Disc-o-vering Jay: Odyssey’s Jay Fonacier

Local music retailing store stalwart Odyssey’s top guy Jay Fonacier shares his spin on life in the biz of trading tunes

On Work:

I juggle twenty things in a day, It’s my personality and also my skill, I wouldn’t be happy just doing one thing. I’m way too hands on. In fact I wish I were doing some work right now.

On Music:

I’m a real music guy, growing up I used to spend my entire allowance on records. The love of music keeps me going because retail is really challenging. You have to get fulfilment from hearing about new bands, going to concerts, and seeing hit artists fly off the shelves.

On the Digital Future:

Being a child of the 1980s I’m not totally digital yet, CDs are still my favored medium, But I have a kick-ass vinyl collection and I still have the mix tapes I made for high school girlfriends.

Besides piracy, our greatest challenge these days comes from digital downloads. We try to make the store and the products more attractive so people keep coming in. But I’ve been spending a lot of my time preparing for a digital future. We’re putting up our own download site and introducing these interactive digital kiosks into our stores. Now you can listen to an unlimited amount of music before you buy. It’s the start of an evolution to an age where everything’s more digital.

I look forward to a future where a customer would come in and he could browse through the whole catalog, choose whatever he wants, and we produce the CD for him. Since it’s all bits and bytes, it really does away with our problems regarding inventory. We could have a fantastic store where we just beam music into your portable music device.

Worst case: Nobody buys physical product anymore and they’re all downloading it for free. Nobody pays for anything digital

Best case: We’ll be there with the most popular format that the market consumes music and media in the future

On Piracy:

I think that the pirates have a pretty comprehensive offering. They’re quite creative and resourceful, I have to give them that. They have a good idea, it’s convenient. But we want to improve upon that, to offer something that’s more exciting, but legal. As the Philippine economy progresses, there should be less tolerance for piracy.

If I had my way I’d crush them under a steamroller with me driving while wearing a hardhat. They’re freaking playing dirty. I’d bury them under all the fake CDs they’ve produced. Or I’d force them to listen to really bad 1980s heavy metal, hairspray American guitar rock like Poison and Nelson.

On the Music Business:

The market is really primarily a hot hits market, it’s not very deep or into multiple genres. There are times when we tried all these titles, but they wouldn’t sell. We really have to focus on our high inventory, high turnover popular products.

A major record label may have a total of around 20 new releases out in a month, but they’ll only let 3 or 4 trickle down to the Philippine market, the rest will never hit our shores because of shipment issues. I’d like it to be more like the book industry where you can release a greater variety of material and see what really catches on. The bottleneck is the distribution policy of the major labels. Being able to release more product for the ears is what I’d really like to change.

We don’t have many niche radio stations. With the internet hopefully more people get to hear more kinds of music and the labels will be ok with trying out more vanguard, exotic titles and categories, and there’d be more radio stations for the independent listener. Hopefully they make it easy for us retailers to show them this variety. We’re only reacting to their policy that we have to keep it mainstream.

I’m happy with how some of these local indie record labels have been coming up. People have been asking after them. We want more bands of that ilk to succeed.

When there’s a certain title we really want to push, we’ll rack it out and make sure that even a blind person won’t be able to not check it out. Sometimes we’ve been successful.

You gotta support local artists. There’s this whole OPM resurgence. People think that these corporate juggernauts make so much money but that’s not really true. These guys take a lot of risks, I respect what they do. They take a bet on twenty artists and only a couple will bear fruit. Digital sort of takes out the risk in that. It’s important to show bands our support through legal means, whether physical or digital. If you guys love your music you should take a stand. Keep the ecosystem going.

Profits aside, if I could go crazy I’d just stock the stores with so many genres. Let them be a place where anybody could come in, from the coolest Brit bands to all these Brazilian samba labels. I’ll just pack them in with everything, with something for everyone.

-interview by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published in Manual magazine, 2007

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Crash Chords: Rock the Line

Pinoy Rock, or Filipino Rock, is Rock music – Pinoy style, Made in the Philippines,  Original Filipino Rock Music. The words may be in English or whatever language, but the sound is pure Pinoy.

Timeline of Pinoy Rock

Pre-Rock Age (The Stone Age)

  • “Combos” roamed the scene, bagging nontraditional instruments like floor-bass bongos, maracas, and gas tanks
  • Bobby Gonzales – One of the first Filipino proto-rockers, major hit was “Hahabul-Habol”
  • Eddie Mesa – the “Elvis Presley of the Philippines”

The 1960s

Swingers’ Scene

Maria Cafra logo.

Maria Cafra logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Instrumental bands like The Deltas, The Celtics, RJ & the Riots, The Technicolors, The Downbeats, The Hi-Jacks, and The Electromaniacs cropped up, spawning the first Filipino singer-songwriters
  • The British Music Invasion influenced a new breed of acts like Downbeats, Tilt Down Men, The Moonstrucks, The Dynasouls, and Bits & Pieces.
  • Rock culture arose in the wake of Woodstock producing acts like Circus Band, Maria Cafra, Anakbayan, Isang Kilo Band, Psyclones, Makati Avenue Blues Band and Juan De La Cruz Band

The 1970s

Classic & Psychedelic

The Best of Apo Hiking Society Volume 1
Apo Hiking Society (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Nationalism drove the rise in songs composed in Tagalog. Socio-political issues were hot topics for all artists.
  • Freddie Aguilar, Asin and Florante fused Folk with Rock.
  • Freddie’s debut single, “Anak,” became the most commercially successful Filipino recording in history
  • Apo Hiking Society, Anakbayan, Juan de la Cruz Band, and Banyuhay also came to the fore.
  • The term OPM (Original Pilipino Music) was touted.
  • Hotdog gave birth to the Manila sound.

