When Silver is Gold

cookychua

The Honeyed Alto of Color It Red (Photo courtesy of Nina Sandejas)

The fact of the matter is that the lead singer of Color It Red can sing the phonebook and still grab the attention of the most indifferent listener. Blame it on what the veteran rock journalist Eric Caruncho calls the “honeyed alto” of Cooky Chua. “Silver,” the fifth studio album of Color It Red and its first crowd-funded recording to celebrate the band’s quarter century mark, is no phonebook, however. On the contrary, after giving this album a spin or two, I dare say it is one fine OPM ear candy of an album from start to finish both in the lyrics and melody department. Here’s why.

Di Magtatagal, the opening power rock anthem, is my personal favourite. Thanks to its driving guitar riff that does not let up and its finely-crafted lyrical take on what AQ enthusiasts call endurance – the 4th ingredient of one’s ability to bounce back. Those who are able to perceive a difficult situation as something that will not last will most likely thrive in adversity. Those who regard difficulties with a sense of permanence will languish in despair. If you want to hear how endurance and hope sound like musically, give this a listen. “Wag ka na sanang mag-alala at hindi magtatagal, hindi magtatagal.”

Buhay is a Pinoy rhythm and blues number penned by rock veteran Gary Perez. It starts off as a naïve idealist’s lament about the inherent injustice of life but soon transforms itself into a musical desiderata guaranteed to help you triumph over life’s adversities. “Buhay ay sadyang ganyan kung di kikilos ay mahihirapan.” Check out the symphony of rhythm and blues guitar voicings provided by Barbi Paraguya on rhythm, Bobip Paraguya on bass, Ariel Policarpio on lead guitar and Kwachi Vergara on lead guitar with Jayvee Torres’ drumwork tightly orchestrating them even as Chua does Perez proud with her signature vocal power.

Maggie composed by the long-time CIR lyricist Barbi Paraguya in collaboration with Chua and Policarpio, boasts of a melody that would easily land it in a Crossover 105.1 playlist. It’s one song that stands out as an endearing ode that only a doting mother could write for a daughter whose “twinkling eyes and curly hair…fill my heart with laughter celebrate my love and it always amazes me the mystery it is to me. The more I give my life much more is given back to me.”

Disk-o, as you may infer from the title, is a throwback dance track in the tradition of VST and Company. In fact, in several sections of the song its chord pattern threatens to segue to “Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko.” Behind its disco-flavored melody line however, hides the sadness of a once young love that must now come to grips with loneliness. “Kay sarap kapag nagsisimula buo ang puso nating dalawa…Kanino na ko maglalambing ngayong wala ka na sa aking piling.”

Umuwi Ka Na haunts with its ominous-sounding pop rock chorus. It might as well be a fitting retort to the lover’s sighs in Disk-o. This is the exact sentiment of a lover who has gotten tired of waiting for a beloved with neither promise nor guarantee. Thus, its exhortation to: “umuwi ka na, umuwi ka na” sung in a manner that tells you he/she has had enough. The song fascinates with the consolation that it offers in the lover’s conviction that “maghintay ka’t sa katagalan ikaw ang kanyang babalikan.”

Weeh from the prolific master lyricist Gary Granada is a lovely jazz-tinged reggae number reminiscent of Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” with a twist. Its lyrics are a delightful testament to the playful wit and scathing humor of Granada at his finest. “…may pasok kahit holiday…mga bagay na di dapat ma delay…alam mo namang alam ko namang alam mo na ang pag-ibig ko’y di matitinag…dun sa prisinto ka magpaliwanag hindi ako bingi, hindi ako bulag.” Chua should someday do a Granada tribute album a’la Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat.

Move On is possibly the most surprising composition in this album. Thanks to the cameo of Gloc 9 whose intriguing Fliphop take on moving on makes an already engaging rock song soar beyond the stratosphere. It’s also the most cryptic, incidentally, among the 10 songs in Silver. “Beneath the surface is a shadow of someone that I use to know. Ignorance is a one-way street and a smile that’s in disguise. And when it hurts you so bad it cuts right down to the core.”

Where Does the Love Go? would make a good carrier single after the opening track. Like Maggie, this is one song that is a shoe-in if you’re thinking of a Crossover playlist. Its easy listening melody contrasts with the songwriter’s experience of frustration and despair in the heels of falling out of love. “But after all the bitter tears flowed from eyes that used to shine. Tell me where does the love go?”

Questions is what a JesCom-produced pop song would sound like if its lyrics were to be given the power pop treatment by a band of CIR’s calibre. Its rousing rhythmic chorus is guaranteed to induce a last song syndrome experience: “So my heart sits on a desert beach where seasons change but time stands still. I sift for questions through the sand will answers wash upon my hand.”

Kwento, the album’s closing track which opens with a hypnotic solo guitar chord pattern essays the observations of a former lover who has virtually become a stranger to his/her beloved. “…ako’y iyong nilagpasan. Ang ating kwento tapos na.” Here’s hoping this closing track is not CIR’s swan song. It may be the case that it is quite a challenge to be a band at a time when recording companies are folding up and the business model that used to bring in tons of money to both artists and recording companies is still gestating in the face of file sharing, YouTube and Spotify. “Mahirap ang daan. Ito’y pangako.”

coloritred

Color It Red Live at Tiendesitas

Pero di dapat dito matapos ang kwento ng bandang ito. At ang sampung awitin sa taas ay syang patotoo.

This, afterall, is one Silver that should be called Gold and made Platinum.

So do your ears and hearts a favour. Get their album while you still can.

Image

SILVER – Color It Red’s Fifth Studio Album

Kick Starting Your Analog Music Adventure

The following piece was originally envisioned  as a sidebar of  my “Back in Black” article in the PDI. In essence, it seeks to provide a simple and practical guide to music lovers who wish to kick start their analog music adventure. Due to space limitations, it was not published.

Image

Vinyl Rules!

Seriously considering getting into vinyls? Read this and spare yourself from unnecessary detours that might prove costly monetarily and otherwise.

1. Audition, audition, audition.

This is the equivalent of practice, practice, practice if you want to be good at sports and music. Nope, we don’t mean buy the first audio set-up you can chance upon and then buy again until you get the hang of buying the right hardware. Quite the opposite. Rather, immerse yourself in the vinyl experience. Go to the Nov Hi Fi Show at Dusit Thani. Sign up with Wired State. Visit the stores selling analog hardware and software. There is The Grey Market in White Plains and Salcedo, The Analog Source in San Juan and Satchmi in Megamall as well as select Astroplus outlets, Watts HiFi and Bebop Records in Makati Square, Vinylhead Wreckords and HyperAudio near Cash and Carry, Stereofiles in Timog and Vinyl Dump in Cubao. Sample their wares. Listen and then listen some more. Ask questions. Take down notes. In a word, learn.

2. Know yourself.

There is some element of introspection in this hobby. After sampling various set-ups and analog audio systems, you need to confer carefully with the ultimate decision maker – yourself. What is it that you want? Would you want an entry-level turntable or a vintage turntable? Do you prefer a brand-new set-up altogether or would you like a mix of the new and the vintage? Are you the type who gets a kick from upgrading every couple of years or would you rather have one that you can pass on to your kids later? Only you can answer that critical question after you’ve done enough of item 1 above.

3. Know your budget.

Depending on the outcome of undertaking items 1 and 2 above, you can get an entry-level turntable for Php 6,000, a vintage turntable for Php 23,000 or a brand new turntable for Php 17,000. You can opt for a complete brand new set-up for Php 50,000 or a vintage set-up for Php 30,000. You could compare the experience to buying a new smart phone or a new tablet. There are many combinations and permutations out there depending on your budget and your preference.

4. Prepare a tracking list.

When it comes to buying vinyl records, you can either do a Grateful Dead or a DMB where the set list changes every night depending on the vibes and energy of both the crowd and the band  or you might wish to do a U2 or an Eagles where there is a pre-determined set list every single night. Given that a used near mint record sells for Php 500 while a virgin vinyl fetches a price of Php 1,200 and up, better go for doing a U2 or an Eagles set list  when it comes to buying vinyl albums unless you have lots of disposable income to buy on impulse which we don’t recommend, in any case. Hence, the need to know who you are and what it is that you want to get on vinyl. So a good rule of thumb would be to hold off the thought of purchasing vinyl records left and right. Sample the music. Listen to the radio. Check out the CD. Surf the net. Read the reviews. Ask around. Then buy. Music may be life but even hard-core audiophiles  would tell you music is not all that there is to life. There’s bills to pay, tuition fees to plan for, emergencies to prepare for  and mortgages to amortize.

