Music destination: Manila
The road to fully revitalizing the local music industry remains bumpy, but 2014 saw more organizations working together to promote Filipino music and address issues that plague it.
The Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (Filscap) spearheaded Pinoy Music Summit in March, where stakeholders worked to draw up a comprehensive program.
The Organisasyon ng mga Pilipinong Mang-Aawit launched the slogan, “Palakasin ang OPM,” and mounted the first Pilipino Music Festival. The 11-day event kicked off Aug. 14 (with street performances around Metro Manila), and culminated in a free concert at the Ayala Triangle Gardens on Sept. 5.
A 12-hour “collab jamming session” between new and seasoned artists was held at the Bonifacio Global City Ampitheatre on Dec. 6.
Songwriting competitions continued to tap composers, young and old, in search of the next potential hits. The Philippine Popular Music Festival, which spawned the 2013 hit “Dati,” crowned its third winner last year in Jungee Marcelo (his “Salbabida” was interpreted by Kyla).
Edwin Marollano’s “Mahal Ko o Mahal Ako,” interpreted by KZ Tandingan, was the sixth winner of ABS-CBN’s Himig Handog P-Pop Love Songs songwriting tilt.
Something to crow about
Filipino singers gave us something to crow about: Contest alums Rachelle Ann Go and Mark Bautista landed roles in West End productions. Go plays the bar girl Gigi in the current restaging of the musical “Miss Saigon,” while Bautista portrayed Ferdinand Marcos in the recently concluded “Here Lies Love.”
In January, Filipino caregiver Rose Fostanes pulled off a surprise win in the reality talent search “X Factor Israel”—a feat that earned her a management contract in her adoptive country and album deal here.
It was a bustling 2014, with numerous festivals, concerts and gigs, a lot of them held simultaneously. There was something for everyone—from dome-filling pop juggernauts to easygoing indie bands; live-wire rockers to dewy-skinned K-Pop idols; seasoned performers and burgeoning young talents. If only we could bilocate!
More festivals were mounted. Some had definite themes; others appealed to a wider audience, combining acts in different styles and genres, and different nationalities.
Those events—lasting from one whole day to a few—were attractive to energetic fans constantly looking for new artists to add to their playlists and want their servings of music in huge doses. We would later see that these events were also occasions for the young to show off the latest fashion.
The 7107 International Music Festival held at Global Gateway Logistics City in Clark, Pampanga last Feb. 22 to 23 was arguably the best-hyped, due in part to rumors that it was bankrolled by a son of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles. Nonetheless, the event, intended to mimic the vibe of the famous Coachella fest in the United States, unfolded with few snags.
Thousands of revelers were treated to performances by a bevy of musicians, local and foreign, happening at the same time on two stages. The first day ended with American DJ Kaskade transforming the venue into a massive dance hall. Rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers dished out a kickin’ 90-minute set the following day.
The 2014 Wanderland Music and Arts Festival, mounted by Karpos Multimedia, is a laid-back niche event that trained the spotlight on indie bands, attracting a more hipster crowd.
Held at Circuit Makati grounds, the second year of the fest was well-organized and featured art installations across the sprawling venue. Among the many groups that had fans cheering were The Royal Concept, Architecture in Helsinki, and The Drums.
The long-running Red Horse Beer Pambansang Muziklaban again gathered a throng of “rakistas” in a no-frills night of heavy rock, headbanging, manic moshing, and of course, booze, at the World Trade Center on Feb. 1. Leading the charge were usual suspects Kjwan, Franco, Razorback, Slapshock and Greyhoundz. Also an amateur band competition, the fest crowned Manila Under Fire champs.
As in previous years, arena-scale concerts were dominated by veterans. Among the best-attended were Regine Velasquez-Alcasid and Martin Nievera’s Valentine gig, “Voices of Love,” at SM Mall of Asia Arena; and Gary V’s two-night Big Dome concert, “Arise 3.0,” in April, which had a repeat in August.
The former was memorable for the way Velasquez-Alcasid—who lost her father/mentor a few days prior—powered through her set with zeal; the latter, for the new, creative spins that
Gary put into his classic hits, visually spectacular dance numbers, and unexpected collaborations.
“Icon: The Concert,” which featured Gloc-9, Yeng Constantino and Rico Blanco, was one of the more successful huge productions headlined by contemporary musicians. The artists impressed with superb solo sets and group numbers that seamlessly fused their different styles.
Other shows we enjoyed—all held at Music Museum, incidentally—were Ogie Alcasid’s “Throwback Thursday,” Jed Madela’s “By Request” and “Jazzified,” a back-to-back gig headlined by Markki Stroem and the versatile and very underrated soul vocalist-rapper KZ Tandingan. Lani Misalucha’s comeback concert at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, by all accounts, was a triumph; unfortunately, we missed it.
For better or worse, self-confessed occasional singers such as Daniel Padilla and Anne Curtis each held their second outings at the Big Dome. The teen heartthrob expectedly packed the place to the rafters; the actress, not as much this time around.
Of the TV/movie stars who ventured into singing last year, including Kathryn Bernardo and Enchong Dee, the biggest surprise was Maja Salvador. While a passable singer at best, she benefitted from radio-friendly material like “Dahan-Dahan” and “Halika Na,” which snugly fit her personality.
Top foreign acts
With some of the most popular mainstream and indie artists coming here, 2014 was star-studded. Opening the concert season was French indie synth-pop group Phoenix, whose frontman Thomas Mars waded through hordes of diehards while performing one of the band’s hits. And then there were the heavyweights:
Four-time Grammy Award-winning rapper Macklemore (March 16, MOA Arena)—quite the polarizing figure in the hip-hop community—captivated his Filipino fans; Bruno Mars (March 22, MOA Arena) played a jaunty set for “his people.”
Taylor Swift (June 6, MOA Arena), whose fifth studio album “1989” was last year’s best-selling record, drove thousands crazy with self-penned “confessional” pop tunes. John Legend
(Sept. 26, Big Dome) wove magic with his silken baritone in an evening of stripped-down music.
The charming Jason Mraz (Nov. 27, Big Dome) and his coheadliners, eclectic rock-folk group Raining Jane, exuded unbridled joy in their singing and instrument-playing. There was a smattering of K-Pop stars, too—most notable of which was rock band CNBLUE (Sept. 19, Big Dome).
In what turned out to be a redemption concert, pop-R&B singer-songwriter Mariah Carey (Oct. 28, MOA Arena), summoned glimmers of her once-great vocals to put on a good show, after being slammed for previous ones.
2014 indeed gave us a remarkable bevy of concerts, but with such acts as Michael Bublé, One Direction, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Lenny Kravitz and Incubus set to perform in Manila soon, 2015 is shaping up to be just as good, if not better.
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