The 1980s

Punks and Protests

Freddie Aguilar is a very popular folk musicia...

Freddie Aguilar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enveloped Ideas

Enveloped Ideas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Protestors used song lyrics to vent socially relevant themes, like in the music of Gary Granada and the band Buklod
  • Freddie Aguilar’s Bayan Ko (My Country) was the unofficial anthem of the 1986 EDSA Revolution.
  • Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad popularized Ethno-rock
  • Pinoy punk rockers like Betrayed, G.I. & the Idiots, The Jerks, Urban Bandits, and WUDS could care less about politics, it was all about the attitude
  • With The Dawn’s independently released single “Enveloped Ideas”, a New Wave of music dawned over the scene.  Unsigned struggling local bands like Deans December, Ethnic Faces, Identity Crisis, and Violent Playground gained cult status

The 1990s

Pop and Postmodernism

The rise of NU 107.
The rise of NU 107. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Parokya ni Edgar at a live performance
Parokya ni Edgar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Introvoys and After Image ruled over the early 1990s
  • Then in 1993 the Eraserheads released their first commercial album, Ultraelectromagneticpop and the decade was defined.
  • Rivermaya emerged as a worthy challenger while Yano persisted in mining the sociopolitical schtick.
  • The NU Rock Awards gained cred as the awards to pursue
  • Wolfgang and Razorback muscled into the Metal sceneOn their heels followed Nu Metal mutineers Greyhoundz, Cheese, and Slapshock.
  • Novelty rockers Parokya ni Edgar began to hit it big

The 2000s

Pretty and Pogi

Barbie's Cradle's Barbie Almalbis, Wendell Gar...
Barbie’s Cradle’s Barbie Almalbis, Wendell Garcia, and Kakoi Legaspi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • The upsurge in popularity of Hip-hop, R&B and covers saw hard rock go dormant at the start of this decade.
  • The commercial success of Bamboo and Orange and Lemons got labels interested in bands and song-craft again.
  • Cute singer-songwriters such as Barbie Almalbis and Kitchie Nadal gained fans of all persuasions while the “good-looking” front-men of Cueshe and Hale broke out as the new breed of matinee idol.

More stuff at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinoy_rock

-compiled, adapted and edited by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2006

Crash Chords: Playing Along (music & sports)

Cover of "Bring It On (Widescreen Collect...

Cover via Amazon

Extreme singing anyone? Maybe popping a neck ligament while belting power ballads can now be classified as a sports injury.

Sports and music go together like quarterbacks and cheerleaders. That’s why I’m starting off with the much-acclaimed cheerleading saga “Bring It On”. From the pre-credits sequence to the training montage sequences to the final competition, this film comes as close to perfection as possible. As far as I’m concerned, there have been very few moments where we get to experience that perfect marriage between sports, music, and cinema. And they’re all in “Bring It On”. Too bad the available soundtrack album doesn’t do justice to the gamut of music featured in the actual movie. It’s a major travesty that the two climactic cheer themes weren’t included, at the very least. But listening to cheer music is only half as cool without the perky visuals anyway. And “Bring It On” is worth experiencing in Progressive Scan High Definition and Extended Surround Sound Plus. If only for the extended version Toni Basil’s immortal cheer classic “Mickey”.

Ok, for those on a more “classical” bent, there are other great sports movie soundtracks. Baseball may seem to be the sport that lends itself easily to cinematic musical metaphors and bringing out a guy’s sensitive side. Right before he went on to work exclusively for Pixar, Randy Newman hit one right out of the park with his moving, evocative score for the Robert Redford baseball tear-jerker “The Natural”. James Horner’s “Field Of Dreams” score was a stirring home run as well.

Cover of "Brian's Song"

Cover of Brian’s Song

Brian’s Song” was the smash 1971 TV movie starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams, that tells the story of Chicago Bears football player Brian Piccolo, his friendship with teammate Gale Sayers, and struggle with terminal cancer. The film struck such a chord that it got a theatrical release, a remake in 2001, and is considered one of the top “makes-men-cry” movies. The musical theme to Brian’s Song, “The Hands of Time,” composed by Michel Legrand, with lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman, also hit it big.

Cover of "Ice Castles: Original Soundtrac...

Cover of Ice Castles: Original Soundtrack Album

On the other hand, what could be more girly (or gay) than ice skating? The 1980 movie Ice Castles wrung out a tender, tearjerking love story from the stirring whirl of Olympic Competition Skating. But it was its theme, the song “Looking through the Eyes of Love”, written by Marvin Hamlisch & Carole Bayer Sager and originally performed by Melissa Manchester, that struck gold, and continues to be a staple in other competitive sports such as talent contests, beauty pageants, and weddings.

