Category Archives: Philippine Music



One of the reasons I have been introducing snippets from the music scene of the Philippines is to show that there has been a quiet revolution brewing in the music industry over many years now. I’ve learnt that things don’t operate in the same way as the music scene I grew up with back in my own country and things are a little prone to over commercialization drowned out in what seems to be all too important sponsorship deals and many talents sell their souls to the industry for fame.

It’s also fair to say that there is a whole crop of working bands that choose to not go down that road and stick to doing what they love whether it makes them famous or not. I think it’s fair to say that Kjwan fits into that bracket.

I’m sure they would embrace a little public adoration naturally but I don’t get the impression that fame is what they are exclusively seeking; they just seem to me to be having a good time.

I get a special buzz in introducing these guys from Kjwan for a slightly silly reason, I know them. They are great lads and I’m sure they won’t mind me saying very ordinary lads at that.

In my usual lazy amateur journalistic way, I will allow the existing online material to educate you further about this band that are not exactly what I would call rising stars. They have been around awhile and their efforts are being taken notice of even outside of the Philippines.


I’ve never seen them playing a big gig personally. I’ve watched them playing small bars and to audiences of a few hundred at best. Don’t let that have you thinking they are not known or popular. That’s the way it is for a working band that are just enjoying themselves in the Philippines and all the more credit to them for that.

They soldier on and these lads love each other’s company, know each other well and that comes across to me strongly when I’ve watched them play. The consequence of that is they are a tight, non-pretentious, talented and unique band whose music I genuinely enjoy.

Just a personal view here from me when I say that I see a lot of decent bands and some excellent levels of musicianship. My comment though is often the same when I watch these working bands as I go around. I tend to end up saying that most of these bands are good, some a little better than good but always I end up further commenting that they are good but nothing special.

I doubt very much any world beaters are going to take the world by storm from the Philippines. Originality is still in short supply all too often. It’s not always important whether you have something new to offer or not. Kjwan just plays. For me, that’s what music is about.

I’ve never listened to one of their cd’s. I’ve listened to them through the usual online sources of YouTube but above all I’ve watched them play live many times and never failed to enjoy watching their set.

Enough said so let me introduce to you Kjwan.


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Rivermaya4Whilst the mainstream of the Filipino music scene continued to suck throughout the 90’s, an innovation called Rivermaya was happening. Speaking as someone who just got to know them by hearing a few tracks, I’m not qualified to describe the complex changing of members. Over the years they have had more ins and outs than the pre-season transfer market in the premier league.

However, the information is out there so you can keep track of the comings and goings if you care enough. I tried to follow it; I had to lie down after as it appears that they have kept going in various formats to the extent that many believe it’s time to stop. Later day Rivermaya sadly seem to be as much a tribute to the name Rivermaya but the substance has gone long before.

However, their most formative years were the earlier days. I’m here to introduce to outsiders another side of the Philippines which of course includes Filipino music and I really can’t be bothered to be a rock journalist.

Rivermaya3I will just leave it to other sources to map out the history of Rivermaya for you. Discover them for yourselves with a few suggestions from a time when they had Rico Blanco, who was the chief composer and possibly the most relevant member.

I think of all the Filipino bands I’ve come to hear in my time exploring local music in this country, Rivermaya has caught my ear as among the most original. I hear the British influence very clearly but I always found they had enough of themselves in the music to still call it unique.

The brilliance of Rico Blanco is obvious and I shall be featuring his marvelous solo work in another piece.

The musical revolution is still slowly moving forward. Bands like Rivermaya helped to set it on course. Of all the bands I’ve heard here, Rivermaya is among my favourites.

Many say that without Rico Blanco or Bamboo Mañalac, it isn’t Rivermaya anymore. They are nothing like as big now as they were in the mid 90’s up to mid 2000’s. Maybe it is time to stop now as the era highlighted here has left its stamp as being Rivermaya and no later line up using the name was ever going to make much of an impression following them.