5. Enjoy the ride.

The thrill of this hobby, as we wrote separately, lies in the journey rather than the destination. It’s in the crate digging and in stumbling upon that elusive title that you’ve been looking for all your life. It’s in comparing notes and getting tips from fellow vinyl hobbyists. It’s in learning from those who have been into this hobby for years and passing on what you learn to newbies. It’s in making friends and rebuilding your record collection. So don’t be in a hurry to get to the finish line as there is ultimately none. “Hinay, hinay  basta kanunay” is a Visayan saying that would serve aspiring vinyl hobbyists in good stead.

image

The Black Pizza Beckons

Walk on the Vinyl Side (Writer’s Cut)

Posting the final draft of another story I submitted to PDI in November 2013. This was eventually cut into three parts and trimmed down to fit the character parameters assigned to me. The first part was published as “Back in Black” and appeared in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine. The second and third parts were published in the Entertainment section of PDI in January 2014 under the title of “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

Image

The Iconic Technics SL 1200 turntable

WALK ON THE VINYL SIDE

(A Report on the Vinyl Resurgence Phenomenon in the Philippines)

 By Von Katindoy

Back in Black – The Return of the Vinyl

“Forget the hearse ‘cause I’ll never die, I got nine lives, Cats eyes…Cause I’m back, Yes, I’m back…I’m back in black.”

-Angus Young, Malcomn Young and Brian Johnson

745% growth! That is the figure being bandied about in a recent news item circulating in several audiophile online fora regarding the growth of vinyl sales at Amazon since 2008. Time was when vinyl was dismissed as an obsolete format, a relic of the previous century, if you will. Not anymore. In a nod to its viability as yet another income stream for the world’s largest online store, Amazon created a distinct and separate section for vinyl reissues in 2007. All hail the vinyl? Or should we say, vinyl is back in black with AC/DC banging away in the background about forgetting the hearse, nine lives and cats eyes. Faster than you can say Awesome!, however, Stereophile and Analog Planet editor Michael Fremer corrected the misinformation. The correct figure is 12% year on year increase since 2008 and not just at Amazon. In 2013, it is projected to increase by 30%. “It’s definitely growing” writes Fremer, when asked if indeed there is such a trend and whether it is, in fact, holding.

nov hi fi show nov 10 2013 011

Michael Fremer

He sent this writer the graph below ironically from Digital Music News to reinforce his point. He further points out that “used is not included in these figures” and that “GZ (Pressing Plant, one of the oldest and best in the world) in the Czech Republic pressed 7 million records this year…” It is difficult to track used records as the selling and buying of such are part of the so-called underground economy. To quote Fremer: “Nielsen SoundScan only gets the tip of the iceberg…”

image

Infograph courtesy of Michael Fremer

To the uninitiated, vinyl records or “plaka” as they were referred to in the vernacular traditionally refer to three variants of vinyl records: the 78rpm (i.e., revolutions per minute for the recording to be heard as it was originally recorded), the 45 rpm single and the 33 1/3 rpm long play album. Of the 3, what is most associated with the current global vinyl resurgence is the 33 1/3 rpm otherwise known as the LP (i.e., Long Play.) Columbia Records is credited for releasing the first commercial vinyl record in 1948. For the next 4 decades it was the dominant storage medium of recorded music despite the invention of the cassette tape and its numerous incarnations. Until the CD entered the picture that is. Sony and Philips introduced the digital music format in 1982. By the early 90’s the vinyl format lost the critical mass it used to command and was eventually considered by many as an obsolete and inferior format compared to the CD. The operative word to differentiate the vinyl from the CD, the MP3 and other contemporary formats is analog. By analog, we mean the sound recording is literally etched into the physical grooves of the record which are then read by the stylus or “needle” of the turntable and converted into soundwaves by an amplifier working in harmoniuous synergy with the speakers. In contrast, with CDs numerical information in zeroes and ones is what is used to encode the recording on the disc which is then read by the laser eye of the CD player and amplified by the digital component system.

Just in case you missed it, mainstream media have been steadily documenting the recent global resurgence of the vinyl format in recent years. Here is a quick sampling.

In the October 2007 edition of Wired Magazine, Eliot Van Buskirk wrote that “as counterintuitive as it may seem in this age of iPods and digital downloads, vinyl — the favorite physical format of indie music collectors and audiophiles — is poised to re-enter the mainstream, or at least become a major tributary…Talk to almost anyone in the music business’ vital indie and DJ scenes and you’ll encounter a uniformly optimistic picture of the vinyl market…Pressing plants are ramping up production.”

On January 10, 2008, Kristina Dell of Time Magazine reported that: “from college dorm rooms to high school sleepovers, an all-but-extinct music medium has been showing up lately. And we don’t mean CDs. Vinyl records, especially the full-length LPs that helped define the golden era of rock in the 1960s and ’70s, are suddenly cool again.”

Rolling Stone Magazine’s Matthew Perpetua observed on January 6, 2011 that “sales of vinyl increased by 14 percent over the previous year, with around 2.8 million units sold. This is a new record for vinyl sales since 1991, when the format had all but disappeared in the wake of the CD boom, according to a report released yesterday by Nielsen SoundScan.”

Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post noted last April 11, 2013 that “the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, tallies $171 million in global vinyl sales in 2012, up 52 percent from the year before. That echoes other reports, including Nielsen’s most recent Soundscan, which have found strong growth in vinyl sales over the past five years — not to mention a steady uptick in vinyl-related Kickstarters and analog fan blogs.”

From Allan Kozinn of The New York Times dated June 9, 2013: “These days, every major label and many smaller ones are releasing vinyl, and most major new releases have a vinyl version, leading to a spate of new pressing plants…When the French electronica duo Daft Punk released “Random Access Memories” in mid-May, 6 percent of its first-week sales — 19,000 out of 339,000 — were on vinyl, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which measures music sales. A growing number of classic albums — including the complete Beatles and early Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan catalogs — have had vinyl reissues in recent years as well.”

Not very far behind is Hollywood which has been enthusiastically celebrating both the turntable and the vinyl format in both the movies and in the TV series genre.

To name a few, there is Jack Harper, the character of Tom Cruise in Oblivion (2013) where he plays a vinyl copy of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procul Harum to reminisce the way life on earth used to be circa 2017. In Warm Bodies (2013) the zombie “R” portrayed by Nicholas Hoult plays “Missing You” by John Waite not because he is a purist but because “they sound warm and more alive.” Iron Man 3 (2013) featured a high-end turntable playing Joe Williams’ “Jingle Bells” on Tony Stark’s command to Travis to “drop the needle” as he suits up in his state-of-the art laboratory.

Not to be outdone is the TV series genre. Top of mind is the character of Walter Bishop portrayed by John Noble in Fringe who has a vintage turntable in his lab. And then there is the Suits’ Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) whose wall of vinyl records testifies to his encyclopedic knowledge of various music genre. House, M.D. features the lead character portrayed by Hugh Laurie as an audiophile at heart who is comfortable both with an Ipod and a high-end turntable.

Notwithstanding the preceding, does this resurgence of sorts apply to the Philippine music scene where piracy continues to persist? More to the point, why the interest in vinyl in this age of Ipod, streaming, filesharing and downloading both legal and illegal. Equally important, where exactly is this going? Are we coming full circle with the realization that despite the dizzying pace of technological advances, in the end, nothing can really beat the sound of vinyls playing on turntables? Or does the “plaka” belong to a bygone era as celebrated in “Sirang Plaka” by Anak Bayan, “Huling El Bimbo” by the Eraserheads and “Betamax” by Sandwich never to go back again.

Spin the Black Circle – Why Vinyl?

“See this needle…dropping it down…well here it comes…I touch the plane…Turn me up…won’t turn you away…Spin, spin…spin the black circle…You’re so warm…oh, the ritual…when I lay down your crooked arm…Spin, spin…spin the black circle…”

                                                                                                                                -Eddie Vedder

Long before the vinyl resurgence, Pearl Jam were true-blue believers in vinyl. “Spin the Black Circle” is the band’s tribute to vinyl records. No wonder then that Vitalogy which featured “Spin the Black Circle” as its carrier single, was first released on vinyl two weeks before the CD release in 1994. Drawing inspiration from this song, we sought out those who like Vedder literally live out the excitement associated with the unabashed homage of the band to vinyl to ask them the question, why did they get into vinyl records? Their answers will most likely make you take a long, hard look at the “plaka.”