Chariots of Fire (instrumental)

Chariots of Fire (instrumental) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who else starts humming the melody that goes “tun tun tun tun tun… tun… tun tun tun tun tun…” whenever they go running? Footage of sprinters in slow motion was never the same again after the world first got a listen to the synthesized stylings of Vangelis’s Academy Award-winning “Chariots of Fire” soundtrack in 1981. A master of the Moog who was once asked to join the prog-rock band Yes, the Greek composer Vangelis crafted, in Chariot’s main “Titles” theme, a magnificent symphony to exertion, grace, and victory.

200

200 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John Williams also took a shot at this goal by composing the Theme and Fanfare for the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. The usual bombastic Williams style goes on to win a Grammy Award and becomes one of the best known (and frequently borrowed) musical themes for any Olympic Games.

Not to be left out, we Pinoys can unabashedly belt out our homegrown arena anthems with the best of them. These include the Sex Bomb dancers’ imaginative “Basketball” and Manny Pacquiao’s vanity track Para Sa ‘yo Ang Laban Na ‘To. Maybe in the next Olympics videoke could be one of the new sports in competition. That might just give us our best chances for a gold medal. But win or lose, we’ll do… what we have to do… and do it… our way…

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2006

Crash Chords: Driving Beats (music to travel to)

Interstate Love Song

Interstate Love Song (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this age where dubbing mix tapes has been largely usurped by burning mix CDs which is gradually being supplanted by composing MP3 playlists, it’s easier than ever to cook up a tailor-fit musical program to suit every activity. There’s little better than going all meta while on a road trip, plane ride or boat voyage and listening to songs about modes of transportation and travel destinations. There are old, reliable chestnuts like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” or “Get Here” (lyrically they’re practically the same song), “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane”, “Sailing”, or “Ocean Deep”; the usual FM radio suspects such as Sheryl Crow’s “Everyday is a Winding Road” or Stone Temple Pilots’ “Interstate Love Song”; Heavy Metal spark plugs like AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”, Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights”, and Steppenwolf’s hog-rider anthem “Born To Be Wild”; or country classics like Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” and Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway”.

Hardcore travelers may choose to ditch the tunes and concentrate on the native sounds of their chosen location. But there are sure to be instances where cocooning one’s self in music, ANY music, will be much more preferable to snores or vapid chatter.

As far as I’m concerned, travel music has to be non-nauseating, non-irritating, and non-repetitive. You do NOT want to suffer from Last Song Syndrome while in transit. Nor do you want to develop a headache or a hard-on. So thematically, it’s best to stick to geography and commuting to keep your mind out of the gutter and in the right groove.

Deutsch: Logo

Deutsch: Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To set the scene, it’s useful to look to the continental landmarks such as “Africa”, Toto’s number one 1983 hit about their safari-slash-spirit-quest on the Dark Continent. Appropriately enough, this song was included in the soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Then there’s Men At Work’s 1982 wonder “Land Down Under”, which I think lay the groundwork for our future tolerance of Crocodile Dundee, Russell Crowe, and the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Folk icons Simon and Garfunkel are both patriotic and pensive in “America” their dramatic ballad to Western wanderlust. Paul Simon was also later inspired by that enduring mecca of musical Americana with “Graceland”.

The band named America on the other hand, burst onto the scene with “Ventura Highway” the lead track and first single from their aptly titled album Homecoming.  As recounted by composer Dewey Bunnell, the song is about leaving, escaping the cold Omaha winters by moving to California.

Artwork for Michigan by Sufjan Stevens

Artwork for Michigan by Sufjan Stevens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In terms of geographical ambition though, Sufjan Stevens just can’t be topped. With plans to come up with an album for each of the 50 United States, Stevens started off with Michigan, a collection of folk songs, instrumentals, and odes to the cities and landmarks of his home state that is loaded with vivid imagery, characters, and sentiments on faith, humanity, and hope for the future. Illinois explored even weightier subjects, including such native sons as serial killer John Wayne Gacy and poet Carl Sandburg, and ended up as one of the most highly acclaimed and awarded independent albums of 2005. Up next, fans are speculating between Oregon, Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Arkansas on the Sufjan state list.

Across the pond, Scottish band Ballboy penned the glorious strings-and-spoken-word piece “A Europewide Search For Love”. Set to swooning cellos and a shuffling beat, we hear front man Gordon McIntyre speak-singing verses such as “someone once told me ‘the world is moving because you are’, and tonight there are people travelling through Europe on trains, looking for something that they’ve never had before, wondering if they’ll find it and if they’ll recognise it if they do” in a warm Scottish burr that makes you want to line up for tickets to the Trans-Siberian railroad post-haste.

A personal favorite, the criminally underappreciated The Wedding Present, produced Mini – an EP celebrating the Michelin lifestyle, sort of like a more muscular and masculine musical version of Stanley Donen’s “Two for the Road”. Mini contains songs bearing such titles as “Drive”, “Convertible”, and “Sports Car”. These naughty rock confections feature enough fun raspy engine noises to get one’s motor running and drive purring. The Weddoes’ most recent album, Take Fountain, was greatly inspired by front man David Gedge’s own transatlantic/transcontinental romance thus featuring tracks like the jangly “Ringway to Sea-Tac”, the dense epic “Interstate 5”, and the bouncy “I’m from Further North Than You” (formerly entitled Edinburgh).

