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The Filipino music chronicles

From harana to indie, how OPM has changed through the years

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By Sara Grace C. Fojas

Kung tayo ay matanda na, sana’y di tayo magbago… goes the iconic song by Rey Valera “Kahit Maputi na Ang Buhok Ko” that captured the hearts of women across generations. It has been played at countless weddings and golden anniversaries, and in TV dramas, but it still makes our hearts flutter, our eyes tear up a bit, whenever we hear it.

The song is about a man who hopes the love he and his partner shares would remain the same, that they will always have butterflies in their stomach every time they see each other, until they grow old and gray. That’s practically what every person in love would want to have, undying and unchanging love. But the inherently—and culturally—musically inclined Pinoy’s love affair with music didn’t turn out to be as, gasp, predictable.

From harana to pop to rock to indie, the sound of Pinoy music is as colorful and varied as the Philippine fiestas. In celebration of Linggo ng Musikang Pilipino, organized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM), let’s have a journey back in time and see how it all started and how it has beautifully transformed to the songs we are listening to today.

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1970s to 1980s

It all started with Harana and Kundiman

Uso pa ba ang harana?

Marahil ikaw ay nagtataka

—“Harana,” Parokya ni Edgar

Back in the day, the way to a woman’s heart is through song, and not just an ordinary song, it should be sincere and full of love—something that would promise her that she would have a life full of happiness with you. This song is called harana or kundiman or a serenade—a song whose melody is smooth and gentle, just like a woman’s heart. Famous kundiman singers are actually ladies like the National Artist Atang de la Rama, Jovita Fuentes, Conching Rosal, and Sylvia La Torre. But if you’re really not familiar with it, we are in fact still hearing one of the most iconic kundiman songs every Saturday night in mainstream television—“Maalaala Mo Kaya,” originally sang by Ruben Tagalog in 1954.

    The Manila Sound

    Manila,

    I keep coming back to Manila

    Simply no place like Manila

    Manila, I’m coming home

    —“Manila,” Hotdog

    From the late 1970s up to the early 1980s the Manila Sound genre was considered the “bright side” of the Martial Law era and Marcos dictatorship (1965 to 1986). During this time, when the Martial Law heat wasn’t quite high, our great grandparents and grandparents are listening to songs like “Manila” and “Ikaw ang Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko” by Hotdog or to the songs of Nora Aunor, Pilita Corales, Victor Wood, and ASIN. In the late 1980s Manila Sound became “disco mania” thanks to VST. and Co  and Boyfriends. If you’re a Millennial reading this article, I’m sure your parents knew these groups and they might have danced with you when you were little to radio hits like “Awitin Mo, Isasayaw Ko” by VST and Co., and “Sumayaw, Sumunod” by Boyfriends. Our fathers then were probably playing the guitar and singing “Batang Bata ka Pa” by Apo Hiking Society, and would still sing it to us to this day because you know, “Batang bata ka pa at marami ka pang kailangang intindihin sa mundo”

      The ‘70s Rock

      Beep beep beep beep

      Sabi ng tsuper ng jeep

      Beep beep beep beep

      Tabi kayo’t baka kayo’y maipit

      Sakay na kayo

      Kahit hanggang kanto

      Ang buhay ng tsuper

      Ay ‘di gawang biro

      “Beep beep,” – Juan dela Cruz

      One of the first rock and roll bands in the Philippines was Juan de la Cruz whose drummer was Joey “Pepe” Smith, bassist Mike Hanopol, and lead guitarist Wally Gonzales. This band, who sang the iconic Filipino song the life of jeepney drivers “Beep Beep,”  was often credited for introducing the “rock and roll revolution” in the Philippines.  Sampaguita or Tessy Alfonso was another hit rock singer in the 1970s sang “Nosi Balasi.” These two were majorly influenced the rock music of the country that led to the creation of rock bands in the 1980s like The Dawn and The Jerks.

      1990s

        The Bang of Pinoy Pop

        Kasabay ng ulan

        Bumubuhos ang iyong ganda

        Kasabay rin ng hanging kumakanta

        —“Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka,” Ryan Cayabyab

        Original Pilipino Music or OPM wasn’t OPM until the ’90s—when Regine Velasquez was officially bestowed the title, “Asia’s Songbird” with hits “Dadalhin,” “Pangako,” “Hanggang Ngayon,” and many more that became the winning piece of every singing contest winner in every barangay. This was also the time of the release of some iconic love songs for the lovers and the brokenhearted alike—“Wala na Bang Pag-ibig” by Jaya, “Be My Lady” by Martin Nievera, “Di Bale Na Lang” by Gary Valenciano, “I Will Always Stay This Way” by Lea Salonga, “Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka” by Ryan Cayabyab, and “Mr. DJ” by Sharon Cuneta.

