“Sa yo nagmula ang apoy na di pa rin namamatay
Sa daloy ng panahon ika’y nananatiling buhay
Lahat sila ay nakikinig at naniniwala pa rin
Kasama mo kami hanggang ngayon
San man magawi ang hangin
Tuloy tuloy pa rin”
-Jett Pangan and Buddy Zabala
The Dawn’s “Tuloy tuloy” is obviously a tribute to the late Teddy Diaz by his brothers in arms. Nonetheless, a careful reading of its lyrics would reveal a sense in which the song could be regarded as the band’s tribute to its fans in particular and to OPM supporters in general. In the main, my interest in OPM or if you will, Musikang Pinoy was borne of a nostalgia that wouldn’t go away to this day and a genuine appreciation for what is truly our own. “…Ito ay atin, sariling atin,” I remember a popular OPM song in the 70s. I have my late father to thank for this as he introduced me to vinyl records and cassette tapes of Pinoy musicians led by Asin, the Apo, Tillie Moreno and Ray-Ann Fuentes, Bong Gabriel, along with Geraldine, Cinderella, Susan Fuentes, among others, way back when we first acquired a National Quadrosonic in the 70s. I can still vividly remember accompanying my father one Saturday morning as he drove to Cubao when he finally had enough savings to buy his dream audio system at that time. For decades, he would cap practically each working day and kick start nearly each weekend by playing his records and cassette tapes of the abovementioned Pinoy musicians along with the standards by Frank Sinatra, Matt Monro, Cliff Richard, et al. Three references would eventually build on the gains my father helped me achieve when it came to appreciating OPM. There was Jingle Magazine, Punks, Poets, Poseurs: Reportage on Pinoy Rock & Roll by Eric Caruncho and BenCab’s Rock Sessions. All collectors’ items, all out of print.
When I got bitten by the analog bug in 2010, I started building what would eventually become my very own vinyl album library consisting mostly of the music of my youth – from U2 to Tears for Fears, from James Taylor to Jackson Browne, from Tracy Chapman to Suzanne Vega, from America to Toto. In the course of record hunting, I remembered the mint copies of OPM albums from my father’s vinyl collection in the province. Among those I was grateful to rediscover were copies of The 2nd Metro Manila Pop Music Festival , Gary V’s Moving Thoughts, The Apo’s Mga Kwento ng Apo, Asin’s debut album, and Regine’s self-titled first album. Needless to say, Pinoy Music was grossly underrepresented in my record collection. And this bothered me no end, not so much out of shame but largely because I knew Pinoy Music can hold its own vis a vis’ Billboard hits. I initially made up for this by acquiring as many OPM CDs as I could buy from physical stores. Noteworthy would be albums by the Juan Dela Cruz Band, the Eraserheads, the Dawn, FrancisM, Joey Ayala, Noel Cabangon, Bamboo, Rivermaya, Up Dharma Down, the Jerks, Gary Granada, Lea Salonga, Agot Isidro, the Apo, Joey Albert, MYMP, Sandwich, Aiza Seguerra, Color It Red, Kuh Ledesma, Regine Velasquez, Rico Blanco, Imago, Barbie Almabis, etc. Alas, my hitherto unwavering faith in the analog sound was such that I eventually felt compelled to write to recording companies asking about the feasibility of releasing OPM titles on vinyl. Listening to U2 or Coldplay on vinyl has a way of making you wonder what the Eraserheads or The Dawn would sound like if given the 33 1/3 treatment. I also attempted to write directly to artists and musicians and their management teams to pursue the same. Some did reply positively while others advised me it was not a priority at this time. Most, I suspect, were simply too busy with other commitments. Then again, maybe I used incorrect email addresses. Even as I was doing this, I openly campaigned in online fora and the social media for the release of the recordings of iconic Pinoy Rock musicians on vinyl. At some point, I got mistaken for an A&R man or at the very least a record company executive. Still others insinuated nicely that what I was getting into was folly or OA, even corny. At least one got upset by my queries. Thankfully, it turned out there were quite a number of analog enthusiasts in the country who were on the lookout for OPM releases on vinyl. A number of them openly supported and endorsed several threads I wrote on the subject. Others were passionate enough to voice out their feedback online. Still others went on to put up sites to enlist support for their project. I was not alone.