On the OPM front, we can always hum “Tayo na sa Antipolo” while taking Ortigas Extension or belt Sampaguita’s “Laguna” as we cruise down SLEX. Just a parting suggestion, if ever The Amazing Race producers were to look for a new song to base the show’s theme on, may I respectfully propose the Flaming Lips’ “Race For The Prize”?

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2006

Crash Chords: A Line In The Sand (beach music)

junior kilat

junior kilat (Photo credit: RainHeart)

Hey Jude‘s Boracay, photo by Jude Defensor

There’s no better way to get into the mood for writing about beach music than actually going to the beach! So naturally, I’m off to Boracay. On the ride from Kalibo, I happen to be seated right in front of a set of speakers blaring the Visayan reggae of Junior Kilat. The band’s front man Budoy Marabiles seems to have gained instant nationwide notoriety through Celebrity Big Brother, even if in the Visayas his wacky cable TV magazine program on small-scale industry called “Ismol Tym” has already made him a media icon for years. Junior Kilat brings to life the legendary Sigbin of Cebu’s lower mythology through their in-your-face dub/reggae act. The band’s live performances are notorious for their crazy energy and madcap antics. Reggae maybe be familiar to most for its down-to-earth arrangements and carefree message, but Junior Kilat adds droll humor and complex issues to their atmospheric sound, the upshot is a true island original.

Boracay’s DJ Manster. photo by Jude Defensor

Upon arriving at Boracay’s blessed White Beach, it was time to drink down the sunset over at Hey Jude’s while chilling out to the soundtrack spun by island DJ extraordinaire, Manster. The night-time hours faded into a colorful blur and before I knew it, I was brunching at d*mall, munching on a Mozzarella Burger over at Byte Club, and reflecting on the patron saint of beach dudes, Jimmy Buffet, and his cult hit “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. In Jimmy’s own words, “The myth of the cheeseburger in paradise goes back to a long trip on my first boat, the Euphoria. We had run into some very rough weather crossing the Mona Passage between Hispaniola and Puerto Ricoand broke our bow sprit. The ice in our box had melted, and we were doing the canned-food-and-peanut-butter diet. The vision of a piping hot cheeseburger kept popping into my mind. We limped up the Sir Francis Drake Channel and into Roadtown on the island of Tortola, where a brand-new marina and bar sat on the end of the dock, like a mirage.” Awesome.

Margaritaville-West German7''SingleCover

Margaritaville-West German7”SingleCover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Singer/songwriter Buffett has translated his easygoing Gulf Coast persona into a successful recording career and a business empire based on a lifestyle spent by the beach. With a core of Sun Belt fans he has dubbed the “Parrotheads”, and songs like “Margaritaville” hitting the Top Ten, Buffett’s tropical world view has earned him the throne of king of all beach bums.

It’s interesting to note how beach music (also called shag music) didn’t really have a point of origin. The carefree beach dances that used the name started somewhere – the beaches of South Carolina, where white kids had broken the color barrier as early as the 1930s by convincing local DJs to add rhythm and blues to their lists. Shag was one of those rare cultural events that picked its own music after the fact. When the 1960s rolled along, beach culture found its new epicenter on the Pacific coastlines of California and Hawaii.

Pet Sounds has been regarded as one of the gre...

Pet Sounds has been regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time and is one of the most universally-acclaimed albums in rock history. “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. Rolling Stone . November 18, 2003 . . Retrieved November 3, 2009 . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beach-related or otherwise, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds is one of the best albums ever, breaking ground for an impending wave of innovative and intelligent rock. The project was also a musical watershed in the studio craft of composition and production, featuring dense layers of gorgeous male vocals, keyboards and guitars overlaid with orchestrated strings, bicycle bells, harpsichords, flutes, the theremin, Hawaiian instruments, Coca-Cola cans, barking dogs, and more. Looking past the technical achievements, the songs themselves stand as classics, with brilliant melodies sustaining lyrical themes of love, innocence, spirituality and modern-day ennui. The album may be brimming with Brian Wilson’s hallmark idiosyncrasies, but its vocal harmonies remain pure Beach Boys.

Where else would we expect to find a wellspring of sweet summer pop than Australia, that lucky country of lifeguards. The Lucksmiths are an Aussie indie-rock trio turning out wispy folk-pop melodies that underline self-effacingly witty lyrics to cheery-poignant songs with titles like “T-Shirt Weather” and “The Year of Driving Langorously”.  Their eight albums are overflowing with lighthearted, good-natured, laidback but sharply written ditties concerning swimming pools, road trips, theme parks, summer jobs and summer stock, in a wistful, jangly style I like to call “breezy indie”.  They’re surf and turf and shrimp on the barbie with a slight dash of The Smiths.

Deutsch: Ballermann 6/(span. Balneario Nº 6) F...

Deutsch: Ballermann 6/(span. Balneario Nº 6) Foto: 22. Mai 2001, Lothar Velling, Disenyador gràfic, Espanya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What have 600 years of progress since the Renaissance managed to cook up on Europe’s beaches? For Old Worldbeach culture, it has been reported that the seaside villages on the Balearic Islands of Spain are strictly separated by nationality. The Germans here and the English there and ne’er the twain shall meet. Ballermann 6 refers to one of the best-known clubs on the isle of Mallorca. Decidedly lowbrow and unpretentious, this mecca of mass tourism plays the most popular, trashy, summery music you can imagine. The English say that Ballerman 6 is where all the Germans go to get drunk at breakfast time and pass out in the noon-day sun to British music. Although it’s more accurate to state that what they’re really playing are mostly UK-produced remixes of old American pop songs (i.e. the Pet Shop Boys either riffing on or ripping off the Village People). While the Germans contend that when the English do have the good taste to write a whole new song for the occasion, it’s usually about some lofty theme such as rubber chickens.