1. THE RITUAL

Listening to vinyl recording involves a ritual which engages virtually all five senses. Robert Crespo, former corporate communications manager of Crossover 105.1, vividly remembers his surreal analog bliss experience dining with the jazz pianist great David Benoit. Towards the end of the dinner, Crespo brought out his prized sealed copy of Urban Daydreams to ask Benoit to sign it. Instead of signing the record right away, Benoit did a curious thing. He held the copy in his hands and took the time to gaze at the album cover. Next, he perused the details on the back cover from the track listing down to the team that made the album happen. Then, like a seasoned vinyl collector, Benoit used his thumbnail to make the proverbial incision through the upper edge of the album jacket to unseal the record. Before carefully pulling out the record from the jacket though Benoit took a long, slow whiff of the vinyl record with his eyes closed the way a wine connoisseur does before enjoying a newly-opened bottle of wine. That, of course, is just half of the ritual. Next, you use a microfiber cloth to clean the surface of the vinyl carefully wiping the disc clockwise. You then set it on the platter of the turntable and push the start button. Before lifting the tone arm and setting the stylus on the first track, you pull out your anti-static brush and ever so gently let its thousands of micro fibre brush against the vinyl surface. “Well, here it comes…” Eddie Vedder sings. You’re ready to enjoy recorded music on vinyl format.

inquirer pics, diego's halloween party, hannah's bday, colin's 013

Robert Crespo

This is exactly what indie film and music video director Marie Jamora meant when she says that listening to vinyls is more “organic compared to listening to CDs” and other formats. The tactile element of the LP engages the listener in a way that the MP3 or even the CD cannot. Which augurs well with how rock icon Ely Buendia regards vinyl. Writes Ely, “ Vinyl still retains that mystique of the record buying lifestyle. It makes me appreciate the music more.”

Image

Ely Buendia photo courtesy of Heima

There is a downside to this ritual though which accomplished classical violinist and lifelong vinyl enthusiast Joseph Esmilla warns about: “… listening to LPs is not for everyone, especially not for people who want instant gratification. It’s technology from a bygone era for those (masochists perhaps?) who choose to go through the ritual of vacuum cleaning both sides of an LP, turning on vacuum tube electronics, waiting for the filaments to glow, and queuing the tone arm on the first track, before sitting back on an Eames lounge chair and lighting a pipe.”

2. THE SOUND QUALITY

Vinyl enthusiasts swear by the sound quality of vinyl records. Indeed, broadcast journalist Julius Babao cites it as a critical factor for his passion for vinyl. “I guess it’s the clarity of the recording. I find the sound of CD or MP3 recordings too sharp and hard. Music recorded on vinyl sounds as if it has a life. The bass and treble sounds fuller or more natural.”

Image

Julius Babao

Much though depends on the quality of the gear or hardware that you’re playing the record on as Buendia discovered: “ I was finally able to find a turntable that I really liked… It was only recently that I found for myself that the sound quality really was a far cry from all the other formats.”

Marie recalls how the sound produced by a live band in some settings could actually pale in comparison to the sound of vinyl. One such experience involved The Diegos playing a 29-year old vinyl pressing of “Thieves Like Us” by New Order off their Substance album right after a band performance at Route 196 along Katipunan. For some unexplained reason, the sound quality of the vinyl recording proved to be worlds ahead of the sound quality of the live music that was just performed. It was an incredible experience that literally blew her away and that she remembers to this day.

Image

Marie Jamora (right)

Film director Robert Quebral points to the unique sound quality of vinyl as “a natural progression from the usual cd/digital format. As a hi-fi enthusiast, you seek for better sources and the analogue/ vinyl format is the next step…in my opinion vinyl playback has better soundstage (i.e., placement of musical instruments and vocalists in a recording) and is more dynamic in terms of pace and rhythm.”

3. THE ARTWORK

And then there is the artwork which cannot be appreciated on CD format as much as it can be relished on vinyl albums given the significant difference in dimensions of scale. Boy Bustamante, a 30-year graphics arts industry veteran remembers buying vinyl records on the strength of the artwork. He cites the titles of the albums like they were his kids. There is Abraxas by Santana where the artwork is by Mati Klarwein, Velvet Underground with the now-famous banana artwork by Andy Warhol, Beggars’ Banquet by the Rolling Stones with its 3D design cover, the Led Zep covers with die cuts and Live at Fillmore East by the Allman Brothers Band. To quote Boy: “even the simple black and white photo by Jim Marshall says a thousand words…analogue is an art environment – from the artists to the recording process to the packaging all the way to the listener.”

inquirer pics, diego's halloween party, hannah's bday, colin's 017

Boy Bustamante

World-renowned painter Elmer Borlongan who specializes in social realism agrees. In fact, part of the attraction of the hobby is its affinity to his vocation. Case in point: he remembers buying Brain Salad Surgery of Emerson, Lake and Palmer without even bothering to check if the album is a superb sonic experience. The sheer artwork was more than enough for him.

Image

Elmer Borlongan

I-Witness anchor and Motorcyle Diaries host Jay Taruc shares how: “ unang-una, yung vinyls, for me, they have better packaging. That 12″ X 12″ album sleeve with the cover art, pictures, graphics, information sheet-liner notes, and other physical and visual element is a very big plus over Compact Discs or MP3s. The experience from playing vinyl is just not comparable with ANY digital format. That big vinyl allows you to experience and physically hold the end product of an artist or a band: the creative process that goes through to actually produce it, the vinyl record somehow represents all that… for some reason CDs cannot give that and I also collect CDs.”

Image

Jay Taruc

Long before he put up Terno Records, DJ Toti Dalmacion was already into vinyls partly because of “the album art, the one that grabs your attention, the details, the inserts, the lyric sheet. More often than not, this is what attracts you into picking up a record you have no knowledge of and discover gems because of it.”

4. THE THRILL OF THE HUNT

“Life’s a journey not a destination,” Aerosmith sings in the song “Amazing.” So is the enjoyment of this hobby. What vinyl enthusiasts refer to as the thrill of the hunt is yet another reward that vinyls provide that other formats cannot. It’s so easy to just download songs. The same applies to CDs which you can order online or buy from the nearest record store of your choice. But vinyl albums are something else. Sure there are reissues that are starting to flood the market online and fairly recently, the physical record stores. But there are numerous sought-after albums that are out of print and albums that are every collector’s dream for being first pressings or for being made in Japan, Europe or the U.S.

Borlongan still remembers how he found John Lennon’s Double Fantasy in Shibuya, Japan. It gave him a different kind of high that never quite goes away. Thus, his advice to those who are in hurry to complete their wishlist. To wit: “the thrill is in the hunt. Collecting and listening to vinyl is a whole different experience.”

DJ and musician Diego Mapa of Tarsius, Pedicab and Cambio fame tends to agree: “when digging a record at thrift, discovering old music that is new to you has a good feeling to it. And not all old music or 45s are on the net. So you still get something surely only some have.”

Image

Diego Mapa

The setting for selling and buying records makes the thrill inevitable. As Julius Babao notes: “there are a lot of record stores worldwide that sell cheap records. I just got back from Tokyo, Japan and I was able to purchase rare LPs at reasonable prices.” Toti Dalmacion’s over 30,000 records which are comprised mostly by first pressings and out of print records of both pop and cult favorites took years and in some cases, decades to find and acquire through his viny-hunting expeditions around the globe.

One need not actually go abroad to experience this so-called thrill of the hunt. There are several vinyl record stores in Manila which can help you afford such experience. There is Vinyl Dump in Cubao, the Grey Market at White Plains, Tres Kuletos in Mandaluyong, Vinylhead Wreckords near Cash and Carry and the long-running Bebop Records in Makati Square.

5. BACK TO THE MUSIC AND THE MUSICIAN

Borlongan believes part of the fascination for vinyl bears some anti-technology themes. “Dulled na yung senses ng maraming tao ngayon due to the sheer volume and variants of media.” Vinyl for him is like a back-to-basics kind of experience for our time, an apt response to the common tao’s overload from too much technology. You can have thousands of records downloaded but what do all those songs mean to you when you don’t even know who is playing what and what the song is about. Bruce Springsteen’s “57 Channels With Nothing On” comes to mind. “We switched ‘round and ‘round till half-past dawn, there was fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on.” Or for that matter, Joey Ayala’s “Machine Answering” and its lament over technology’s invasion of the personal.

