Ever since 1993, when Lea Salonga provided the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in the animated film “Aladdin,” there has been a connection of sorts between Filipino voices and the Disney Canon. In the following years, Filipino artists have been called on by Disney to record local-distribution versions of theme songs for recent Disney movies: Janelle Salvador in “Moana,” Darren Espanto and Morrisette Amon in the live-action “Aladdin,” and Moira Dela Torre for the live-action “Mulan.” But all of them were singing English-language songs, understandable given the source. Still, with “Raya and the Last Dragon” the dynamic undergoes a change.

The Manila Bulletin would have it that Filipina singer-rapper KZ Tandingan has been revealed as officially part of the production for Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon.” Specifically, she is contributing to the soundtrack by singing a local version of the animated film’s theme song, “Lead the Way” by singer-songwriter Jhené Aiko. Considering that “Raya” is set in a fantasy setting evocative of Southeast Asian culture, to the point that its main character is being hyped as the first Southeast Asian Disney Princess, this means that KZ’s version of “Lead the Way” will actually be translated into a Southeast Asian language: our very own, Tagalog.

Walt Disney Studios announced in a March 2 post on their official Facebook page that KZ will perform a Tagalized version of “Lead the Way,” entitled “Gabay.” This would make it the first official Filipino-language song part of a Disney animated movie soundtrack, which is heady stuff. The song itself is not out yet, but it is part of a Southeast Asian regional thing, alongside Bahasa Indonesian version “Kita Bisa” by Via Vallen. One wonders if other SEA nations will be announced as well soon.

“Raya and the Last Dragon” takes place in Kumandra, which looks like a fantasy Southeast Asia as long as it has been hyped. Princess Raya (Kelly Marie Tran” of the Kumandran heartland goes on a journey to find a dragon that might help protect the land from the Druun, monsters from ancient times that were banished by the sacrifice of the dragons. When Raya meets the dragon Sisu (Awkwafina), they must learn to trust each other as they face dangers and opponents such as the warlike Namaari (Gemma Chan) to keep the Druun from destroying the world. Due to COVID-19 still keeping most cinemas closed, the film will premiere first on Disney+ this March 5.

Image courtesy of ClicktheCity.com