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2006.

Crash Chords: D’ Hebigats

Heady, heavy assignment, figure out the TEN most influential Pinoy albums EVER in less than a week. In the end, I could only come up with nine, and a few days late too. But, tough noogies. During crunches like these it turns out that everyone’s an expert, everyone’s a critic, and everyone interprets the word “influential” in a different way.

Ultraelectromagneticjam!: The Music Of The Era...

Ultraelectromagneticjam!: The Music Of The Eraserheads (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everybody agrees on one album though – the Eraserheads’ “Ultraelectromagneticpop”. I can still remember watching their first TV performance on Dawn Zulueta’s late night show RSVP, and foreseeing that they were going to be big. Released in 1993 by BMG Records, the album’s commercial success rejiggered the sound of the decade, reintroducing band-based music into the pop mainstream, leading the way for rivals Rivermaya, Yano, and arguably every Pinoy pop-rock band created since then.

Filipino musician Pepe Smith, Philippine Rock ...

Filipino musician Pepe Smith, Philippine Rock n Roll Legend (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Going back to the era when Pinoy rock first exploded, the Golden Age is tied irrevocably to the rise of The Juan Dela Cruz Band, founded by legends Edmund and Mike Hanopol. The band was named after the common man and played rock for the common man. Although the band debuted with “Up in Arms,” in 1971, it is “Himig Natin“, released in 1974 and featuring the too-cool trifecta of Mike, Wally Gonzales, and the notorious Joey “Pepe” Smith on the cover that will always resonate for a generation of teenagers that lived through the “maximum tolerance” of martial rule, a time when sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll raged under the cloak of curfew.

Hotdog’s Unang Kagat” combined big band music with droll Taglish lyrics resulting in their patented “Manila Sound”. Hitting it big with the theme song to the 1974 Ms. Universe Pageant held here in Manila, “Ikaw ang Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko” could have cemented Hotdog’s immortality all on its own, if it hadn’t been followed by the just-as-memorable smashes “Pers Lab”, “Annie Batungbakal”, “Bongga Ka ‘Day”, “Beh Buti Nga”, and eventually “Manila”. The 1970s saw Hotdog, together with VST and Company and the Boyfriends, pushing Filipino pop music to innovate, adopting foreign trends such as disco to serve local tastes.

The culturati may beg to differ, but novelty songs are as important a subgenre in Pinoy music as jazz and classical. Although its roots can be traced as far back as vaudeville and even bugtungan, and its fruits continue to haunt us in the musical stylings of the Sexbomb girls and the Masculados, only one man can stake a claim as conquistador of this turf, and that’s “Magellan”, Yoyoy Villame’s first recording in 1972. As an artist, Yoyoy has had his ups and downs, but he’s never worn a frown.

Freddie Aguilar is a very popular folk musicia...

Freddie Aguilar is a very popular folk musician from the Philippines who is best known for the hit – Bayan Ko-, which became the anthem for the opposition to the Marcos regime during the 1986 EDSA Revolution. Photo taken in Tondo, National Capitol Region, The Phillipines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the late 1970s Filipino rock musicians started infusing folk influences into their sound, leading to the 1978 breakthrough success of Freddie Aguilar‘s debut recording “Anak”. This album was the most commercially successful Filipino recording in history, even crossing over to the rest of Asia and Europe. Master Freddie went on to record other powerful (and revolutionary, in a literal sense) anthems such as “Bayan Ko“, and he also paved the way for later Filipino folk stars such as Joey Ayala and Grace Nono.

Rey Valera

Rey Valera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Few could have predicted that a fresh young 12 year-old mayor’s daughter would eventually spawn a veritable industry unto herself after first listening to the sweet, inoffensive, obviously-sucking-up-to-the-radio-stations ditty “Mr. DJ”. But the hits and record albums kept coming and a Megastar was born. To her credit, Ate Shawie has managed to use her considerable popularity to boost the careers of talented composers such as George Canseco and Rey Valera, and even other singers like Raymond Lauchengco…

…who, as we of a certain age all know, shot to stardom with his songs for the soundtrack to the mother of all 1980s barkada flicks – Bagets (and its sequel). Not only did this flick define teen fashion, trends and morès for the pre-Edsa era, but its accompanying songs burrowed into the collective consciousness, prompting laughter and tears for many proms, graduations, homecomings, reunions, and nostalgia sessions to come. “Growing Up”, anyone?

Francis Magalona

Francis Magalona (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Francis M’s “Yo!” exploded in 1990, the first rap album by a Filipino to be commercially released in the Philippines, giving birth to Filipino hip hop (for good and ill). Francis M always seemed to take rapping seriously, unlike some of the subsequent pretenders (like the Es, Vs, and “Amirs”) to his throne as “King of Pinoy Rap”, thus earning the respect of even the folksters and rockers, and bridging a customarily unbridgeable divide.