Marie Jamora complains how some Ipod or MP3 users couldn’t care less anymore what they have in their Ipod or MP3 players. The indifference to music is what vinyl ostensibly addresses. It makes especially the youth who were born and raised on digital formats care about music. Which aligns with what Diego calls “the personal relationship.” A vinyl makes you understand that the musician took great pains to sequence the songs in the album into two groups: side a and side b. Furthermore, these songs were not just placed in the album haphazardly. There is a reason why some tracks are considered opening or closing tracks. Sting’s Ten Summoners’ Tales which opens with a Prologue: “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” and concludes with an Epilogue:“Nothing ‘Bout Me” is a fine example. So is the Apo’s “Mga Kwento ng Apo” which presents 10 different stories ranging from loving across social divides to assuring a barkada of unconditional bromantic love. It’s good to remember that before the Ipod empowered the listener to create his/her own playlists as he/she sees fit or feels, the vinyl format gave the musician the wherewithal to create an “album” of how he/she thinks and feels his/her opus ought to be enjoyed by the listener. In the words of Jay Taruc: “Playing a vinyl record gets more into the artist and the music. I put on a record and I focus more intently on the album.” Triathlete and food blogger Erwan Heusaff’s seemingly simple answer of vinyl giving “a better sense of appreciation for the music” locates itself both here as well as the ritual aspect of vinyl listening.

6. HISTORY AND FAMILY

Interestingly, apart from the sound quality and the art work, the one thing that most influenced those featured in this report was their history by way of their their family and friends.

We are ultimately a product of our times according to social scientists. Joseph Esmilla notes that “I was born and raised during the era when the LP was the standard storage medium for recorded music.” It was not a matter of choice, writes advertising executive and composeer Nonoy Gallardo: “yun ang meron noong panahon ko. Noong 70s wala namang digital. Mayroon nang open reel at cassette tape players. I also had those, pero parang mas masarap makinig ng plaka noong panahon ng analog.”

If you are looking for evidence about the power of family and peer influence, look no further.

Diego Mapa shares that “I was turned on with my Dad’s vinyl collection at first. And he also bought me my first record. A best of Jimmy Hendrix album. Then in high school I would sometimes see a thrift or ukay, buy 1 or 2 and that’s it. Finally, I met music nuts same as my age who were already buying a lot.”

Marie Jamora knew the basics of cleaning records at the age of 5. She credits her dad and her elder siblings for her love of vinyl. She fondly remembers how her dad at that time would often go home from his frequent travels abroad with records from U.K. as “pasalubong.”

Julius Babao remembers getting his first record at 5 years old. “I grew up listening to vinyl records. I remember my very first vinyl record. It was Help by the Beatles which my mother bought for me when I was 5 years old.”

Jay Taruc has his generous barkada to thank for introducing him to vinyl: “Sometime between 1983 to 1989 another neighbor (i.e., we had extremely generous neighbors, by the way) introduced me to some vinyls available at the time. Aztec Camera’s Knife, Billy Joel’s Glasshouse album, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. I was hooked!”

Toti Dalmacion recalls growing up in a very musical family. “My grandparents, parents, uncles and aunties were really into music. In fact, my uncles are Dennis and Rene Garcia of Hotdog so it was inevitable for me to eventually get into music and at that time, the dominant format was vinyl. My first exposure to it was via 45’s also referred to as the 7-inch.”

7. THE MEDIA AND POP CULTURE

Borlongan remembers the year he revived his vinyl interest after an almost 20-year hiatus. The year was 2004. The place was New York City. As he was leafing through a magazine, he chanced upon a picture of a Vestax portable turntable. “Meron pa pala nito,” he muttered to himself. The next thing he knew, he was buying one for himself and, subsequently, buying used records and reissues like it was the 70s. And then came the upgrades every couple of years before he finally settled for a vintage Technics SL-1200DMark2. Borlongan credits media for the renewed interest in the format. The youth, he says, “see it in movies like Empire Records or High Fidelity and they are drawn to it out of curiosity.”

Marie Jamora has an interesting theory about vinyl in movies. She says the guys behind these movies most likely grew up on vinyl records. They are just acting out what they saw growing up. Which is all good for the format as those who see these movies eventually do one of two things. The youth who never had a direct experience of the format get curious enough to check it out. The young once who grew up on records get intrigued enough to find out if indeed the format is very much around.

8. THE NOSTALGIA BUG

Speaking of the young once, yet another driver of the renewed interest in the vinyl format is the nostalgia bug. That longing to go back to the past as immortalized in John Mayer’s “Stop This Train” and celebrated in the Eraserheads’ “Minsan.”

It is most unmistakable in Jay Taruc’s choice of hardware. Even if he can easily afford an all-new set-up, Taruc “opted for a late 70s to an early 80s set-up to replicate the sound (of my youth.)… The reason behind the choice of speakers was influenced by the music media to be played as well. Dapat tunog 70s to 80s din.”

Marie cites virtually the same reason for opting for a vintage Akai turntable instead of a brand new set-up. “I prefer to tweak the knobs to control the treble and the bass levels just like in the old days,” she says.
Ely Buendia confides that “for a time I was mostly buying vinyl for childhood nostalgia.”

Erwan Heusaff’s vinyl interest is just as steeped in nostalgia as he reminisces that: “when i was a kid, an old record player with a bunch of vinyls came with the house my parents had just bought in Canada. I remember my favourite album was one by The Chordettes and the snap crackle and pop that came from the speakers right before the song “Lollipop” played always made me so happy.”

Before the Deluge – The Prime Movers of Analog Music Then and Now

“Some of them were dreamers, some of them were fools who were making plans and thinking of the future…Some of them knew pleasure, and some of them knew pain, and for some of them it was only the moment that mattered…”

-Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne was said to have written “Before the Deluge” as a wake-up call addressed to the Woodstock generation who lost and eventually found their idealism with the rise of the yuppie in the 70s. He spoke about the myriad of personalities that found their wings and did something that would eventually make a difference. He might as well be referring to the people behind the vinyl resurgence in this regard.

Image

Joseph Esmilla

The musician Joseph Esmilla credits Wired State – Friends in Audio for keeping the analog fire burning. The forum was put up by Francis Sogono, a vinyl enthusiast himself in early 2003 to “create a virtual community for all who love music and audio – thus, the friends in audio” tag. Its membership is comprised by “designers, engineers, musicians, hardware and software dealers, DIYers but majority are simply the common lovers of music whether live or recorded. Another Wired State advocacy was to help promote and market Philippine-made and assembled ampllifiers and speakers.” It currently boasts of 6,000 members ranging from newbies to veteran audiophiles of which 20% actively participate in discussions. “Analog discussions dominate the forums over digital with a ratio of 5 to 1,” observes Sogono. It has anything and everything a vinyl hobbyist could possibly ask for and more. From which records to buy next to setting up your first turntable. From vintage gear to state-of-the-art equipment. From DIY gear to hand-me-down stuff. From trivial questions to existential ones. It even welcomes posts to pre-empt analog burnout (i.e., photography, cars, guitars, planes, scale models, etc.) Anyone and everyone is welcome. You can choose to just lurk or you can choose to post. To ensure everyone is on their best behaviour, it has moderators and administrators per topic and section. Best of all, membership is free. To quote Esmilla, “Wired State is the only forum I know in our country that caters to the interest of LP lovers. This is where local dealers and enthusiasts hang out. And every November, we all gather for a weekend of listening and LP hunting at the Hi-Fi show.”

Image

Tonyboy Deleon (left) with Francis Sogono (right)

The November Hi Fi Show came into being through the friendships formed in Wired State. Tonyboy De Leon who has been at its helm for the past 10 years refers to Wired State as “the bridge” that made it possible for them to meet up. In fact, the November Hi Fi Show started as an informal record swapping event among friends at the LPL Manor Building in Makati in 2004. That same year, Tonyboy and what would eventually be the Nov Hi Fi Show Team comprised by Boy Bustamante, Robert Crespo, Arnold Cruz and Joseph Esmilla were moved by the analog spirit to formalize the event at the Mandarin Oriental which would become its home until 2011. They moved to Dusit Thani in 2012. Crespo cites the Kevin Costner-starrer Field of Dreams as an early inspiration: “if you build it, they will come.” They put up the show by the balls sans feasibility studies and a proper org chart. Among their objectives at the time in addition to putting up a venue to enjoy music through the vinyl format were to showcase DIY audio to help local builders (who were featured gratis) and provide a physical venue where hobbyists can learn the latest hardware and catch up on their software needs and wants. Over the years, they got more than what they initially signed up for. There is the added psychic income of supporting indie bands like the memorable 2004 concert of the Radioactive Sago Project and indie films like Ang Nawawala and Jingle Lang ang Pahina. In addition, there is the now-famous and highly-anticipated Saturday night fellowships that would rival your most memorable high school reunions and the ever-increasing analog awareness among the youth meant to reverse what Tonyboy calls “the age of (musical) indifference.” Financially, it was a losing proposition on its first two years with Tony Boy bankrolling everything . On its 10th year, however, he looks back with vindicated pride when he remarks that it is the only show in Manila which not only counts on a loyal following. More important, year on year, visitor size has respectably grown. And so despite the fact that it is held in five-star hotels like the Mandarin and Dusit, he has managed to waive entrance fees. Thanks to public support as well as the critical support provided by audio-visual exhibitors both local and foreign. This year boasts of 55 exhibitors capped by his biggest coup, thus far. To wit: bringing in the Analog guru himself, Michael Fremer to Manila to conduct a workshop on setting up a turntable the right way.

