Rivermaya: Going through the incarnations
As I was watching the music video “Malayang Magmahal” by Rivermaya just the other day on a local music channel, it dawned on me that… why, this is a band that I have been listening to on and off for more than half of my life already.
Despite most of its original members leaving, the numerous line-up changes, and with most notably, the change of lead vocalists over the years, somehow Rivermaya continues to live on. For a 90’s kid like myself, that thought is comforting…almost like a warm blanket, at times. While some may think that it is a mentality of living in the past, I view it more as acknowledging the past while continuing to support the present.
Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of great local bands around now and a number of promising young upstarts that have shown growth and a clear direction in their careers which have been beneficial for them in building up a loyal and sizeable following. But it really does feel like the continuing presence of Rivermaya is so vital because it would just feel so odd to not have them around anymore!
Yes, Rivermaya has been around that long that they already form part of the “fabric” of the local scene and not just in OPM. I mean, what other bands who started out in the 90’s still use the same band name to this day? There aren’t a lot left. So, that alone does give Rivermaya a certain distinction and makes them a rarity.
Switching things up
Hearing Marc Escueta singing still takes some adjusting for me but to his credit, he does exhibit a sooth and calming voice—a quality that was so distinctive in some early Rivermaya songs of the 90’s. Could Mark Escueta’s confidence in his singing be a result of the happy state of his marriage ? I would like to think that this is so because this is reflected each time the couple are interviewed.
It is also interesting and worth pointing out the apparent smooth transition of Mark Escueta from being the drummer to now the main vocalist and guitarist of Rivermaya impressed a lot of people. Can this be viewed as a welcome surprise? Well, not really. History in music has shown us that drummers more often than not turn out to be excellent vocalists. Drummers in fact are the figurative “back bone” of the band’s sound and are sometimes unfairly overlooked by some. This is really the opportunity for Marc Escueta to shine and he has seized that opportunity. Longtime fans of Rivermaya welcome this change as we see this move as a needed measure for the band’s survival, too.
With all that said, when you delve deeper and try to analyze the current set-up of Rivermaya, he really is the logical choice to be the frontman of the band. However, this isn’t a solo act on his part but rather a team effort with the all the other members of the line-up of Rivermaya (Norby David, Ryan Peralta, and Mike Elgar) contributing to the songwriting process and sharing vocal duties as well with the last remaining original member, Marc Escueta.
A band for the ages
A closing thought. I will touch on this because admittedly, Rivermaya can be viewed by certain groups of music aficionados as a band that had already reached its peak a long time ago, and a band that some are even surprised to know that they are still around. Well, probably they just aren’t that aware and appreciative of the value and the rich history of Rivermaya.
Rivermaya is not only a literal namesake.
Because when you look at the bigger picture here, all of Rivermaya’s alumni and former members are responsible for some of the greatest songs in OPM which are now not only classics but timeless. Indeed, they have become immortal! I mean, let’s just take for example, their song “Himala.” How many times have we heard that classic song of theirs being performed by numerous artists today and given their own twists and renditions? Yet, I will dare say that no one, but no one else, does it better than the original!
Really, a big thank you is in order for all of Rivermaya’s founding and original members, namely: Nathan Azarcon, Perfecto De Castro, Bamboo Mañalac, Rico Blanco, and Marc Escueta.