The classic hit “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika,” winner of the first Metro Manila Popular Music Festival in 1978, was composed by songwriter Ryan Cayabyab to reflect the flourishing local scene during that decade—considered one of the golden ages of Original Pilipino Music (OPM).
This year, the song got a welcome makeover, courtesy of Cayabyab himself and such other artists as Itchyworms, Gloc 9 and Regine Velasquez, as part of The Kayanihan Project—an advocacy campaign of the Advertising Foundation of the Philippines, whose aim is to promote Filipino pride and positivism.
In a recent interview, Cayabyab told the Inquirer that the updated “Kay Ganda” or “The Kayanihan Song”—with a spruced up sound and new set of lyrics—will express and describe how the lives of Filipinos have changed for the better, in ways both big and small, in the past few years.
“Our economy is getting better. Our artists are recognized abroad. ‘The Kayanihan Song’ will recognize that things in our country are starting to change. What better way to celebrate than to sing about it?” Cayabyab said. “Music, entertainment and art have always been good gauges or mirrors of what’s happening in the country.”
“These changes can be things we don’t necessarily see, but feel,” Cayabyab stressed. “We want to inspire Filipinos to keep moving forward—to enforce bayanihan instead of pulling each other down.”
Early this year, the team behind Kayanihan (from the words “kaya” and “bayanihan”), through its Facebook page, crowd-sourced potential lyrics for the song by posing the question: “Paano mo nasabing gumaganda na ang buhay sa Pilipinas ngayon?”
Sifted from 900 submissions, the chosen lines were meticulously evaluated and collated by Cayabyab, the Itchyworms and the Kayanihan staff to craft a song that’s cohesive and true to the project’s theme. Part of the final song’s modified chorus goes: “Kay ganda na parang musika / Ang bansa na nagkakaisa / Sa habang buhay, ingatan natin.”
Cayabyab related: “I found so many good submissions; it was a shame that we couldn’t use them all. We didn’t want to use a line just because it sounded nice—we had to make sure it went with the other lines. On the other hand, it proved that we have so many talented songwriters. Many Filipinos know how to paint images using words.”
The famed composer also said the team tried its best to make the song feel as personal as possible, so it wouldn’t come across as preachy. “Indeed, ang bansa natin ay maganda, parang musika,” he said.
The task of rearranging and making “Kay Ganda” sound more in tune with today’s generation fell on the lap of alternative rock band Itchyworms, composed of Jazz Nicolas, Jugs Jugueta, Chino Singson and Kelvin Yu. Nicolas said they composed an entirely different melody for the verses, but left the chorus relatively untouched.
“Mas tunog pang-banda na siya ngayon. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle of different thoughts and sentiments from hundreds of Filipinos. It’s good because everyone will feel like they’re a part of this project,” Nicolas told Inquirer in an interview with the band.
Another twist given to “Kay Ganda” was the addition of a rap segment (the words came from online submissions, too), which was performed by Gloc 9.
Apart from the song, an accompanying “Kayanihan” music video will also be shot. And similar to the song creation process, the team urged people online to send photos of themselves doing the five-vowel sound (a,e,i,o,u). The photos will be animated to make it appear like they’re singing along with the artists.
The music video will be launched on Aug. 22 and aired on TV on Aug. 25—a day before National Heroes’ Day.
But of course, uniting and rousing positivity shouldn’t end by merely composing a song. With the support of Procter and Gamble Philippines, the Ad Foundation “will walk the talk” through “The Kayanihan Initiative.”
The project involves setting up a website and social media accounts where people, communities, groups or corporations can pledge money, or specific talents and skills to help those who are in need.