Image

(left to right) Boy Bustamante, Tonyboy Deleon and Robert Crespo

Long before there was Wired State and the Nov Hi Fi Show though there was Rene Rivo who has been specializing in turntable repair, restoration and set-up for the past 30 years. An engineer by profession, he started buying vinyls in Bislig, Surigao del Sur while he was in high school ran by the Salesian Brothers. Thanks to his dad and his elder brother, he inevitably developed a talent for tinkering with all types of audio visual equipment, from Betamax to laser discs eventually graduating to VHS and DVD players. His first love though was the restoration and set-up of turntables, amplifiers and speakers. Asked how many turntables he has repaired or restored for the past 3 decades, he smiles and just says, “countless bro.” He still remembers his first successful restoration job though – an ST-70 Dynaco. After college in 1983, he jumped from one company to another for 2 years until he realized his bliss was in his passion. He has not looked back since. For the next 30 years , business initially coming from both the suppliers and buyers at Cash and Carry enabled him to raise a family and put his kids through college. Recently, celebrities have been knocking on his door to ask him to either repair their audio gears or set up one. He has no Nielsen Soundscan statistician to measure the vinyl resurgence but get this: these days, he averages a minimum of 1 turntable repair per week.

Image

Rene Rivo

Noly Dy of The Analog Source only got bitten by the whole idea of restoring turntables in 2007 but he is an interesting mix of Tonyboy and Rene. That’s because complimenting his skill at restoring to-die-for Swiss-made Lenco turntables (i.e., he has restored 50 and counting over the years) is his informal awareness campaign to educate particularly the young about the wonders of the analog sound. He is possibly the only analog enthusiast who would go out of his way to demonstrate gratis what a turntable is and how it works mostly in schools and related social events. The psychic income comes from the young who would tell him about their experience of listening to a better-than-MP3 sonics. And then there is the eureka moment from grown-ups who marvel at the fact that: “meron pa pala nyan ngayon.” It seems to be paying off. He says per month he averages around 10 visitors asking about turntables and set-ups. Most of them surprisingly are not from Wired State. His vision is for more people to discover analog despite the dominance of the digital media.

Image

Noly Dy

You may have the right hardware but without the software to play and enjoy, the analog experience is not complete. Bebop Records owned and operated by another De Leon, in no way related to Tonyboy, has been the go-to place over the years. Bob De Leon boasts of a 30,000 record collection which he has amassed over the years starting from high school. Like Rene who tried his hand at different jobs, Bob struggled with day jobs that did not move him after his college studies. He knew early on what he wanted his life to be about – vinyl collecting. And to sustain it, he took to buying and selling what else but records, thousands of them. Bob started out as an avid buyer at Phoenix Records and A2Z both in QC before deciding to go into the same line of business. On top of the income that he uses to sustain his hobby while raising a family, Bob gets a lot of fulfilment when he is able to pass on his passion and his encyclopedic knowledge of vinyl music to start-up hobbyists who wish to grow in the hobby. Since he was himself a buyer cum collector before he became a businessman, his empathy and sympathy for the vinyl buyer complements his pursuit of profit. He will tell you in all honesty whether a used copy is near mint or VG at times even going to the extent of discouraging you from buying what he is supposedly selling you if he thinks you will not be happy with the sound quality.

Image

Bob De Leon

Bob’s remarkable longevity as the proverbial go-to vinyl “pusher” is matched by the ingenuity of two up and coming vinyl advocates: Heima and Satchmi.

Heima (“hi, ma!”) which is owned and operated by Bong Rojales is strictly speaking not a vinyl store. Rather, it is a home and lifestyle company established in 2009 which “designs quirky furniture and furnishings for one’s home.” Vinyl records and portable Crosley turntables are only two among the many items that they sell. There’s home decors, mint-condition typewriters, scents, lighting, furniture, lithographs and paper art. Writes Bong Rojales: “Lifestyle is part of our brand, the music part is in a way complimentary. We are not a full time record store. We have records and players because it fits the brands’ identity.” Nonetheless, Heima owns the distinction of being part of a group of companies which helped Jamora release a Filipino movie soundtrack on vinyl in the 21st century. Nawawalang Soundtrack which director Marie Jamora describes as the “best music in the world” boasts of vinyl-only tracks by Ebe Dancel (i.e., “Cuida” recorded live), Ely Buendia and Raymund Marasigan (i.e., “Minsan” rearranged for the movie soundtrack) and the Apo ( i.e., “Ano ang Ibig Mong Sabihin”) and some of the best releases by indie bands today.

bong rojales 2

Bong Rojales

Satchmi, on the other hand, which was inspired by Louis Armstrong’s nickname Satchmo, positions vinyls and turntables as a call to action. Established in 2012 by 3 vinyl enthusiasts, Edric Chua, Ronald Sy and Aislinn Chuahiock all born in the 1980s, its goal is no less than to tear down the walls between vinyl cultists protective of the exclusivity of their hobby and the general public particularly the youth sector and those who once had a love affair with vinyl growing up. Nope, they are not out to pick a fight with vinyl audiophiles. Their call to action is in response to a “very fast-paced culture” with “a 3-second attention span and…a tendency to (write) 140-character status messages before going back to the grind.” Satchmi has its roots in Vancouver where its chief strategist Edric Chua lived after college. While walking In downtown Vancouver, he happened into this old vinyl record store which gave him the inspiration for what his team calls the Satchmi experience – “marvelling at beautiful things, romantic pasts, and uncommon luxuries.” To transport such an experience to the country though, Edric and his team struggled with the question, how will their target clients get past the supposedly 60K entry fee – the estimated amount it takes to purchase an all-new analog set-up? Their answer is the Motorino – a portable turntable which the curious could take home to give vinyl records a try without breaking the bank, as they say. To reach out to the greatest possible market for music, Satchmi employs a two-fold strategy: partnering with Astro Plus and participating in as many bazaars as possible which was how they started.

Image

(left to right) Ronald Sy, Edric Chua and Aislinn Chuahlock

Despite their varied backgrounds, what cuts across all of these groups and these personalities can be captured by one color – red and one word – passion that knows no bounds. Nothing more, nothing less. Interestingly, both the veteran Hi Fi Show organizer Tonyboy De Leon and start-up Satchmi’s Edric Chua did not commission any feasibility studies for their respective passion projects. They literally flew by the seat of their pants.

The Future – Where Is the Vinyl Format Really Going?

“Things are going to slide, slide in all directions. Won’t be nothing, nothing you can measure anymore. I’ve seen the nations rise and fall, I’ve heard their stories, heard them all but love’s the only engine of survival.”

-Leonard Cohen

The mind reels from these kaleidoscopic insights shared by vinyl devotees and prime movers of the black circle. If such is the power of the vinyl format and such is the passion of its advocates, collectors and consumers, could it eventually retake its place as the dominant format given that the CD is reportedly dying as a format?

Leonard Cohen’s “The Future” drops some clues to help the reader navigate through the future of vinyl albeit by metaphor. In this pre-apocalyptic song , Cohen admits that despite the signs of the times that the end is near, there is still enough reason to hold out for hope and survival by way of what else? but love, love, love. True, it looks like the end is near but wait just yet. It looks like the vinyl format is ready to make a comeback and achieve critical mass but wait just yet.

It could still go either way. The jury is still out if this vinyl resurgence will eventually hold out even if it seems that way.

Forever a Niche Market?

Crespo reminds us that, “you must remember that during our time, vinyl was the only format to enjoy major record releases.” “Wala pa nong internet o CD o DVD o MP3” as the band Sandwich would put it in their song “Betamax.” That is no longer true today. Which explains why none of the major players we interviewed consider themselves purists when it comes to vinyl music. They could easily shift from one format to the next depending on the circumstances or their moods. Gallardo offers: “pag pang background lang yung music, saksak ko yung Ipod. When I have the time to sit down and listen at gusto kong namnamin ang areglo, ang bawat nota – LPs.” Which reminds me of rock and roll hall of famer Neil Young’s observation that Steve Jobs who gave us the Ipod may have made it easier to carry your music library in your pocket, but “when he goes home, he listens to vinyl.” Granted that digital is here to stay, the question persists: will this grow? Most of the people we interviewed agree it will grow but it will not achieve the kind of critical mass it used to enjoy.