          The Rebirth of Pinoy Rock

          Magkahawak ang ating kamay

          At walang kamalay-malay

          Na tinuruan mo ang puso ko

          Na umibig ng tunay

          —“Ang Huling El Bimbo,” Eraserheads

          The ’90s was a great time for music. It was the time when different genres of Pinoy music was born, when the Filipinos got their guitar or any music instrument and experimented with music and words. Thus, Pinoy Rock was reborn with bands Eraserheads who sang “Ang Huling El Bimbo,” “Ligaya,” “With a Smile,” “Minsan,” and many songs that are loved by the generations of today. There’s also Parokya ni Edgar for guys to serenade their high school love with “Harana and “Gitara,” and “One and Only.” Another favorite is Rivermaya who sang “Ulan,” “Kisapmata,” “Himala,” “Awit ng Kabataan,” “Hinahanap-hanap Kita,” and “Elesi.”

            Then there was Hip-Hop

            Some are hurt and start to cry

            Don’t ask me how don’t ask me why

            Some are friends and some are foes

            Some have some while some have most

            —“Kaleidoscope World,”Francis Magalona

            Francis Magalona, Andrew E., and Gloc-9—the most influential Filipino rappers of their generation. Music continued to transform and Filipinos continued to explore, like these three rap artists who chose rapping as their game. The late Master Rapper FrancisM popularized songs like “Kaleidoscope World” and “Three Stars and a Sun.” Andrew E., on the other hand, released flippant, tongue-in-cheek songs like “Humanap ka ng Pangit” and “Mahirap Maging Pogi.” These days, influencing the new generation of hip-hop listeners is Gloc-9 who raps about relevant issues in today’s society like “Upuan,” “Hari ng Tondo,” “Sirena,” “Magda,” and “Walang Natira.”

            21st Century

            present-day pop

            The Present-Day Pop

            At kung hanggang dito lang talaga tayo

            Hindi pababayaan ang daang tinahak na kapiling ka

            At kung umabot tayo hanggang dulo

            Kapit lang nang mahigpit

            Aabutin natin ang mga tala

            —“Tala,” Sarah Geronimo

            The 21st century delivers another generation of pop singers. Filipino singers are now recognized not only in the country but in every corner of the planet. The Pop Princess Sarah Geronimo conquers the world stage with “Kilometro,” “Ikot-ikot,” “Tala,” “The Great Unknown,” and many more songs. Christian Bautista, TJ Monterde, and Jed Madela continue to sing love songs to Filipinas here and abroad. And the new batch of singers like James Reid, Alexa Ilacad, Ylona Garcia, Enchong Dee, and Kaye Cal are releasing and creating new songs with their own style.

              Alternative Music

              Kung di man tayo hanggang dulo

              Huwag mong kalimutan

              Nandito lang ako laging umaalay

              Hindi ako lalayo

              Dahil ang tanging panalangin ko ay ikaw

              —“Kundiman,” Silent Sanctuary

              Pinoy rock also continues to evolve. Bands were formed left and right. Music festivals popped up here and there. Songs of serenade or harana was once again created, but this time it’s played with the electric guitar, bass guitar, and drums. This is the music of the Pinoy ’90s kid that is still played today. Some classic favorites are “Your Universe” by Rico Blanco, “The Day You Said Goodnight” by Hale, “Makapiling Ka” by Sponge Cola, “Magbalik” by Callalily, “Tabi” by Paraluman, “Kundiman” by Silent Sanctuary, “Upside Down” by 6cyclemind, and“Tadhana” by Up Dharma Down. Up and coming bands everyone is looking out for are Gracenote, Banda ni Kleggy, The Juans, and more.

              the rise of the indie

              The Rise of the Indie

              Pinili ang sarili, sumaya.

              —Siberia, Ang Bandang Shirley

              Now, with the aid of technology like Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and iTunes, anyone can release their music online. The indie generation who used to sing at bars and goes unnoticed by record labels is making their way to music charts, with the great help from social media. As of now, crowd favorites are “Sila” by Sud, “Slow” by Jensen and the Flips, “Araw’t Gabi” by Clara Benin, “Exploration No. 5” by Reese Lansangan, “Laro” by Autotelic, “Sa Ngalan ng Pag-ibig” by December Avenue, “Fools” by The Ransom Collective, “Galit” by Bullet Dumas, and a whole lot more waiting to be discovered. These bands have been conquering music festivals and their crowds are getting bigger and bigger at every event.

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