Inevitably… let’s talk about the elections. Crazy, right? No? Oh, yeah, crazy is an understatement. If you’re in the Philippines, you really are better off avoiding your social media feeds. (It sucks that I chose not to curate my feeds because, you know, #feedgoals.) Anyway, a country that can get this fiery when it comes to politics naturally would have an outlet in its music, so on this month’s edition of the Local Outsider, we look at songs with a political bent, artists with a more social approach – and no, I don’t mean Facebook marketing. That’s a different kind of social.
I only have space for three songs, so, yes, I am bound to miss a lot of people. You had the folk rock movement prevalent in the 1970s, growing more politically charged as Marcos’ martial law took its toll: there’s always a subtext in songs from the likes of Heber Bartolome and Asin. The first name that came to mind when I began working on this column is, well, Joey Ayala. But we steer clear of that and focus on more modern sounds. And, in the case of this particular Yano song, a very relevant backdrop. “Kumusta Na?” released in 1993, was written about the aftermath of the first People Power Revolution – an event that, thirty years on, is still very much hovering around is, whether we like it or not. Of course we know Yano more for astute observations of Filipino life, but leader Dong Abay has explored many things throughout his career: his 2009 record Flipino, for one, also went into political themes, albeit subtly, as he always does.
If you’re my age, the first thing you’d likely remember when you think of socially-conscious Filipino acts is Dicta License. Their 2005 album Paghilom continues to stand strong today, something I attribute both to its unique sound – how many Filipino acts would openly cite Rage Against the Machine as an influence? – and the timelessness of its lyrics, an address to a youth that’s supposedly had too much fun to even care. I’ve already written about “Alay Sa Mga Nagkamalay Noong Dekadang Nobenta”, a song that perhaps captures the essence of the album. (I’d love to play the CD again, but my sister owns it.) So I’m posting “Demockracy”, then, which also happens to be relevant, because, well, you know. It seems Dicta License did not really need to be active for long to make a statement – they did reunite in 2015, although it’s an on-off thing with main man Pochoy Labog being busy and all – because this is lightning in a bottle.
It says a lot about my cluelessness that the first I’ve ever heard of hip-hop artist Ninno (that’s Ninno Rodriguez) was through a feature on him from the folks at Bandwagon. This was just before GoodVybes, and when reports that his set was quite good came in, I ended up digging a bit through his just released album Third Culture Kid. It’s a good collection, that one: eleven tracks of him riffing on topics from here and there – there are the socially relevant topics and then there are the unexpected metaphors, sometimes all in one song, like in “False Kings (Hitsboii)”. Or maybe I’m the one putting the meaning on it. The best part’s in the delivery, however: the conviction and the melody is enough to keep him through with mostly sparse production from fellow Logiclub cohorts such as Curtismith and CRWN. Speaking of, I have to listen to their compilation. I know my being clueless is a selling point, but I can’t be for long. [NB]