Bong Rojales notes that “the vinyl market is definitely growing worldwide, but so is iTunes and other modes of music listening (i.e., Spotify, Soundcloud, 8tracks, etc ). People have more choices in the 21st century. I for one move from one format to another, in various modes at any given day. I may listen to vinyl for breakfast, move to my desk and play FLAC files on my desktop then listen to 8tracks while mobile, put on a CD in the car, then cap the night streaming music on an AppleTV. The main difference at this time is that because of people and the indie community who helped revive the interest in vinyl, the market is going mainstream.” Rojales’ Heima released Nawawalang Soundtrack and supported Number Line Records’ Primate by Diego Mapa’s Tarsius. It is also retailing The Number Line Anthology which features the best tracks of Number Line Records’ stable of indie bands. “All are doing or did well by our standards,” says Rojales.

As if on cue, Toti Dalmacion’s Terno Records released Capacities by Up Dharma Down also in 2012. Per Dalmacion, “it’s been selling steadily. Market response is positive” even if his company “has a unique and distinct strategy to market it. We only sell it during gigs and at Fully Booked branches. Radioactive Sago Project will most likely be up next but we will have to base it on pre-orders. It is an expensive proposition. Pressing can only be done abroad as there are no pressing plants left in the country.”

Image

Toti Dalmacion

The local recording industry has yet to jump into the vinyl bandwagon. Except for Polyeast Records that is. Richard Calderon, the New Media manager of Polyeast is the lone ranger of mainstream recording companies when it comes to checking out the prospects for an OPM vinyl release. The results have not been disappointing, so far. He shares how stunned they were with the fact that almost 50% of Bamboo The Singles vinyl units were sold within the first week of its release. He is hopeful but is at the same time, cautious. In fact, he and his team are so hopeful that a second wave is being readied for release to the market soon. Before the year is over, anthologies from OPM icons FrancisM, The Dawn, Joey Albert, and True Faith will hit the market. Calderon is pinning his hopes on the vinyl resurgence as a protracted way of reversing the damage done by piracy. In his words: “hopefully, it will make people care more about how great our music is as a country.” There was a time¸ shared Calderon, when music was on a 1 is to 1 basis. You wanted the Beatles’ White Album, you get yourself a copy. Digital music and its attendant developments changed all that. Calderon states that: “we were already talking about doing some vinyl release as early as 2012 since we have a vast OPM catalog.” His take on why Polyeast seems to be all by its lonesome is that “we must all realize that all these current companies deal with CD and digital. Vinyl is really a different field for them. Someone within these companies should really take the initiative and re-learn a lot about the vinyl format.”

bamboo album cover

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}

Or a Brewing Critical Mass?

But will all of these heroic efforts at reviving the format in the country reach critical mass?

If we go by the power of the two distinct groups of vinyl buyers whose numbers are increasing, it might not necessarily be beyond the realm of the possible.

The first group is the youth. Heima’s Bong Rojales notes that most of their vinyl buyers are young, between 20s to 30s. This is the same group which has been purchasing Crosley turntables from them. Observes Toti Dalmacion, “there appears to be renewed interest in the format mostly coming from the youth sector who are getting curious about the phenomenon. It’s perceived as something in, trendy and cool these days.” There is also a certain defiance and quasi-rebelliousness in the youth that Boy Bustamante and Noly Dy detect. The parents of today’s youth listened to CDs growing up. The youth, true to form, want to be different. So they take to vinyls. Those who underestimate the power of the young would do well to brush up on their history. The Katipunan, the NPA and the People Power revolution were powered by the youth. In fact, music is primarily consumed by the youth since time immemorial.

There is another equally significant group though, notes Marie Jamora, whose economic power augurs well with the possibility that the vinyl market will continue to grow in the coming years. To wit: the market segment which grew up on vinyl and who now have the disposable income to invest in it. Think about it. These individuals who were born and raised in households where the vinyl was king are now in their 40s and 50s. They grew up in households where the “plaka” was the dominant storage medium. This phenomenon is not exclusive to the Philippines. In concerts by classic rockers like The Eagles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and U2, it is not an uncommon sight to see 40 and 50 year-olds plucking air guitars and pounding air drums next to audiences in their 20s and 30s.

Which lends credence to Noly Dy’s fearless forecast even as he agrees that objectively as of today, it’s really a case of a growing niche market. In the same breath though, he asks, who knows? A couple of years ago, this whole business of pampering oneself through the spa and the different variants of body massage were considered luxuries. The tablet, it should be recalled, was dismissed as superfluous given that everybody has a laptop already. Smart phones were unheard of as the attendant expense would most likely make it next to impossible to buy them. Look where these are today. For all the objections to the price tag associated with the analog experience, the entire gamut of mindsets grounded in the themes of quality of life, work-life balance, time for oneself, slowing down and going back to the basics may be said to be the same kinds of motifs that might just facilitate the return of the vinyl to the mainstream.

Could it be that this was exactly what visionary director JJ Abrams had in mind in 2013 when he chose to showcase the vinyl and the turntable as still the ultimate way to enjoy music circa 2354 – the year that Star Trek Journey to Darkness is envisioned to have taken place. A future where wonder of wonders, space ships can time warp, humans can be beamed up from one place to another and the dead can come back to life. A future where remarkably music can only truly be enjoyed through vinyls playing on turntables.
Joseph Esmilla’s insight tends to dovetail with JJ Abrams’ reserved place for the vinyl and the turntable: “The first microgroove LP was released in June 1948. The first CD player and audio CDs went into the market in October 1982. It’s November 2013 and we are talking about LPs, which are still available on the top floor of Fully Booked at Bonifacio High Street, along with CDs and DVDs. That in itself is an indicator of its remarkable staying power.”

In the end, regardless of whether it will achieve critical mass or remain a niche market, to the vinyl enthusiast, Dave Matthews’ declaration suffices –

“I am no superman. I have no answers for you.
But I do know one thing is where you are is where I belong.
I do know where you go is where I wanna be.”

“Jingle Lang Ang Pahina” Reflections (Writer’s Cut)

Posting the final draft of the article I submitted to the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2013. This was eventually edited to meet the 5,000 character cap assigned to me. Hence, this was not published in its entirety.

 

JINGLE LANG ANG PAHINA: THE DOCU FILM AS CREATIVE REPETITION

By Von Katindoy

Image

Alternative Film Poster

“What is the point of revisiting the past?,” my philosophy teacher once challenged us in class. “Why not just live in the present and project oneself into the future? Or even better, why not just eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we will all die?” Dead silence. After a few moments of holding us in suspense, he gave away the answer: because by repeating and revisiting something, one inevitably stumbles onto something absolutely new and totally unique that most likely escaped your attention earlier. My philosophy teacher called this creative repetition. It’s actually more intriguing in Filipino: mapaglikhang pag-uulit. Never mind that I learned about the concept 20 years ago. It was all that I could think of after my wife and I caught the screening of an indie movie entitled “Jingle Lang ang Pahina” at the Conspiracy Bar and Garden Café a couple of weeks ago.

 

BORN AND RAISED ON JINGLE

“Jingle,” of course, was the name of the now-defunct music magazine which accompanied many a Filipino adolescent’s growing up years from the 70s to the late 80s. Established by Gilbert Guillermo shortly before Martial Law, Jingle Music Magazine literally gave me my first guitar as it was my growing Jingle collection that gave me the courage to ask my late father to get my brother and me Lumanog guitars from Guagua despite his meagre government pay. This was shortly after I “mastered” what is now considered to be the easiest acoustic song to learn on guitar, “Horse with No Name” by then acoustic folk rock trio America. For those who are unfamiliar, it only has 2 chords: Em7 and DM7. Don’t forget the 7 as the men and women of Jingle took great pains to design an all-in one reference of the entire gamut of guitar chords and its various permutations making it the literal centrefold of each of the issues of the magazine. It’s a precedent that other music publications would follow in the post-Jingle era of music magazines.

