Saturday, September 8, 2007

Night out: mag:net Cafe Katipunan (9/07/07)

I thought mag:net Cafe in Katipunan was a little too sleek for me. Downstairs, the walls are painted white, where they sell paintings that cost P160,000.00 each. Upstairs, the ambiance is more Makati restaurant than a rock joint. But I spotted Romeo Lee with a bunch of guys drinking wine, so I guess I was in familiar territory.

I made the trek to Quezon City to catch a gig by the Republika ng Musika collective. In case you haven't noticed, something is brewing in the Pinoy rock music scene. Ethnic music, or world music, is making inroads to people's consciousness once more. I'm not talking about activists or environmentalists, the usual local followers of this subgenre, but the average rock fan. Kadangyan, that band from Cebu with the edgy Igorot get-up and tattoos and edgier music, is a Philippine finalist for the World Battle of the Bands, and are gaining more and more followers. Makiling Ensemble, who are celebrating their 10th year, are still making notable music. And I've already written about how Pinikpikan are still able to make people dance their assess of, as if in trance.

Republika ng Musika is a collective of bands whose purpose is to preserve our traditional culture through rocking. Getting together is a very brilliant idea. It brings to mind the grunge movement of the 90s, and the Motown sound of the 60s. When artists with similar vision and mission and more or less similar sound get together, then they start a movement. A movement, as opposed to being a band trying to change the world alone, is stronger, more influential, and more capable of making people take notice, and perhaps make kids take up those traditional musical instruments and make the same type of music. When Nirvana blew up in the early 90s, they brought with them the whole Seattle gang, and people started buying Fender Stratocasters, Doc Martens, flannel, and boatloads of CDs. In a perfect world, if Kadangyan blows up, you'll be able to buy hegalongs and djembes in Raon.

The first band that played that night was Syalam. Syalam's sound has elements of funk that make them distinguishable from the other Republika bands. Their lyrics are tibak, but I dare you to name a funky tibak band. Can't remember any. In my opinion they are still a bit raw, but their potential is huge.

Talahib recalls those sturdy Pinoy bands in the 70s whose music was tinged with psychedelia, bands like Asin and later Ang Grupong Pendong. But that's actually a good thing. I see Talahib as continuing the tradition started by those bands. I am curious to know if in the future, Talahib could make songs that will also be remembered for ages like those aforementioned bands.

Unitiima rocked. It was their first time to play as part of Republika ng Musika, but I've seen them before as part of the 3rd Backdoor Ventures Arts and Music Festival held in Megamall a few weeks back. In that festival, more than a hundred people saw them perform. In mag:net, only a handful, but the energy level was the same. There is a sense of urgency in their music that sets them apart from the other bands. I love their song, "Sayaw." You'll love it too if you hear it. And that samba whistle is so funky it could make your knees weak.

The last band was Lakbay Lahi. They also performed at the Festival, but it was only now that I realized that they're essentially an instrumental band. But what wonderful music they play. Honestly, no human voice is needed to convey their message. Their instruments -- hegalong, bass, djembes, and a host of other indigenous musical instruments -- seem to speak to one another, and the result was heavenly most of the time. It's music for dancing and for feeling uplifted. There was a particular piece I really liked. It was the one wherein their dancer acts as if she's making a baby fall asleep. I couldn't shake it off my head.

I did not listen to most Filipino bands after 1999. I felt Philippine rock music has become stagnant creatively (with the notable exception of bands like the Radioactive Sago Project and Junior Kilat). Yes, there are so much more Pinoy bands now than in the 90s, but I miss the diversity of sound I heard in the last decade. In the 90s, almost each band sounded different. The Eraserheads had their sound. So did Yano. And the Youth. And Wolfgang. Put3Ska. Sugar Hiccup. Tropical Depression. So many others. After the 90s, the guitar bands started to sound same-y. Many seem to drink from the same tits that nourished the Eraserheads. The cutesy kanto boy lyrics, the nonchalance, but everybody knows they have been done before, and better. Bands started to have common members. Could it be the reason why they started to sound the same? Bands started having too many product endorsements. They started looking like they go on spa treatments. They now look like call center agents, or is it the other way around? Most bands nowadays get labeled "astig" (or asteeeeg, or lupeeeet), but for me, you're not really astig enough if you can't bring anything new or fresh to the table. I miss the innocence of 90s Pinoy rock, when bands just cared about having a good night's gig, they just cared about their music, and the possibilities were endless. Is it just me or is it time for a major sea change?

These new breed of Pinoy ethnic rock bands should be among those who will usher in the change. They are making me listen to Pinoy rock once more. These bands don't belong in mag:net. They don't belong in any small club in Manila. They belong in a bigger stage, where more people can fully appreciate the breadth of their artistry and their pride in our heritage, yes, our heritage. So how could YOU, whoever you are, reading this either in Blogger or Multiply or in a forwarded e-mail, help make this possible?

  • Attend their gigs. It will mean so much to the bands when they feel that they are appreciated. It will make them want to go on making music. Isn't that what they should be doing? These bands actually have websites where you could get their gig schedules:

  • Buy their independently-released CDs. But guys in the bands, it would really help if you tell people where they can be bought. And it would really be fine if you could set up a table where you can sell your stuff every time you have a gig. If the audience liked what they heard, they'll buy your CD.
  • After watching them live and listening to their music, tell people about them. Blog about them. Invite friends to their gigs. If you have connections with the print media, or radio or TV, then try to work out giving them exposure. They deserve it, and the audience will all be the better for it.

Mabuhay ang musikang Pilipino. It's a cliche, I know, but in this case, I mean it.

No comments: