Singer-songwriter, producer, record label founder, and music educator. The Cebuano multihyphenate Cattski Espina — who performs under her mononym, Cattski — has spent the past two decades at the heart of Cebu’s thriving music scene.

“To be honest, I’ve been doing this for a long time. Things overlap and it’s difficult to know which hat I’m wearing. Maybe it’s the trauma of being a DIY musician,” she says with a laugh.

In 2001, she founded 22 Tango Records, now known as 22 Tango Music Group. It is considered to be one of the pioneers of cultivating Cebu’s music culture — from signing local artists, producing albums and compilations, hosting educational and community building events, music marketing, and more. It was an evolution of what she experienced when she was starting out as the frontwoman of her band, Cattski. In 2012, she released her first solo and self-produced album, 0:00:00.

0:00:00 was the big transition. It was all mine. I equipped myself with learning [music] software, the technology, the principles of pre-production, actual production, and post-production.”

0:00:00 has arguably defined Cattski’s artistry. She writes with tender honesty, transforming love and loss into sound. It shines in “Monsters,” a track that she considers the most meaningful in her entire discography thus far. She sings, “I feel I’m braver now to face my demons / I’ve finally learned to use my angels, too / I think I’m finally ready to live my truth / ‘Cause right now that I’m without you.”

“I wrote it in 15 minutes,” she reveals. “I [felt so many] intense emotions.”

The song encapsulated everything that she was going through at that time. It was an ode to letting go — letting go of toxic traits, of toxic people. This complete candor continued well into her career, especially with her latest release, “Falling Apart.”

What’s unique about writing music that’s unabashedly honest is its timelessness. There is no timestamp in her songs, and as Cattski gets older, she only continues to write music that reflects life as she knows it.

The process of writing, producing, and marketing music all at once is something that she tries to impart to the newer artists that she’s taken under her wing. “I try to empower artists to have the same mindset…to learn all the ropes, since not everything is [going to] be given [to you].”

22 Tango Music Group that aimed to bridge that gap. The venture has expanded to include the establishment of Room 11 Studios, a recording studio based in the city. They produced homegrown shows for their artists, like Listening Room and Demo Crazy, and even an emergency fund for local artists affected by the pandemic titled the AMUMA (literally translated as to care or nurture) Homegrown Emergency Fund.

“[The Cebuano music community] has changed so much,” she says as she looks back at where the scene started and where it is now. “During the pandemic, it disappeared. Now, we’re at a period of rebirth.”

More music collectives and labels have emerged in Cebu over the past few years. More venues for live music have been opened, which is good for a city where gigs were mostly held in either malls or small cafes and restaurants. “Everyone else is empowered now.”

As Cattski — both the artist and the businesswoman — looks forward, more opportunities are coming over in the horizon. She’s gearing up to release her first album after almost four years by the end of November. 22 Tango Music Group is aiming to tap into the Asian market through various music conferences, educational activities for local artists, and bringing in Asian artists to perform in Cebu. Beyond that, Cattski is currently in talks with the local government to co-create a program that cultivates and trains budding artists to produce music.

Cattski’s story is one that continues to push the boundaries of what Cebuano music is and what it could be. She has established herself as a pioneer in championing local music through her own artistry as well as her contributions to cultivating the music scene as a while. With young artists like Julia Q, Jericho Streegan, and many more under her wing, she’s paving the way for a new generation to make their mark while also reinventing herself in the process.