A couple of years ago, thanks to an inundation of Chi-novela-induced pop and other Pan-Asian pap, it was a real slog wading through the sickly-sweet waters for something less cloying. But something was there all right, and ‘twas Sugarfree no less. Drowning in obscurity for months, their album “Sa Wakas!” was finally rescued from the depths and heralded the resurgence of the real Pinoy music scene. Record labels started taking chances on local talent again, and the rest, as they say, is the present.

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2005

Crash Chords: Music for the Mod and Manor Born

You’ve got the money, the education, and you’re starting to climb the social ladder. You’ve read the books, slipped into the suits, and made the connections. Now you’ve got to learn to set the mood for your upwardly mobile life. What sounds should you be playing on your sophisticated system?

You need music to sip martinis to, background noise for sinking into thick shag carpeting or lounging on plush leather upholstery, a soundtrack for elegant seduction scenes and leisurely rounds of foreplay, NOT for “getting it on” or “shaking your booty”.

Burt Bacharach in concert, 2008.

Burt Bacharach in concert, 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Forget rap, rock, hip-hop, R&B, and folk. We’re focusing on the recording industry’s upper crust here. Common opinion would also encourage you to turn to jazz. But honestly, all those unpredictable bursts of melisma and improvisations can sometimes set your teeth on edge, not the best match for feeling suave and debonair. It’s tricky to slow-dance to besides. We’re looking for songs that sound good even at half-volume, with lyrics that whisper sex as a suggestion, not a declaration. Burt Bacharach is the undisputed master of this style, no man swung as groovily as the Burt. Dismissed as elevator music for decades until pre-millenial tension nurtured the retro lounge music scene of the 1990s, Bacharach’s deceptively subtle compositions continue to influence today’s groovemeisters.

Cinerama came about when The Wedding Present’s David Gedge crossed over from abrasive punk rock into melodic groovy pop. Gedge carried over his knack for crafting honest, understated songs and enhanced them with a lovely 1960s Phil Spector/Burt Bacharach sensibility. The resulting retro pastiche sounds like a homage to classic pop as influenced by the movie soundtracks of Ennio Morricone and Isaac Hayes. Charming orchestral flourishes and lush production wrap each sublime pop nugget, ripe with lyrics revolving around the usual comedy of errors that takes place between men and women in love or lust. Gedge still snarls and growls a bit, but here he also croons and makes you swoon.

The Aluminum Group are not your parents’ easy listening music. Fronted by John and Frank Navin, two brothers from Chicago whose icy-cool voices blend silkily over words that reference postmodernism and urban life. Their sound is a mellow mix of acoustic guitars, strings, banjos, brass, and synths, sounding something like crystallized pocket symphonies retrofit for digital music players. Although their post-rock dabblings tend to teeter close to the brink of style-over-substance, the Navins manage to give an edgy high-gloss twist to the high pop radio sound of their inspirations: Jimmy Webb, the Carpenters, and Bacharach of course.

The Essential Michael Nyman Band

The Essential Michael Nyman Band (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Classical music doesn’t always mean stuffy instrumental shit that sounds like it belongs in a museum, or a mausoleum. There’s a ton of stuff out there that’s exciting and moving, and just happens to have been recorded with classical instruments. British composer Michael Nyman coined the term “minimalism”, a form of composition that relies on simple patterns and repeated figures, where the musical skill lies in subtle progressive or cyclical alterations to this tapestry to achieve its effects. In other words, this is deep stuff, man. Nyman’s music sounds eerie and dangerous, and can easily hypnotize you with its elegance and poignancy. Although fellow minimalist Philip Glass has a substantially higher profile, it’s Nyman who has the most cred with the intellectual-and-indie crowd.

Neil Hannon

Neil Hannon (Photo credit: sjrowe53)

Just to add to the mix, anything French from the 1960s-70s is also a good bet. Check out Michel Legrand and Francoise Hardy, they’re the sonic equivalents of champagne and silk stockings. If you’re the patriotic type who plans to stick to the KBP radio code of 4 OPMs per clock hour, then 1980s-era Kuh Ledesma and Ric Segreto are quite respectable choices, as long as you stick to their songs that have yet to be covered (and good luck with that) then you’re sure to astound the ears of any date younger than 24.Michael Nyman has greatly influenced the work of The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon. Blending minimalist orchestration with witty lyrics sung in Hannon’s warm tenor, their music sounds grand but cozy, intricate but intimate. Hannon’s subject matter ranges from fairy tales and famous books to playboys and international travel, all delivered in an earnest yet hip tone seemingly voiced by the probable lovechild of Rex Harrison and Nico. These are complicated songs about complicated things that will appeal to anyone from geeks to Goths.

Now that you have all these idea for software, how about hardware? Even among audiophiles, vintage gear suggests a certain flair. Analog outclasses digital in the realm of luxury listening. Among these circles, vacuum tubes and vinyl rule, not microchips and compact discs. And lastly, don’t forget to hide your Magic Sing microphone somewhere safe but inaccessible.

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved

Toti’s Ten

Music guru Toti Dalmacion lists 10 luxurious LPs

Luxurious is a word I don’t often associate with the music I listen to, but I suppose my interpretation for it would be either it’s lush sounding or just an all-around great release and I never get tired listening to it.

