Pinay music on BBC ‘Primate’ wins Emmy

Los Angeles-based Filipina composer Denise Santos was speechless when the host announced that she and fellow composer Adam Lukas were honored for their work on the BBC documentary series “Primates.” They won an Emmy for Outstanding Music Composition in the 42nd annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards.

Santos, who was in tears during the virtual announcement held on Sept. 28, just gave Lukas a big hug and let the latter deliver an acceptance speech live from their recording studio.

“We couldn’t be more humbled and honored to accept it. We’d like to thank the BBC Natural History unit for their stunning work. We’d like to thank our families as well as partners for their unconditional support,” Lukas said, while his scoring partner was containing her emotion and their friends and family were applauding in the background.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Santos shared that it took her three months to finish the scoring for the documentary series, which presents a detailed insight into the daily lives of primates in the wild. Full story on

“It was right around my wedding day, so it was the most stressful three months of my life,” she said in the interview.

“With nature documentaries versus fictional shows, the main difference is these animals, these landscapes, there is no talking. You really have to hone in on what the narration is saying depending on the research that they have done. That’s what the big difference is,” she added.

Santos, who graduated from Ateneo de Manila University with a bachelor’s degree in management, is an in-house composer for Hans Zimmer & Sony Music’s partner company, Bleeding Fingers.

Her deep passion for music has allowed her to become the composer she is today, taking inspiration from classical, rock, pop, folk, electronic, and jazz.

In her Spotify bio, Santos stated that she started playing classical piano when she was 4 years old and learned guitar at 13. She began composing original music in high school when she joined her school’s theatre guild and composed and performed music for their productions.

She started her professional music career in 2012, playing keyboard for alternative-jazz band Hidden Nikki and post-rock band Bones Like Snowflakes, arranging and producing songs for singer-songwriters, and composing original music for advertisements, tv shows, and award-winning films.

In 2014, she moved to LA and gained a professional certificate in music production at Berklee College of Music then studied film scoring at the University of California in Los Angeles Extension. She trained under esteemed professors in music theory and orchestration, such as Charles Bernstein, Bob Drasnin, and Jonathan Merrill, to name a few.

Apart from “Primates,” Santos’s most recent works include “Making the Cut” (Amazon Prime), “Apollo: The Forgotten Films” (Discovery), and “Surviving Jeffrey Epstein (Lifetime).”

“We, Filipinos, have what it takes; we have the talent. It’s just a matter of making the music industry people aware that we exist, that we are these kinds of people—warm and relatable,” she told ANC in a separate interview alluding to her hopes that her recognition as a

Filipino talent would somehow open doors for other Filipinos in the international music scene.

Topics: Denise Santos , Primates , Hans Zimmer , Sony Music , Bleeding Fingers
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