The music industry isn’t as woke as you might think it is. Sure, visibility for queer artists like Troye Sivan, and Hayley Kioko is high but it makes you ponder about our own local queer artists. Representation is the abstract notion of seeing oneself personified in arenas most unforgiving of the marginalized. For many years, queer Filipinos were unable to see themselves represented in mainstream music industry in a way that is more than just being the punchline.
Meanwhile, in the West, being a popstar and queer the same time is no longer out of the norm. We are yet to see Filipino queer music makers receive the kind of attention given to the Troyes and Hayleys of the charts. With virtually nothing in our laws that protects LGBTQI+ folks from discrimination in the workplace and out in the streets, our country is far from accepting the marginalized. Being merely ‘tolerated’ is the harsher truth. For many queer artists, their existence is resistance. While queer folks have always ruled from the margins, influencing mainstream pop culture from fashions to parlance, playing in the fringes just won’t cut it anymore.
Being in the front and center is the agenda, so we decided to put the spotlight on five Filipino queer music makers across genres, and of diverse SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and expression). From beat makers to acoustic singer-songwriter musicians, these 5 artists deserved a spot in your playlist.
When I first heard Stef’s single “With You” it went straight to my “Songs to Chill & Cry To” playlist. And that was two years ago. Since then, she has re-released the single alongside four new songs on the EP Palate Cleanser. When one muses over Stef’s work as a vocalist and lyricist, you can see an artist who’s unafraid to lay it all out, sexy or unsexy (but mostly sexy). That’s an artist’s growth.
She now plays with frequent collaborator Eugene Yapatangco as the duo, Stef & Euge. Their music is lustful and utterly danceable thanks to Euge’s raw rhythm and blues beats, while Stef’s songwriting explores the desires of a woman. The trans singer-songwriter likens her lyrics to something like a conversation, like she’s “talking to someone.” In real life, Stef navigates her truth as a transgender individual while balancing film school and her burgeoning music career. Ultimately, she’s positive that the presence of queer people in the music scene is only going to be “larger, louder, and stronger.” Stream “Butter” now.
Jason Dhakal seems wise and beyond his age. At 17 he began releasing music while residing in Oman, in his own words, traditionalist country. There, he was grappling with being bisexual, here, he was coming to terms with it, with the help of music, of course. Even with an old soul, Jason’s music is ultimately filled with youthful mischief —ephemeral but who cares? Youth has that ability to make you feel invisible, unaffected by the world’s decay. He sings, “Ain’t it fun? The thrill in your body like we’re on the run from fucking nobody” on his latest output Past Curfew.
Like other queer artist, Jason is vulnerable from the music industry’s heteronormativity and discomfort towards anyone who deviates from the norm. He has literally lost bookings from gigs because of his sexuality. But that won’t stop him from putting his music and presence out there, he wants queer people to release music anywhere and everywhere, even on Grindr if need be. You can listen to his latest EP effort, Night In.
The first few notes of Ja Quintana’s “Bahaghari” captures you right away, familiar world music tunes that packs a valuable punch: “Ang pag-ibig ay pag-ibig, ang tao ay tao.” Quintana borrows heavily from indigenous music, and the key word right there is ‘borrow’, never to steal or own, but sharing in hopes of furthering the idea of being stewards, not masters, of the land we till. It’s indeed a proper closing song on her album, Padayon that Quintana chooses to give her listeners the send-off they deserve. The track “Bahaghari”, which translates to rainbow in Filipino, becomes the record’s thesis statement and perhaps also a nod to Quintana’s advocacy to LGBTQIA+ rights, and as a member of the community.
The story she chose to tell with her music is that of country and its people – both victory and struggle. She recently performed at the latest iteration of Metro Manila Pride March in Marikina City.
Rising independent artist, Pixie Labrador creates music that sounds like what would be the soundtrack to a Disney movie where the damsels are in love and no one is in distress. Her 2017 EP, Does It Hurt is a sort of love letter to women loving women romance singing of its love and lost. Pixie’s Belle-like voice lends itself to the gentle guitar strums and melodic piano, a combination makes for easy listening. Pixie identifies as a lesbian, and in her music, she tells her story of romances she’s had. She shares that “The pronouns I use to refer to a love interest in my songs are very clear, yet some people still think I’m talking about a man.”
Pixie wants you to listen to her song “For You”, she shares that it’s an “actual love song” she wrote in hopes of normalizing representation of queer love.
David Gonzales a.k.a moeblob
David Gonzales is an aficionado of videogame-inspired music and have been making them for 8 years now. Drawing inspirations from J-pop, retro video games, and 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System (yup, it’s a handful), much seeps into his electronic music project: moeblob. Moeblob makes incredible exploration of storytelling through jumpy bright beats sans words. Listen to his single “Meetcute” and you’ll know what I’m talking about. David hopes that him “existing and thriving” in the music space that is the local scene sends a clear and powerful message to others, and those who may be in the proverbial closet.
No stranger to self-doubt, David’s recent coming to terms with his sexuality helped him in the process of overcoming it. As a gay man, he says that discovering the existence of other queer artists in the music scene made him feel safe and welcomed.
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