Looking back, I was naïve at that time to think that the same production process that led to the awesome sonic quality of my vinyl albums by U2 and Tears for Fears would be the same process that would be followed for OPM releases. I am, of course, referring here to the sourcing of the analog master copy of the original recordings and using the same to cut the analog source from which the vinyl would be pressed. There is a gulf of difference between sourcing the recording from a CD or worse an MP3 recording and culling it from the original analog recording. The former would result to a physical vinyl copy, true but with CD and MP3 sound quality. The latter is a prerequisite for an authentic analog sound. In any case, when I received positive responses from recording companies, I was on cloud nine. I would later learn that they’ve been planning to do the same for years now. Unfortunately, both the sound quality and the album art of their OPM albums on vinyl left a lot to be desired among local analog enthusiasts. Maybe because they did not know any better or maybe because they really got economically dislocated by piracy and its variants. I’m afraid we will never know. Spurred by this development or should I say, underdevelopment, I embarked on numerous informal attempts to connect their project manager with the technically-grounded members of an audio forum who offered to help out gratis. As fate would have it, none of these attempts which stretched for months on end prospered due to “scheduling” problems. Not the hush-hush “kapihan” nor the low-key listening session. Not the invite to an indie film screening nor an invitation to an audio show where you could afford to go unnoticed by wading through the crowds. In the meantime, most of the same online community which enthusiastically supported my campaign at the outset eventually got alienated by the series of OPM releases on vinyl that were released in several batches. To be sure, there were others who were more forgiving. According to them, it’s been a while since vinyl was released locally so maybe the local recording outfits would eventually figure out ways to improve on their analog output. The majority though felt like they were tricked into buying crap and they minced no words to communicate their frustration and disappointment.
Drawing inspiration from my fellow audiophiles who actively blog and at least one music veteran who encouraged me to write regularly, I decided to put up my own blog last summer focusing on three areas that have interested me over the years: music, books and movies. Three passions that I currently pursue in the confines of my music room. Hence, the blog name Notes from My Music Room. Thanks to this blog, I have moved on from actively campaigning and inquiring about OPM to writing about it along with other related topics that have interested me. It’s just as well I guess as streaming took center stage in the local music scene thereby dampening the interest in physical recordings whether on CD format or on vinyl. Even the MP3, the favorite whipping boy of the analog faithful, is under serious threat with the rise of audio streaming.
But if I was hoping this would be an easier feat to pull off compared to writing to recording companies, musicians and their management teams to invest in limited edition vinyl releases, I had another one coming. The terrain has changed but the rules have not. No matter how well-intentioned you may be and no matter how you may mean well about writing about something or someone, the responses continue to be varied. Some would oblige, others would not. Some would show some degree of appreciation, others have better things to do than accommodate yours truly. That’s just the way it is. Or as the Apo would put it: “ganyan talaga ang buhay.”
But every now and then, I guess I should also remember to draw some consolation from the law of dharma. A positive act will inevitably earn a positive result whether I like it or not – maybe not tomorrow, maybe not the day after but the day will ultimately come and as the cliché goes, usually at a time when you least expect it so it is best not to expect it. To quote the latest Color It Red carrier single, “hindi magtatagal.” It may come in the form of a PM containing a simple note of appreciation or a firm handshake and a statement of thanks or a post in social media publicly appreciating a collective or a simple albeit well-meaning note that awaits you at home like the one below.
In the end, we do what we do because we believe in it even if and especially if others do not. The latter, after all, is the ultimate acid test of your conviction.
“Salamat!… San man magawi ang hangin. Tuloy tuloy pa rin.”