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You’ll be Safe Here

241 (My Favorite Song)


A Love to Share

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Filed under Manila, Philippine Music


I am no professor in Filipino music studies. I simply came across this band by listening to local radio. I would hear good music from time to time and ask whoever I was with, “who’s this?” The answer often came back, “Eraserheads.”

Curiosity aroused, I explored the usual medium of YouTube and found they were too good a band to ignore. In their early days, they were doing covers to get work, and then went their own way. That’s how it was in those times, do covers or get ignored by the industry. They stepped out of that mould and throughout the nineties, they paved the way for what is now a vibrant OPM scene, truly fresh and innovative.

If bands like Eraserheads had not knocked down some doors, it’s doubtful Filipino music would be progressing as it is today with original compositions and an array of new talent coming through with their own material and doing their own thing.

This band could stand anywhere and was a sad loss to the OPM scene when they eventually quit in the early 2000’s.

However, it wasn’t quite the end of the story. After the split, they have done reunion gigs: Taguig in 2008, Pasay City in 2009, and then moved forward to gigs in North America in 2012. In 2013, they re-emerged again and did Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Singapore.

But it doesn’t stop there. As of the time of this writing, they are in London, so the Eraserhead story goes on. Many are screaming out for them to get back together and cut another album.

These guys had and still have a huge following and the current wave of OPM bands can thank the Eraserheads for sticking to their own sound and own songs, something that wasn’t done much when they came on the scene.

Who knows what the next chapter of the Eraserheads story will be?


With A Smile

Ang Huling El Bimbo
Huwag Mo Nang Itanong

More about the band here:

Radio Republic

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The Wilderness


OPM can mean some older established artists of the old order which have their place in Philippine music history, but more importantly it throws up the newer emerging bands which a few years ago would have felt to not be in any position to be themselves. The sheer volume of bands coming through whom may never be world-beaters, yet still do their own thing can only be healthy and has me believing that music in the Philippines is on an upward curve.

Today, I feature The Wilderness who are very far from being household names, but are fresh, original, improvisational and above all, themselves. It wasn’t long ago that that was almost unheard of.

Without the backing of major labels you’re forced to make your way earning your living doing gigs, selling tee shirts and slowly building a fan base. Good luck to the innovators. Here’s The Wilderness.


Piyesta EP

Wilderness Merch


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Freddie Aguilar

Freddie AguilarI always intended to start this series of OPM (Original Pilipino Music) featured artists with this guy. Recent controversies will never detract from the fact Freddie Aguilar has always been an innovator and although from the older wave of OPM, writes socially conscious quality folk music that is Filipino to the core. Let’s not get carried away with judgments. The man deserves credit for his achievements. Only God can judge regarding the controversial story about his love life, but man can judge his music.


Noong isilang ka sa mundong ito
Laking tuwa ng magulang mo
At ang kamay nila ang iyong ilaw
At ang nanay at tatay mo’y
Di malaman ang gagawin
Minamasdan pati pagtulog mo
At sa gabi’y napupuyat ang iyong nanay
Sa pagtimpla ng gatas mo
At sa umaga nama’y kalong ka
Ng iyong amang tuwang-tuwa sa iyo

Ngayon nga ay malaki ka na
Nais mo’y maging malaya
Di man sila payag
Walang magagawa
Ikaw nga ay biglang nagbago
Naging matigas ang iyong ulo

At ang payo nila’y sinuway mo
Di mo man lang inisip na
Ang kanilang ginagawa’y para sa iyo
Pagkat ang nais mo’y
Masunod ang layaw mo
Di mo sila pinapansin

Nagdaan pa ang mga araw
At ang landas mo’y naligaw
Ikaw ay nalulong sa masamang bisyo
At ang una mong nilapitan
Ang iyong inang lumuluha
At ang tanong,”anak, ba’t ka nagkaganyan”
At ang iyong mga mata’y biglang lumuha ng di mo napapansin
Nagsisisi at sa isip mo’y
Nalaman mong ika’y nagkamali
Nagsisisi at sa isip mo’y
Nalaman mong ika’y nagkamali
Nagsisisi at sa isip mo’y
Nalaman mong ika’y nagkamali…