1. The Blue Nile – Hats
The quintessential TBN album for me. (although I love the other 3 albums as well) The Blue Nile at their most depressing best. Picturesque and moody.

Cover of "And She Closed Her Eyes"

Cover of And She Closed Her Eyes

2. Stina Nordenstam – And She Closed Her Eyes
The first album Memories of Color made me listen but this album had me wanting to bring her in (commercial suicide yes but it would’ve been really be soul  satisfying. Unfortunately, she is said to have stage fright so forget that). Just plain beautiful, combining ambient, jazz and THAT voice.

3. David Sylvian – Brilliant Trees
I have been a fan since his Japan days. This debut solo effort made me worship him all the more. Just check out “The Ink in The Well” and “Nostalgia”… and you’ll know why.

4. Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach – Painted from A Memory
This has got to be one of, if not the best ever, collaboration in decades. It also highlights Costello’s vocal prowess as well as the arranging genius of Bacharach. No dud track whatsoever.

5. Paul Weller – Paul Weller
Weller at his funkiest. A great comeback/debut album that has allowed him to go on and be the Modfather that he is.

6. XTC– Skylarking
My all time favorite band. There are lots of other great XTC albums but the flow and songs of Beatle-esque proportions make this such an enjoyable listen despite of the conflict between producer Todd Rundgren and the band during the recording of this album.

7. The Wedding Present – George Best
It could be the title or the album cover but I’ve always found this album to be well worth it.  David Gedge may write songs about the same thing over and over again and they still come out enjoyable and fresh.

8. Gene – Olympian
One of the most underrated British bands to ever come out and the guitar work of Steve Mason is sadly overlooked as well. This debut is a classic for its swagger and Englishness post-The Smiths but fortunately not too Britpop.

9. Terry Hall – Home
Another striking, underrated album and artist. Great tunes from start to end for hopeless romantics.

Swoon (Prefab Sprout album)

Swoon (Prefab Sprout album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

10. Prefab Sprout – Andromeda Heights
A misunderstood, often criticized Prefab Sprout album due to its lush production and sappy tunes of love. While it is smooth and not as gritty as “Swoon” nor with the feel of their other equally great albums, it’s still not your average love themed ridden album and just with “Steal Your Thunder”… it’s already “LUXURIOUS”

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2005

Crash Chords: Do You Hear What I Hear?

Christmas-time cues the start of the sonic parade of nonstop carol medleys, sentimental wishing-you-were-here ballads, and religious hymns. It takes some effort to find something on the air that doesn’t sound like it’s being spewed by a perky elf, homesick OFW, or sanctimonious choirboy. During this most frenetic of seasons, ironically there’s a dearth of music to chill out too, or any tunes that just sound cool. This is supposed to be the time of Siberian winds and cold snaps and winter wonderlands (either real, imagined, or simulated) and yet the airwaves all seem to want to keep the sap-o-meter at a nice tepid level. Well, freeze that. Keep your stereo system frostily aloof by shunning those overcooked standards and reheated favorites. Crank up these CDs (or compressed audio files) and drown out the noise of the neighborhood kids and the neighborhood malls that are all just caroling and clamoring for your money anyway.

takk

takk (Photo credit: 1541)

While not exactly having anything to do with the Baby Jesus and Santa Claus, the Icelandic group Sigur Ros’ third album, Takk, can almost make you hear the finger of God stirring up the heavens as he tinkers with the Northern Lights. Takk’s soundscapes flow like a glacier surging past fjords and icebergs. Takk makes us feel the raw yearning of a land defined by ice and frost. It’s like they’ve adapted the better parts of the novel “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” into an avant-garde musical.

Lead singer Jonsi’s chilling falsetto soars over notes of frozen glory, moaning and sighing as if he were the spawn of a Christmas elf and an archangel deep in the throes of orgasm (or dying of hypothermia). With song lyrics written in the mostly-made-up language of ‘Hopelandic’, he could actually be saying “deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la la la la la” for all we know, but the swirling crescendos make it all sound so magnificently grand and profound. It’s best to listen to this record while the temperatures are still low, it just might melt in the summer heat.

The Hague Jazz 2009 - Rod McKuen

The Hague Jazz 2009 – Rod McKuen (Photo credit: Haags Uitburo)

Rod McKuen‘s carols are nothing new or groundbreaking. To most modern listeners, they’d come off as quaintly old-fashioned, but in a good way. In the right mood, his songs can both soothe and charm. Rod speak-sings in a deep, velvety sigh that we Pinoys would characterize as “malamig at suave” (cool and smooth), quite an antidote to the overproduced treacly pap that usually fills the Christmas CD sale bins. Just left of folk, drifting slightly towards ballad territory, and very easy on the ears, Mckuen’s Christmas album presents some songs that are sad, some that are upbeat, but each one lyrically deep. His compositions have the tendency to borrow grace notes from classics like Pachelbel’s Canon or to erupt into delightful instrumental interludes. These are carols you can kick back, sit down, and sip hot chocolate to without having to turn your brain off.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Trans-Siberian Orchestra (Photo credit: James Marvin Phelps)

For more recognizable Christmas music interpreted in an extraordinary style, check out the Trans-Siberian Orchestra‘s rock opera trilogy. This ambitious and complex work tells the story of heaven’s youngest angel called back to earth to continue Jesus’ unfinished work. This time he has to help redeem not only Christmas, but the soul of humankind itself.

