How Barbie Almalbis and Zsaris Used a Nissan X-Trail as a Musical Instrument
Barbie Almalbis and Zsaris both have memories of growing up with Nissan cars. Barbie remembers trips in the family Sentra, a black one that she says was her favorite. Zsaris, meanwhile, says she learned how to drive in her family’s Sentra.
“That was an exciting experience,” Zsaris says. “That was our car before. And my kuya is a big car enthusiast, so I learned a lot from him. He was the one who told me about Nissan’s sports car, the 370z.”
Because the two singer-songwriters have such a foundation involving the Japanese car brand, it wasn’t difficult for them to say yes when offered an intriguing proposal: collaborate on a song highlighting the sounds of the Nissan X-Trail.
“I was excited when they first approached me to do it,” Barbie says. “They already had a song in mind: 'Money for Food,' which was released several years ago. It’s a fun song. Masaya siya tugtugin. And when they suggested looping in car sounds, I thought it was an interesting concept. And it fits the song!”
The call came before quarantine restrictions were imposed because of the health crisis, so when it was time to do the actual recording—of both the song and the car sounds—the artists found it quite a challenge.
“The original plan was, we were supposed to do live samples,” Zsaris explains. “Like do a live performance, and just to take samples. We had a shoot schedule already, but that got cancelled because of the pandemic.”
So the duo turned to Plan B—DIY recording.
“We had to have the car parked outside the studio,” Zsaris says. “We had handheld recorders and asked the people in the sari-sari store in front to be quiet for a bit so we could get the sounds right. We also brought (the vehicle) inside the studio so we could use the sounds while it was running.”
“We thought it was going to be easy!” both says laughing. “We used the seats, tapped on the surfaces, everything, not just the built in sounds.”
“We kind of thought of the car as a drum kit, with low sounds, a kick drum, click track, the works,” Barbie adds.
In all, Barbie and Zsaris used Nissan X-Trail car sounds such as turn signals and those involving Nissan Intelligent Mobility, including Lane Departure and Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Moving Object Detection. These features not only make the crossover SUV so special and popular, they also integrated well with the song in order to elevate it into something truly special.
"We must remember that even if we’re staying safe at home, we can still exercise our creativity."—Atsushi Najima, Nissan Philippines President
After the song was released on August 12, both artists received glowing feedback from their fans and followers.
“I was so surprised,” Barbie says. “People have messaged me saying they found it very creative. I watched it five times in a row. I think it’s a really unique concept.”
“My friends are just thrilled that I’m working with Barbie,” Zsaris gushes. “I’ve been a fan of her music for so long. And 'Money for Food' is such a perfect song. It’s like a dream come true for me.
“I also got a comment from a friend that what we did in the song, it’s something you would do in real life,” she adds. “Very natural yung process of the whole thing. Dun ako pinaka-natuwa. This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this.”
Nissan says this is a first for the company, too. What started out as a way to connect with Barbie and Zsaris’ fans became a celebration of creativity despite the difficulties posed by quarantine restrictions.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for all of us,” shares Atsushi Najima, Nissan Philippines President and Managing Director. “But we must remember that
even if we’re staying safe at home, we can still exercise our creativity. We are so happy to bring creativity to life at this time, and collaborated with such talented artists like Barbie Almalbis and Zsaris to recreate a famous Filipino song with the Nissan X-Trail.
“As the first vehicle in the Philippines to carry Nissan Intelligent Mobility, the Nissan X-Trail features a unique array of sounds that helps create a safe and secure experience for both drivers and passengers,” Najima adds. “The Nissan X-Trail is truly a vehicle that inspires creativity and passion.”
"With this project, I get to see the quirky side of Nissan. You realize that creativity, innovation, and having fun are also important.”—Barbie Almalbis
As for Barbie and Zsaris, both say they have a newfound appreciation for vehicles in general, and Nissan in particular.
“I always thought of Nissan’s sounds—when you close a door, when you turn it on, all the little car sounds—you can tell it’s serious about quality,” Barbie says. “But now, with this project, I get to see the quirky side of Nissan. You realize that creativity, innovation, and having fun are also important.”
“For me, I just love driving so much,” Zsaris adds. “I go home to Los Baños, and come here to Manila to work. I’ve also tried driving the Grand Livina because my family owns one, and the Juke. Now, when I drive, I think about what we did and you realize, pwede mo siyang gawing musical instrument!
“It’s not just entirely about the drive anymore,” she adds. “The little habits you do with the car—tapping the wheels, finding the rhythms in the sounds—it’s legit na. Naging totoong recording na siya, working with a brand like Nissan. It’s such a big honor. Now I’m curious what else we can do, not just with the car, but other ways to express our creativity.”
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