Freddie Aguilar


Mula nang magka-isip ay nagisnan ko ang problema
Hanggang sa kasalukuyan, akin pang makita
Tuloy pa rin ang digmaan
Kalat na ang kaguluhan sa Mindanao
Mindanao, Mindanao

Mga mamamayan doon ay takot ang nadarama
Hindi malaman kung ano ang gagawin sa tuwi-tuwina
Mga taong walang malay
Madalas na nadadamay sa Mindanao
Mindanao, Mindanao

Pinoy kapwa Pinoy
Ang naglalaban doon sa Mindanao
Marami ng dugo ang dumanak sa lupa ng Mindanao
Mindanao, Mindanao

Hindi na ba maaawat
Hindi na ba matatapos
Ang solusyon ba’y digmaan sa lupang pangako
Hindi na ba masasagip ang mga kapatid natin sa Mindanao
Hindi na ba masasagip ang mga kapatid natin sa Mindanao
Mindanao, Mindanao

Pinoy kapwa Pinoy
Ang naglalaban doon sa Mindanao
Marami ng dugo ang dumanak sa lupa ng Mindanao

Pinoy kapwa Pinoy
Ang naglalaban doon sa Mindanao
Marami ng dugo ang dumanak sa lupa ng Mindanao

Mindanao, Mindanao

Freddie Aguilar


Tingin sa iyo’y isang putik, larawan mo’y nilalait

Magdalena ikaw ay ‘di maintindihan
Ika’y isang kapuspalad, bigo ka pa sa pag-ibig
Hindi ka nag-aral, ‘pagkat walang pera

Kaya ika’y namasukan, doon sa Mabini napadpad
Mula noon, binansagang kalapating mababa ang lipad

Hindi mo man ito nais, ika’y walang magagawa
‘Pagkat kailangan mong mabuhay sa mundo
Tiniis mo ang lahat, kay hirap ng kalagayan
Ang pangarap mo, maahon sa hirap

[Repeat REFRAIN]

Magdalena, ikaw ay sawimpalad
Kailan ka nila maiintindihan
Magdalena, ikaw ay sawimpalad
Kailan ka nila maiintindihan
Magdalena, Magdalena

Ibig mo nang magbago at mamuhay na nang tahimik
Ngunit ang mundo’y sadyang napakalupit
Hanggang kailan maghihintay, hanggang kailan magtitiis
Ang dalangin mo, kailan maririnig

(Photos courtesy of

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OPM of the Masses

Brownbeat Allstars at Radio Republic's Instagig at B-Side

Brownbeat Allstars at Radio Republic’s Instagig at B-Side

Why on earth would an aged, old hippy from England set about writing a piece about Filipino music? My honest answer is I have no idea other than lately I’ve been inspired.

It was Karl Marx that said “religion was the opium of the masses”. Well, I’m sure as hell not getting into that debate. It’s James, the blogger from England that is saying “OPM is the driving force behind musical change”. I am more than happy to get into that debate. Something has happened; the doors have been kicked open and so many good bands, musicians and talent have broken through.

Just a few years ago, I would not have said it was not possible. 8 years on from my first visit here, I’m discovering some great sounds, good music with originality something that I had previously been hard pushed to find.

There has grown a thriving alternative music scene that would not have got a look in just a few years ago. What’s changed? Well, possibly a young population of educated, internet savvy music lovers who, due to the internet, had broadened its horizons, is what has changed. Some of this change has come about because of an Original Pilipino Music movement that has forced the industry to rethink and real talent is pouring out.

Good music and especially anything original was suppressed by a stale, money and fame-oriented entertainment industry which had sold its soul to the corporate contract. If any of them cared about being innovative, then they would get little backing and would have to sacrifice their art for exposure.

Sadly, there were many around that were only interested in fame and would play the industries game. Why would the TV companies whom are not known for bold visions take a gamble on anything new when the cover singers were a safer bet?
It was all about getting the contract from big companies to endorse their products and in return, they would promote their gigs. Established artists lived forever being signed up right, left and centre for endorsements, and the people knew only them and showed little desire for change.

