find it beautiful lang, lalo na that I love Tagalog. Advocate talaga ako sa sariling wika. [At this point I ask about her tattoo that’s written in Baybayin, she says it means “Tiwala lang.”

Syd counts folk singer Bullet Dumas and hip-hop artist Loonie as influences.

What pushed you in the folk direction? 

Self-taught ako, and the instruments I know how to play are yung keys, uke, and guitar. Guitar yung last kong natutunan. Nagtuloy-tuloy siya hanggang I started listening to other folk musicians tas parang mas trip ko siya kaysa sa pop na acoustic. I don’t know, that’s just me.


Do you think it helps din in terms of your messaging? 

Ako kasi, gusto ko na yung instrumental, kalmado lang. Ayoko ng maingay, ayoko ng rock kasi sa songs ko, yung main is the lyrics. Yun yung gusto kong i-emphasize. So pag maingay yung background, hindi na maaano [yung message]. 


What’s next for you? 

I just released Ayaw so baka after that I’m gonna be releasing a single, it’s called Paru-Paro. It’s about freedom of speech and yung responsibility na dala nun, what can happen kung nagkamali kang magsabi. By the end of the year, we plan to release an EP. 

Stream Syd Hartha on Spotify. Follow her on Twitter @kliffordis and Instagram @syd.hartha

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