The Local Outsider #12: Baihana, Apartel and Manila Magic

The Local OutsiderThe Local Outsider is back for another year of playing catch-up with the best Philippine music has to offer. And, in this case, I really do play catch-up, for some of these acts, I have been to write about for months. Why I never got around to it, I don’t know. All right, the last few weeks of the blog for 2016 has been busy, and I have been busy, too (which explains this happening) so some of these came from rustled mental notes. So, with all that said, here’s that new year we alluded to.


We begin with Baihana, a female jazz trio who’ve been around for years, but who I’ve only heard of a couple of months back, when they staged their first (I think) major concert at the Music Museum. If you’ve been at the jazzier places these past few years, you’ve definitely stumbled upon them. I haven’t, and now I hate myself, because their harmonies are the sort of thing that I really get tuned in on. I have written before about how I grew up with the Apo Hiking Society, how as a little boy I loved their harmonies. Now, childhood is a strong, irresistible force, so this might take a while, so excuse me while I watch more of their videos, which suggest a wide repertoire, from their obvious influences (the Andrew Sisters are in the video up top) to local classics and even today’s pop claptrap. I mean, I’ll watch those after I finish this column.


I also hate myself for not writing about Apartel sooner – more so, because I have known about this for the longest time. Even meant to review their album, although they sold copies in vinyl and digital copies didn’t drop soon enough. In the lead up to the release of “Is It Hip?” I was interested at how the influences this sort-of supergroup – Ely Buendia and Jay Ortega co-founded the group, although Jay has since left the group to go solo – hew towards soul, funk and jazz. Not exactly a sound you expected from an Ely Buendia project (and face it, to most of us that’s what this will be), but it all still clicks together. I quite belatedly listened to their debut Inner Play this week: sprawling, sexy and wriggling its way into your head – you wonder how they’ll fare with the line-up change so early into the band’s existence. They’ll survive.


Finally, an act I’m not that late for. Manila Magic first came towards my views when they made a bid for a slot at this year’s Wanderland. They didn’t win, but you know what they say about first breaks. But then, you probably know this duo is a project – do we call this a side project? – from One Click Straight‘s Tim Marquez and IV of Spades‘ Zild Benitez. If you’ve heard their bands’ stuff, you wouldn’t exactly expect a straight-out-from-the-80s sound that can sit well beside, say, that new record from M83, or the Drive soundtrack. It’s excessively neon and I love it. Maybe not right for Wanderland despite the very millennial-y feel, though. My faulty senses say “dark, crowded, hazy room” – this is music to get lost in. [NB]

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