Unlike other countries, artists could not rely on album sales as the mainstay of their income. From what I’m told, CDs were not big sellers here. To make a good living as an artist, you needed to do shows, and more so, endorsements. As in all things, that usually spells the death of art.
It became tiresome watching endless pre-pubescent little wannabes with little talent manufactured by TV companies and record labels that had no idea. The end product that was nothing worthwhile was being heard, nobody was brave enough to give any of the newer upcoming bands exposure and the business was dominated by agents who were only interested in turning out starlets like sausages for the consumption of a populace that was so used to it; they ate up all they were served.

Throughout that time, waiting in the wings was a whole crop of talented musicians who was getting no support and to become known would have to sell their soul to mediocrity for the chance to appear on TV to an unappreciative audience that was only interested in faces that sing covers, usually badly. From established artists to the new wannabes, TV would turn out endless dross.

Now I confess that I’m no expert and I’m even speculating a little, but my guess is that there was an audience growing that had grown up with the internet. They were discovering international music that was out of the box. At the same time, the OPM scene was being born.

To say it was born over recent years isn’t quite accurate. There was an old wave of Filipino artists from the 70s to the mid 90s that was tagged as OPM but many of the names associated as OPM artists was little more than American sound-alikes who rarely sang or wrote anything that could be defined as Filipino yet strangely they fell into the genre described as OPM.

Over recent times, the OPM definition progressed to mean Filipino artists that write their own material and not covering western songs which in the past had been much of what the old wave artists did. The emphasis seemed to shift to meaning more about Filipinos writing original compositions. It could be in English on occasion, it would matter not; it was original and written by a Filipino. The concept was embraced by some aspects of the music establishment and the door opened for a wave of fresh new talent that could write, and in effect, this produced innovation. From rock to reggae, from folk to hip hop, a whole wave of new music came to the fore.

Ang Bandang Shirley at Radio Republic's Instagig

Ang Bandang Shirley at Radio Republic’s Instagig

Ok, much of it was still unoriginal in style, and it would be hard to define any of it being particularly unique or having a Filipino sound, but music here has always had outside influences and that’s no different to many musical cultures throughout the world. Some of the hip hop that has risen over recent years most definitely does have a style which could be described as uniquely Filipino. However it’s defined, the result is a new wave of fresh artists with much originality, innovation which meant throwing off the copy culture of old.

OPM has been around a long time and much of the early music was perfectly credible. However, the stale industry helped to degenerate the form and they held a lot of power. It seemed OPM was music by nationality only and became a pointless flag waving exercise which in reality only served to degenerate the musical culture. It feels to me that the new wave of OPM has finally conquered and some great music is now being aired.

Aspects of OPM can be a little disingenuous and now it seems the old enemies of musical culture are now waving the OPM flag and it seems sometimes that every radio station seems to be claiming the mantle of being the original OPM station. From some of those making that claim, it’s a little laughable and the term is now being used like a brand which isn’t good in my opinion. It’s in danger of losing its meaning. Some radio stations are claiming to be the fathers of OPM, but actually have been musical culture assassins. Some have been true to their course, such as RadioRepublic.PH. In its early days, they have featured old and new wave OPM but seem to have got on course with establishing the truer definition of OPM.

For me, personally I don’t care if music is Filipino or foreign. The only definition I care about is good music, no matter where it was from. Due to the nature of the music industry in the Philippines previously, it was often not good music at all. The good thing about the new wave of OPM music that has been let off its leash is its quality. Some class acts have broken through. They may not aspire to be international megastars but no matter. Music here now has become Filipino again and the old elite have had to adapt or die. The new music is much more the OPM of the masses. It has allowed those that play for the love of music to step into the limelight and the ones that seek fame only are still there but less significant.

I’ve been enjoying this musical journey so much that I’m going to showcase some of it from time to time. I will be adding music of interest from Filipino artists on this blog. The music industry of the Philippines has done a great disservice to musical culture in the past. It’s great to see the quality begin to shine through.

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