It’s been a long time coming, but conditions are aligning and the country stands witness to the gathering storm.
In 2014, Proclamation No. 933 was signed, an executive resolution that declared the last week of July of every year as “Linggo ng Musikang Pilipino.” It aimed to revive original Pilipino music and raise awareness and appreciation for homegrown talents.
Since then, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM), the country’s leading organization of professional Filipino singers, have collaborated to highlight the thriving local music industry through the celebration of Linggo ng Musikang Pilipino (LMP).
Five years and more than 10 billion streams later, LMP serves as a platform to celebrate local talent in various public spaces and media outlets. One such event was Habagatan, held 31 July 2019 at Route 196, an unpretentious watering hole known for its vibrant indie music scene.
Habagatan: Chud Festejo EP Launch & Ferdinand Aragon Single Launch, raised awareness and appreciation for featured artists from the Philippine Popular Music Festival (Philpop)!
The well-worn swinging double doors of Route 196 opened into a sparsely-furnished space with posters, stickers, lights, and instruments arranged to highlight the stage – a perfect backdrop for the unassuming artists lined up.
First onstage was Eman, a band heavily influenced by veteran OPM rock artists like the Eraserheads and Parokya ni Edgar. “Pumaparokya”, the fourth song in Eman’s spirited set, paid homage to one of the band’s biggest musical inspirations, which prompted lead vocals Emman (two M’s) to reveal that their band name is also the title of a lesser-known Parokya ni Edgar song.
The standout song of the energetic set, however, was “Kapatid”. The lyrics’ declarative statements expressing kinship was accompanied by a melody slightly reminiscent of the Eraserheads and tweaked by Eman’s own flavor of punk rock. It was nostalgia and affection that deftly avoided sounding trite. It will also be their first song to be released on Spotify.
Clever. Fun. Risqué. What a delightful surprise BennyBunnyBand was!
Their playful lyrics, peppered with double entendres, did not fail to tickle the ear and mind. The magic, however, happened when the band expertly jammed to guitar riffs and drum solos somewhat similar to the more eclectic rock-and-roll classics of the 60’s and 70’s. Lead man Benny headbanged and gyrated as he played, giving the audience a glimpse of what it must be like to be completely lost in the music.
Like bubblegum pop? Check out “Pam ToGetHer,” inspired by Benny’s crush, Pam Harper, from the TV series The Office. A fan of wordplay (and Jollibee’s Chickenjoy)? “ForChicken Song No. <3: Ligaya (Bida Ang Saya)” will not disappoint. Benny readily recognized that the band does not fit neatly into a genre, as they take and play from what they like. What he’s sure of is that the band has an overflowing source of energy that spreads and electrifies, creating a genre all on their own called Kuneho Rock.
Band Feel Day bridged tempos and eased into slower rhythms with their contemporary not-love songs. Immediately apparent was the strong and clear vocals of lead singer Jek Buenafe delivering hugot lines, which appealed to the crowd.
Feel Day expertly captures the Filipino palate for “sawi pero kaya pa naman.” “Karamdaman”, “Pag Sinabi”, and “May Gusto” drew reactions from fans who sighed, swayed, and sang along. Their latest song “The Silence Here” has been released on Spotify and Pinoy Myx.
With his looper pedal and ukelele, Chud seems less interested in making anthems and more interested in sounding alarms. Deviating from the universality of love songs, Chud’s music dove into harsher realities: child molestation, prostitution, and broken family relationships. Admittedly, these themes are risky for an upcoming artist to sing about, but Chud proved that good music cannot be limited to any specific topic.
“Nanay Tatay” is a popular children’s game tune creatively repurposed into a haunting song about street children. By 2018, the song won him the title of Grand Champion in Philpop and cemented his place in the future of Pilipino music. During Habagatan, he successfully launched an EP called “Laro-Laro Lang”, now also available on Spotify.
Ferdinand described his music as indie-folk, a genre most people have probably already heard, but perhaps not with his flair of lyricism. Behind Ferdinand’s smooth vocals and guitar lies the heart of a poet. Whether it be in his native Cebuano or Tagalog, Ferdinand managed to encapsulate depth of feeling through rich and nuanced imagery.
“Dinamalayan”, the single launched at Habagatan, was a song Ferdinand performed with obvious delight. Ramdam ang kilig! The swell of the bridge in the song captured the heavy, pregnant innocence of a budding new love, which prompted one new fan to resolve, “Bukas na bukas, maghahanap na ako ng crush!” The same creativity shone in “Matag Piraso”, a heart-wrenching ballad that moves from heartbreak to hope in its refrain.
Habagatan definitely reflected well on its organizers, the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM), whose goal is to protect, promote, and professionalize local talent.
(The author would like to thank her friend, Zara Dy, for her valuable contribution to this Habagatan review!)
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