Samui Wining & Dining
Under the Spotlight

The dulcet tones of Aleigh Deleon at Impiana Resort & Spa.


18Under the SpotlightChaweng is just crammed with restaurants. It seems that every few feet there’s another one. They come in all guises, from burger joints to Thai palaces, with every taste and flavour in-between. But the better ones have some kind of entertainment. You’ll catch sight of Thai dance groups and even be deafened by the raucous fun of a rock group. But it’s not always easy to strike a balance. It’s hard to find a great restaurant where you’ve also got quality music. Not the insipid sort of ‘knife and fork’ muzak that tinkles in the background like an ornamental feature, but a talented duo, maybe. Or a real singer with a terrific voice. There aren’t many eateries like this to be found on the island. But one that stands out is Impiana Resort & Spa Samui, a few minutes south of and just around the corner from Chaweng, in the neighbouring bay of Chaweng Noi.

 

Impiana is a big, laid-back and mature resort that’s terraced down the hillside, allowing its designers to have created its two restaurants one above the other. The upper floor of the open-sided Tamarind Bar & Lounge is a well-known ‘chill-spot’, with a games room, lounge and bar and an airy dining terrace that has a sweeping sea view. Below it is the resort’s excellent all-day restaurant, Sabai, with its broad wooden decks that run alongside the swimming pool and onto the beach. And that’s where you’ll be able to enjoy the superb vocals of Aleigh Deleon.

 

She’s young, beautiful and has a simply stunning voice. And has been performing on Samui now for over four years. But her story is engaging, and one that begins in her native Lucena City in the Philippines. Like most of her peers, she was born into a musical family. Although both her parents were government officials they regularly sang and performed in the evening at local clubs. Unusually, Aleigh never quite got around to learning any instruments – she didn’t need to! Her voice was all she needed and, even before her teens, she’d won several talent competitions.

 

But it wasn’t until September 2007 that her first big break came along. Her agent offered her and her singing partner a contract in Bangkok. And that was where the two of them ended up, only to discover that a paperwork error had placed her partner in Cambodia and Aleigh on Samui on her own! “It was a bad few months,” she admitted. “The job had fallen through, I knew nobody, I didn’t have any money and I was stuck. But I managed to fall on my feet and found work as a singer, fronting the Columbian band in the Red Snapper Restaurant & Bar in Chaweng. It was only a short contract and I was really lucky to find another job almost right away.” And the other job Aleigh’s talking about was her contract at Impiana.

 

She first began working there in July 2008 – and has remained there ever since. To begin with she was paired with a male vocalist and they played under the name of I-note Duo: some of their original material she still retains today. But Aleigh has now developed an individual and well-defined solo act with a strong presence, the necessary backing tracks for her vocals coming courtesy of a computer and MIDI synthesiser.

 

Aleigh plays three sets each night, running from 7:00 pm until 10:00 pm, with a short break every hour. But the diners rarely seem to look up when she first appears. “My first set is always low-key and gentle,” she told me, “the last thing people want to hear is rock! But each of the sets gets pacier and towards the end I can get to enjoy myself and kick loose a bit.” Which indeed she does, as you’ll read in just a moment …

 

Certainly, for the first hour, she comes across as somewhat demure. The songs are slow and familiar; love songs and ballads by Celine Dion, Sade, Norah Jones and Mariah Carey. You’ll catch a track or two by The Beatles or perhaps The Mamas and Papas. And you’ll quickly understand why she won prizes for her singing. Her voice is quite effortless. A lot of singers have the ability to suddenly step-up an octave, but there’s usually a rough edge; a change of tone as they do so or a slight nasal quality. But Aleigh’s voice never falters; it’s without pause or stress, and she somehow seems to breathe the notes rather than actually sing them. You’ll get to hear more of the power in her voice during the second set. Listen out for her cover of Dionne Warwick’s ‘Walk on By’. More than any other, this is probably the best showcase for her talent, with the dynamic range running to extremes. Without any strain she can instantly double the volume, flip from contralto to soprano or slur and slide across the notes. It’s sheer power but without any of the harshness – like riding on a Harley instead of a 100cc scooter.

 

And at this point, there are more up-tempo numbers, with the ballads coming in every so often just to maintain the balance. She begins to move about a little; not exactly dancing, but stepping and moving as she performs. But it’s not until the third set, when everyone’s becoming less inhibited with their appreciation, that Aleigh responds in like-fashion. Bouncy numbers by Shakira and Lady Gaga are delivered with all the shaking and shimmying of the originals, proving that a marvellous voice is not Aleigh’s only asset!

 

And then? When the show is over and the sound stage packed away? Well, she goes straight home! Aleigh’s not a party animal and prefers to go back quietly to the house near the airport that she shares with her sister, Jennybell, although she won’t usually get to sleep until the wee small hours. It’s at this time of night she usually works on new material and downloads different MIDI tracks. Except for Sundays, that is, when she takes a well-earned break, usually spent relaxing in the company of like-minded friends.

 

Rob De Wet
 


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