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Contemporary Musical Heroes Of Filipino Culture

The Filipino Journal – June 5-20, 2009

During such occasions as the Philippine Independence, many Filipinos suddenly become traditional; perhaps because they think that being traditional best defines their so-called Filipinoness. Might this be a pretentious display of nationalism? Or worse, a display of cluelessness or ignorance? Because, on the contrary, being Filipino is not necessarily being traditional, simply because Filipino culture has always been a diverse mix of various cultures and of both the traditional and the modern or contemporary—meaning, an ordinary bus driver who is clad in t-shirt, jeans, and slippers and listens to Michael V.’s music is as Filipino as a congressman wearing an expensive barong Tagalog or a university professor who teaches Philippine History, speaks fluent Filipino and English, and sings “Lupang Hinirang” very well. For, ‘independence’—or the sense of freedom—means being able to express oneself without depending on the dictates of others or without the fear of being harshly criticized by self-righteous traditionalists who don’t even know the meaning of ‘culture.’ Thus, to commemorate Philippine Independence is to celebrate Filipino diversity in all aspects of culture—fashion, language, music, literature, etc.

Now, through this article, join me in celebrating Philippine Independence by giving salute to some of the contemporary musical heroes of Filipino culture—musicmakers and songwriters who continue to enrich our culture by contributing their original music and songs.

Artist: Mikey Bustos
Genre: Pop/R&B/Hip-hop
Mikey Bustos is a Toronto-based Filipino-Canadian singer who placed eighth in the finals of Canadian Idol Season One in 2003. He spent the years that followed performing in various places across Canada and the US (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas), doing guest appearances and interviews on TV and radio, as well as improving his craft by collaborating with music producers and other artists. In 2005, Bustos released his debut EP, entitled Love Me Again, on B-Group Music. He traveled to the Philippines in 2006 to open for the American Pop girl group The Pussycat Dolls and in 2007 for the American Pop singer Christina Aguilera. Finally, in December 2008, Bustos released his debut solo album, Memoirs of a Superhero, containing 13 songs most of which Bustos himself wrote. Recommended songs are “Damn! These Powers,” the single “If It Feels Good then We Should,” and “Letting Go.” You may get a copy of the album at an HMV store or via his Web site: http://mikeybustos.ca.

Artist: The Lowtechs
Genre: Alternative Rock / Postpunk
Comprised by Gelo Lagasca (lead vocals / guitars), Lemuel Galleto (lead guitars / vocals), Edong Bareng (bass /backup vocals), and Joseph Navalta (drums), The Lowtechs are based in Baguio City, Philippines. Early this year—two years after their formation—the band released their debut album, Anniversary of the Machinery, on Freezer Disk Recordings. Armed with this album of original materials, The Lowtechs are currently active in the Metro Manila Alternative music scene. Recommended tracks are “Annihilation,” “Gloom Child,” and “Chapters Darkest Nights.” You may buy a copy of the album or preview selected songs via the band’s Web site: http://wearethelowtechs.multiply.com.

Artist: The Camerawalls
Genre: Alternative Rock / Indie Pop
Soon after the breakup in 2007 of the Philippines-based Orange and Lemons—the band behind such hit singles as “Just like a Splendid Love Song,” “Heaven Knows (This Angel Has Flown),” and “Pinoy Ako”—its guitarist/vocalist Clementine teamed up with friend musicians Law Santiago (bassist) and Ian Sarabia (drummer) and formed The Camerawalls. After just a few months, in July 2008, the band released its 10-song all-original debut album, entitled Pocket Guide to the Otherworld, via Clementine’s own label Lilystars Records. Traces of their Postpunk and New Wave influences like The Smiths, Morrissey, and The Lightning Seeds are very much alive in each of the poetically worded and wonderfully crafted songs that the album contains. Recommended tracks are “Markers of Beautiful Memories,” “Clinically Dead for 16 Hours,” “Ignore My Weakness, Don’t Ignore Me,” “The Emperor, the Concubine & the Commoner,” and a banduria-and-octavina-laden song version of Jose Rizal’s poem “Canto de Maria Clara.” Listen to the songs, watch videos, or might as well get a copy of the album through the band’s Web site: http://thecamerawalls.com.

Artist: The Half Gifts
Genre: Alternative Rock / New Wave
Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, The Half Gifts is the brainchild of aLfie vera mella—vocalist of the Philippine Alternative Rock band Half Life Half Death (1988–2003). Mella (vocals/keyboards/percussions) formed The Half Gifts early this year with Joseph David (drums/percussions), Sherwin Ylagan (bass), Benjo Mendoza (keyboards/guitars), and Aldo Caziani (guitars, keyboards). They are currently recording their debut CD, entitled a mélange of…, which the band expects to be able to release in the coming months. Songs like “Faerie’s Delight,” “Vanilla Float,” “Cotton Candy Carnival,” “Jaded Jester’s Jellybeans,” “Chocolate Mousse,” and “Rainbow Pastilles” showcase the band members’ penchant for New Wave, Postpunk, Progressive Rock, and Classical music. For updates and information about the band, check out http://elfideas.multiply.com and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half_Life_Half_Death.

Final Note
Artists who write their own materials are the ones who rightfully deserve our pride and respect, not those copycats who ride the coattails of other artists by imitating them and merely singing versions of their songs.

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