Those who declare with disdain that Original Pilipino Music is dead are either not looking hard enough or are looking in the wrong places.
If they cared enough to explore the vibrant local music scene, they would find what Pinoy music lovers have always known—that OPM is alive and kicking.
This is due in no small part to the groundbreaking work of such unique acts as jazz funk group Sinosikat.
Sinosikat brings to the scene its brand of “Pinoy soul” that’s an eclectic mix of jazz, rhythm and blues, soul and funk that caters to more sophisticated or evolved tastes.
So far, its music has not appealed to the masses that are used to songs defined by catchy hooks and, well, the usual lyrics. Even so, the band whose members represent a diverse range of musical influences believes its audience is growing.
From the time Sinosikat was formed in 2004, it has gone through several personnel changes. But after two albums and a leave of absence, the band is back to its original lineup—vocalist Kat Agarrado, keyboardist Nikki Cabardo, bassist Allen Umali and drummer Reli de Vera—and raring to work on a third.
Agarrado says Sinosikat is all about music and friendship, and a resolve to keep the OPM fire burning for the current generation and the next.
“We call our music Pinoy soul. It has a little bit of everything, since our collective musical background is very eclectic,” notes Agarrado, who won the NU 107 Rock Awards vocalist of the year title in 2007, the same year that Sinosikat produced its eponymous debut album.
In 2009, Sinosikat won three trophies—best world/alternative music, best jazz recording and people’s choice for favorite group trophies—from the 21st Awit Awards. The following year, the band released its second album under Warner Music Philippines.
For the 23rd Awit Awards, it was nominated for six awards and won two—best jazz recording and best arrangement for “Mr. Musikero (Pwede Ba?).”
In the recording industry, where many groups compromise their sound to pander to commercial tastes, Sinosikat has remained steadfast. Not only has the style that won the critics’ and fans’ approval been sustained; it’s been enhanced.
Explains Umali: “We do our part by being true to ourselves and our intentions. People surely feel that when they hear or see us. I’d like Sinosikat to stand for peace, love, balance and positivity—things that the world seriously needs. Music is the most effective vehicle to spread those values, without being intrusive.”
Sinosikat’s audience may still be small but it is passionate and loyal. Agarrado says, “We became known by word of mouth, because we make sure we give our best every time we play. Our aim is to make people feel good and go home happy. We keep the music exciting and unpredictable for them.”
To satisfy their followers’ demand for new material, Agarrado says the group hopes to come up soon with at least a new single and perhaps a “reunion” album.
She adds: “I’d like to start with a remake of POT’s ‘Panaginip,’” as a tribute to a good friend, the late Karl (Roy). He continues to be an inspiration to us. We’ve had songs written for the next album, but it might take a while. Our first album took three years but it was worth the wait. We are very proud of it; it was critically acclaimed and named one of the best albums in 2007.”
It’s important to take their time, to create a solid sound, Agarrado stresses. “It will be like a reunion album with the original members. We plan to release singles until we complete the album. Maybe we can do collaborations with friends, too.” Agarrado has her own blues band, Kat Magic Express, which won the 1st Philippine Blues Competition last September and represented the Philippines in a competition in Memphis in January.
Meanwhile, thanks to the Internet, Filipinos are getting more and more exposed to Sinosikat’s kind of music.
According to Cabardo, who got involved with Sinosikat while still with Freestyle (and who continues to play with other groups), there will always be a market for Sinosikat’s music. “It always feels good to play music, but especially so if the members are of one mind and have the same purpose.”
De Vera, a Fine Arts graduate of the University of Santo Tomas, sees more avenues opening for Sinosikat and other bands that play the same kind of music. “It’s good that there are more bands out there with the guts to introduce Filipinos to a new sound,” says De Vera.
Umali echoes De Vera’s sentiment: “People will always seek variety in music, no matter how much commercialism spoon-feeds us with monotony. I have faith in their intelligence and innate good taste.”