Straddling the borders of rock opera, progressive rock, and New Age music, these aren’t your typical Christmas albums. But then, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra just happens to be the alter ego of Savatage, a band known for building on high concepts and complex arrangements, raising them far above the limits of ordinary creativity.

Most of the tracks consist of walls of sound constructed from a mortar of electric guitar, synthesizers, choirs, and drums. Hard and heavy power chords crash into gentle piano or delicate classical guitar melodies. Just when all the bombast starts to get overwhelming, the band intersperses a few peaceful passages featuring vocal or instrumental solos. The effect is sublime but not sentimental, ingenuous but not affected, all in all a very Christmassy contradiction.

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2005

Crash Chords: Rant and Rave

first published under music column “Crash Chords” in Manual magazine, 2005

Toti Dalmacion

“We are not hip, we are trendy,” and with that devastating statement music guru Toti Dalmacion effectively dismisses the nascent Filipino music scene that he himself has carefully helped cultivate. In an era of unlimited downloads, overstocked record stores, and competing music channels, it’s ironic how most Filipinos continue to stick to what’s popular, safe and familiar. What started out as a casual chat about different music genres morphed into an impassioned manifesto regarding all that is wrong with the local music scene. Toti did oblige us by offering a few pithy notes on the various genre definitions, but not before expounding that the labels are little more than shelving categories for the stores to use, and for record companies to slap onto compilation CDs that usually offer an inaccurate or watered-down version of the particular genre that they’re supposed to represent. Toti just wishes that things were less about the money, less about the image, and more about the music.

Differentiating the sub-genres of techno music is all about listening to the layers. It all started with the invention of synthesizers and drum machines. Which meant that an aspiring musician no longer needed to be a virtuoso or even play an instrument to make music. The grand history of techno, its sub-genres and all related electronic music that reside under the catch-all term ‘Electronica’, deals mostly with the ping-ponging of ideas across the Atlantic ocean, with one side embellishing the other’s inventions then throwing them back for another round.

Acid House

Cover of "Everybody Needs a 303 1"

Cover of Everybody Needs a 303 1

This dates back to the 1980s, a style that was played at the club “The Warehouse” in Chicago. This is where the characteristic synthetic plip-plop sound often heard in dance music comes from. The sound popped out when DJ Ron Hardy played around with a small synthesizer called the “Roland TB-303 Bass Line” which was originally meant to be used by drummers to emulate a bass guitar.

Example: Fatboy Slim’s “Everybody Needs a 303

Acid Jazz 

It’s actually a fusion of old and new classic jazz riffs and scat vocals with funky hip hop beats and modern techno sounds. Its attributes include hip-hop or house rhythms, live instrumentation, silky smooth arrangements, and an easy, fluid, soulful energy.

Examples: Brand New Heavies, Jamiroquai

Ambient

Brian Eno

Brian Eno (Photo credit: Scott Beale)

During raves, those with battered eardrums could rest by going to a chill-out room where ambient music was played. Associated with the experimental and avant-garde, it features lots of dreamy soundscapes, with a very discreet rhythm or none at all.

Example: Brian Eno – the godfather of this style

Eurodance 

This is the most popular dance format in Europe. You’ll be sure to hear happy synth-tones, perky vocals, a catchy refrain, and short parts of crap-rap in between. This sub-genre dominates every chart and dance floor in the European Union.

Examples: 2Unlimited

House

House is what disco used to be, but with new machines having modernized and updated the sound. It is the musical core of today’s dance music. Emerging from clubs in Chicago and New York in the mid 1980s, it can be recognized by the 130 electric beats per minute big bass lines and hard drum loops.

Lounge 

It’s music that’s so bad it crosses over to hip. The appeal is in appreciating the irony of it. It’s associated with coffee, beatniks, swingers, the jet set, the Rat Pack, Bacharach, and elevator muzak.

Lounge pushes a retro aesthetic restyled for the contemporary. Computers may be used to add that 21st Century Modern flava. It’s very jazz-influenced, and sometimes spiced up with ethnic flavors such as bossa nova.

Examples: Groove Armada

Trance

Not Toti’s favorite subgenre for sure, he terms it as music that has no soul or credibility; white, blank, and wimpy. Trance evolved from German Techno, using the rolling bass and sizzling keyboards of techno to give the music a hypnotic flowing effect, yet retaining all the driving, pulsating energy of its true techno roots.
Examples: Paul Oakenfold

Trip-Hop

Produced by taking hip-hop and fusing it with moody psychedelic electronic rock sounds over a down-tempo beat.

Usually melancholic in nature, the mainstays of Trip-Hop are R&B vocals over smooth Hip Hop beats/scratching layered with Rock and Jazz.

Examples: Massive Attack, Sneaker Pimps, Portishead.

To sample the abovementioned ear candy, pop into your nearest respectably-sized record store, browse online shops such as Amazon, or check out download tools Limewire or Soulseek (but don’t tell the RIAA that you heard of them from us).

More info at: www.ethnotechno.com/defs.php

-text by Jude Defensor, photos courtesy of Toti Dalmacion or the Internet, some rights reserved

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