Thanks to Jingle, I would later discover that there was more to acoustic folk rock than America: James Taylor, Jim Croce, Simon and Garfunkel, Carly Simon, Bread, CSN, Neil Young, Don Mclean, Linda Ronstadt, and the Eagles were just a few of the acts whose songs I would learn to play on guitar growing up. Jingle was there to refer to when the mood strikes you to furiously strum the opening riff of Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane” or pluck the melancholic intro to “Aubrey” on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Eventually, I graduated to Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Tears for Fears and Toto and then off to Sting, U2, Simple Minds and the 80s version of Jackson Browne, all under the careful tutelage seamlessly provided by Jingle. Lest I forget, alongside these foreign acts, Jingle also chronicled in even greater and colorful detail the glorious history of OPM from the Juan Dela Cruz Band to Asin, from Gary Granada to Joey Ayala, from the Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society to the Dawn, from Jose Mari Chan to Gary V, from the underground to the mainstream. Thanks to Jingle, I eventually learned how to decently pluck the opening strains to Asin’s “Balita” and “Himig ng Pag-ibig.” Whether you wanted the most accurate OPM chords and lyrics, the latest review of a rock concert which also doubled at times, as interviews or proper reviews of the latest OPM albums out in the market, Jingle was there to provide all-out support for OPM even as it continued to cover the American and British rock scenes.

Jingle also set me off on a life-long record collecting adventure which started when I was 12 years, and which continues to this day. From vinyl to cassettes to CDs and who knows, perhaps, had it continued on, maybe until the vinyl resurgence that we are currently witnessing. I suppose I should blame it on their well-written album reviews which relied heavily on a creative 5-point rating scale ranging from the dreaded “bangaw” (i.e., poor album meant for loyalists with masochistic tendencies) to the ethereal angel icon (i.e., classic album representing sonic nirvana and is therefore, a must-have recording.) I was so impressed by a number of these reviews that I clipped them. A number of them even became my inspiration to complete the catalog of Jackson Browne, Sting, Jennifer Warnes, and Suzanne Vega, to name a few.

In between mastering the opening chords to “Hotel California” or “King of Pain” and dissecting the album reviews penned by music reviewers par excellence Juaniyo Arcellana and Bernie Bagaman, I would find myself plotting the first baby steps towards becoming a DJ or aspiring to start my own band with no regard for available resources or hunting down a much sought-after to-die-for album on vinyl. None of the three ever happened, by the way, except for the last one, albeit belatedly. Thanks to the wide array of articles that appeared on its pages, Jingle made you transcend your mundane circumstances and dream of alternative realities without the aid of alcohol and other artificial substances. Yes, you could say that reading Jingle was both addicting and intoxicating. Lav Diaz, the critically acclaimed indie director, who started out at Jingle has a nice term for it. “Transcendence, Pare…that’s what Jingle is about.” Jingle allowed you to escape from the confines of your present reality and travel not just across time and space but across various versions of reality a’la the parallel realities portrayed in Fringe. Whether it’s through the songs that one would play through its pages or the concert reviews penned by its resident writers, the effect was the same. No wonder Raimund Marasigan refers to Jingle then as “their internet.” But I’m getting ahead of myself.

JINGLE AND MARTIAL LAW

That there was more to Jingle than the spot-on guitar chords and fine prose writing on both OPM and foreign artists and their albums and other related pursuits was something I did not care about before. And this is where “Jingle Lang ang Pahina” comes in.

Chuck Escasa’s movie very astutely positions Jingle not just as a music publication but as a precursor of the so-called mosquito press and the alternative publications that would mushroom after Ninoy’s assassination in 1983 by virtue of its intrinsic trademark: irreverence. Without its meaning to, it was both part of the status quo and yet, by virtue of its being a purveyor of rock music both home-grown and foreign, anti status quo. Notice how in using chapter to chronicle every issue it published it effectively defied the convention of using volume number and issue number. The fact that it came at a time that Marcos was about to declare Martial Law may help explain its irreverent tendencies. Like almost everything in media and in the academe at the time, it couldn’t escape from the context of the First Quarter Storm and the student movement that made it happen. Even the Philippine Military Academy through Victor Corpus was not spared from the context of those times. Interestingly, the thread of that context which was essentially anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-fascist cuts across the true north of rock and roll. Consequently, on September 21, 1972, Jingle was among those that were ordered shut down by the martial law implementors of Marcos “to save the republic from the threats posed by the communists and the oligarchs.” We all know the story. Marcos and his minions wove a very intricate story about the Philippines being at the tipping point of becoming a banana republic given the threats from the left and the right and how the only way it could be saved was for all opposition to a new society to disappear. “May bagong silang. May bago nang buhay…bagong bansa sa bagong lipunan,” I remember singing every school day with the rest of the student body right after the Philippine National Anthem. Thankfully, it was also one of the few that was allowed to resume publication after one of the elder Guillermos appealed to a general in Camp Crame who was considerate enough to give the publication another lease on life as there was nothing explicitly subversive about it, or so he thought. This, however, was on the condition that its publication name which in the 70s became the colloquial expression for relieving oneself, was changed to Twinkle, apparently in keeping with the provisions of the cleansing program of the New Society. Twinkle eventually paved the way for the revival of the original title of the magazine more than a year after Martial Law. When it did resume as Jingle, however, it continued to imbibe albeit subtly the elements that defined its logo: the pissing angel which was both angelic and naughty. Apparently PD 1081-compliant on the surface but every couple of pages or so, anti-establishment to the core because if you read carefully, you would chance upon a couple of anti-government sarcastic comments here or some subliminal anti-Marcos jokes there. And if you’re feeling lucky, the correct set of chords to your favourite agit prop songs used in rallies and discussion groups.

Notwithstanding these initial bumps in its early publication, Jingle would subsequently reach its sales and marketing apex during the Martial Law years. It was one of those things that simply and inevitably connected with the Filipinos across political and social divides as an alternative to the Times Journal, Daily Express and the Manila Bulletin which were all under the close watch by the military. To use today’s terms, it turned “viral” to a point that it became a lucrative business, Jingle’s Ces Rodriguez observes. Noam Chomsky, the left’s self-appointed guardian against the commercialization of media, would have approved. Chuck refers to Jingle as the bible of his generation. Although I never quite saw it like that, the fact that it was everywhere and anywhere where there were young and old people clutching a copy for reference or leisure reading be it a purchased, borrowed or stolen tends to reinforce his perception.

 

THREE HIGHLIGHTS TO LOOK FORWARD TO AND THEN SOME

“Jingle Lang ang Pahina” is essentially a celebration of music journalism as a dream profession. In this sense, it is a very good audio visual rejoinder to Conrad De Quiros’ “Writer Ka Lang Pala” article that appeared on the pages of the Inquirer several years ago. They may have worked in unglamourous work settings like rented houses and apartments rather than the state of the art corporate offices of high-end publications like Rolling Stone, Spin and Q. Their pay back then may not be able to rival what they are getting today as top notch writers. But they enjoyed something daily that us non-Jingle writing staff mortals could only aspire for in our wildest dreams. To wit: the opportunity to listen ahead of everybody else to the latest vinyl releases and review the same before these records hit the shelves of record stores. If you love music the way they do, you could not possibly ask for anything “heavier” than that. Astig pare! They wrote album reviews that could hold their own versus their counterparts in Rolling Stone Magazine. Reviews that would compel you to go out and buy the album either to validate the reviewer’s perception or to be able to have something to discuss and argue about with your utols or barkada. Reviews that would move readers to fire off letters to the editor putting specific writers to task for not having the wits to appreciate the beauty of a specific album. I was amused no end by pioneering Jingle writer Mike Jamir’s recollection of how he inevitably found himself in the crosshairs of Duranies at the height of the global fascination with Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran when he gave the dreaded “bangaw” rating to a Duran Duran record. I forget which one.
Jingle writers also enjoyed front row seats during live performances of up and coming as well as veteran solo artists and bands whose musical legacy continues to live on to this day. Like Cameron Crowe in the iconic “Almost Famous” film chronicling his early years as a Rolling Stone reporter, they enjoyed all-access passes which allowed them to hang out with the likes of Joey Smith and Sampaguita at the height of their popularity.

Not only did they listen and critique. They practically participated in the creative repetition of the songs that they featured on their pages. That’s because the lyrics and chords that would appear on their pages were borne of endless hours of listening to the recording either on vinyl or cassette, but mostly on vinyl per pioneering writer Mike Jamir to nail down both the lyrics and the chords on guitar. They even have a term for it: “sinipra.” All along, I thought that the lyrics and the chords featured in Jingle all came from the management of the featured artist/s. Now it can be told. They literally burned the midnight oil, so to speak, to get it right – all for the love of music and writing. Jamir though who has become an academician is just one among many writers featured here. Watch out for the chance to be able to finally put faces to the by-lines that you used to read about for decades. Juaniyo Arcellana, Inquirer editor Pennie Azarcon-Dela Cruz, artist Romy Buen, current Inquirer music writer Poch Concepcion, Emmelyn De Guzman, Manny Espinola, Jing Garcia, Tony Maghirang, Yahoo Philippines editor Ces Rodriguez, Interaksyon’s Edwin Sallan and Dinky Aguilar. They’re all here. So make a mental note to catch the next screening and be prepared to be floored by their engaging recollections of writing for Jingle and what Jingle is to them in retrospect.

There is also something here for the devout record collector especially of vinyl albums – a format which was given up for dead after the advent of the CD but which is currently enjoying an ongoing global resurgence even as CD sales continue to decline. Just in case you didn’t notice, Bamboo and Martin Nievera released 3 vinyl-only albums early last month which were all warmly welcomed by vinyl enthusiasts in the country. Interestingly, all 3 were pressed in the Czech Republic. It’s been more than two decades since an OPM title was released on vinyl. Time was when OPM vinyl albums were as numerous as their foreign counterparts found in Astroplus these days. This docu film is guaranteed to take you to that era where Jingle staff writers would compete with each other in reviewing dozens upon dozens of vinyl albums by both OPM and foreign artists. Real-life record collector and Jingle completist Allen Mercado is among those featured here and he recounts the influence that Jingle has had on his record collecting hobby against the backdrop of his endless shelves of thousands of vinyl albums complemented by close-up shots of the iconic Technics SL 1200 turntable – a must-have equipment of many analog enthusiasts worldwide especially now that it is no longer available in the market. I never got to ask Chuck if his close-up shot of the Technics was done on purpose or by accident. But being a “reborn” vinyl collector for the past 4 years now, I got a kick seeing the Technics along with the buyer-friendly albeit durable Shure M-447 taking center stage in a docu-film even if only for a few seconds.

Of course, there is no Jingle without guitars and guitarists. There are plenty of them here as well. The Juan Dela Cruz Band waxing poetic with “Pagod sa Pahinga,” Johnny Alegre crooning like a hopeless romantic by way of “In Love With You,” Chicoy Pura singing the blues with “Rage,” Gary Perez revisiting “Tao” and Eric Guillermo playing his jazz fusion original “Flow,” among others. The most familiar representations of pop, jazz and rock guitar are equally well represented here, from the classical guitar to the acoustic guitar, from the unplugged electric guitar to a live one in the middle of a band’s searing performance. They may represent different musical genres but there is one thing that binds them all – their dependence on Jingle back in the day that they were paying their dues at the start of their respective recording careers and later on, their connection to Jingle when they made it up there and had to contend with the challenge of sustaining interest in their craft and in their music. We might as well say that nearly all Pinoy rock icons who made a dent in OPM history from the 70s to the 90s were born and raised on Jingle. In fact, there is even one Jingle staffer featured in this film who suggested that Pinoy rock had two waves of rock musicians. The first wave was led by the Juan Dela Cruz band. The second by the Eraserheads. Both were heavily influenced by Jingle back in the day when they were earning their stripes as musicians.

Equally worth looking out for is an enigmatic post-script of sorts towards the end of the movie guaranteed to leave the audience with more questions than answers. Kinda reminds me of those Marvel movie cliffhangers which they cleverly position after the closing credits. Will this docu film have a sequel? After all, I didn’t get to see Eric Gamalinda, Joey Ayala (yup, he used to write for Jingle), Joey De Leon (yes, the comedian cum painter is also a writer), Doray Espinosa, Didits Gonzalez, Bert Sulat, and Eric Caruncho, among others. Abangan!

 

SHOOTING THE DOCUMENTARY

The idea of making a documentary on Jingle was something that has been gestating in Chuck’s mind for so many years. Why Jingle, if you might ask? Like me, Chuck was also raised on Jingle. In fact, he has always dreamt of writing for Jingle. Alas, he never got the chance as other pursuits came a-calling. Fortunately, in 2012, he received a film grant from the Film Development Council of the Philippines along with his wife Aimee who also received a grant to write, direct and edit a full-length feature film entitled “Asin.”

They shot the docu film for about 12 days from February to May 2012 which may partly explain the play with words in the title although I challenge both the reader and the viewer to discover for themselves two other angles from which to appreciate Chuck’s choice of title. Write me when you figure it out and if you get it right, I’ll treat you to a cup of coffee. The entire end to end process of preparing a finished audio visual project took 6 months. Chuck wrote and directed the film while his wife Aimee edited. In this sense, you could say that this film was ultimately and literally, their labor of love. It is noteworthy that the Young Critics’ Circle nominated “Jingle Lang Ang Pahina” for Best Editing. Aimee, says Chuck, “may easily be one of the best cutters around. She has an incredible feel for timing and detail as she painstakingly sifted through more than 50 hours worth of footage and crammed it into a one hour movie that makes terrific sense. It’s not a technical marvel but it’s got lots of heart and guts.” After watching the movie, I couldn’t agree more.

The most difficult part of the shoot, according to Chuck, was scheduling the interviews. To maximize on the budget, they had to squeeze in 4 to 5 interviews in one day. It was logistical nightmare pure and simple. “Minsan yung mga available on a certain date, magkakalayo ng locations. One time, we had to start in Mandaluyong, then Makati, then Quezon City and finally Paranaque. All in one day. At ako pa ang nagdridrive.”

In the end, all their hard work paid off because although it lost to “Qiyamah” by Teng Mangansakan which won Best Film, “Jingle Lang Ang Pahina” was shortlisted as one of the best films of 2012, along with Raymond Red’s “Kamera Obskura” and Brillante Mendoza’s “Thy Womb”.
“Jingle Lang ang Pahina” was first shown, in its unfinished form, at SM City Davao on the occasion of the 1st Sineng Pambansa last July 2012. Since 2012 it has been shown in two private screenings. There are no definite plans yet for a wider public release, because they need to resolve licensing issues for the copyrighted music used in the docu film. I told Chuck though that given that the film actually promotes OPM music, he might wish to explore a win-win arrangement for both his production team and the artists and their labels. Drawing inspiration from “Sound City,” how about a “Jingle Lang ang Pahina” soundtrack on limited edition vinyl format? Calling on PARI, FILSCAP and OPM?

 

JINGLE REDUX?

But will all this augur well for the rebirth of Jingle Magazine in the 21st century? Is this some kind of a Trojan horse-inspired movie meant to allow the Guillermo clan to reclaim their rightful place in music publications? Eric Guillermo says that this is farthest from their minds at this time. The internet, he says, has superseded Jingle. Thousands of guitar chords and tabs are all over the internet at zero cost to the guitar enthusiast. Ditto with album reviews, concert reviews, and the like. Artists and celebrities are more accessible these days via various social networking sites. So, if is not about making a comeback, what is the ultimate take-away from the movie?

Perhaps the final musical segment of the film which was the only song (among the dozen or so used in the movie) that was presented in its entirety could offer us a viable answer. I’m referring here to Sandwich’s famous “Betamax” which I must admit I did not use to care about that much until I saw the said band perform it to cap the movie. “Betamax” chronicles the depth and breadth of OPM history from the Juan Dela Cruz Band to Asin, from the Apo to The Dawn down to Martin and Gary. But even as it did pay tribute to the icons and legends of OPM by way of a 4- minute OPM retrospective, the key message of the song, “Padayon, ipagpatuloy ang daloy ng alon” is not lost to the careful listener. “Padayon…,” which is Visayan for “to continue,” Sandwich frontman Raimund Marasigan would exhort the listener over and over until fade-out. It reminds me of my teacher’s corollary reflection on mapaglikhang pag-uulit. To revisit the past is not to dwell in it, period but rather, to be able to unearth something that would enable one to move forward. Perhaps by reflecting on the elements that enabled Jingle to connect with such a large audience of readers, our continuing musical, make that cultural, heck, make that socio-political journey as a country and as individuals with our respective personal pursuits would be made more meaningful, significant, and purposive. Things like transcendence, passion, resilience, fun, teamwork, and yes, rage, rage against the dying of the light. Familiar elements all which are nothing new and yet absolutely ever new and always compelling and eternally indispensable. My philosophy teacher would have approved.

JINGLE.LANG.poster.ver.02_resize

The Official Film Poster

 

Begin

“We must never stop from exploring and the end of all our exploring is to arrive where we began and know the place for the first time”

                                                                                                                                                            – T.S.Eliot

Drawing inspiration from Stephen R. Covey’s favorite concluding quote, I decided to create this blog site to document my humble attempts to articulate my reflections and insights on three interests I am passionate about: music, books and movies. To be sure, there are other areas of interest that I am currently pursuing as a beginner. There is not much to write about them at this time, however.

Thank you for visiting.