Not your typical collection of nationalist and protest music

Not your typical collection of nationalist and protest music

Sharing the following review of the 1st LAPIS album from Interaksyon written by Nonoy Espina. Mag-alay sa Bayan, one of Pordalab’s repertoire is a song written by our musical director and his first collaboration with Boogs Villareal included in LAPIS’ first collection of public interest songs. Taking off from the message and title of the song, LAPIS adopted Mag-alay sa Bayan as the collection’s name too.

Karl has three songs in this collection.

“Mag-alay sa Bayan” is not your typical collection of nationalist and protest music. There are no red flags waving or angry masses marching in these tunes.

Make no mistake, though. For all their user-friendly hooks and melodies, these are serious tunes that seek to address the most pressing and, sadly, continuing problems of our people and our nation.

Or, as the League of Authors of Public Interest Songs, or LAPIS, aptly call them, “public interest songs.”

LAPIS make no bones about their reason for being. LAPIS’ logo, in fact, is an in-your-face declaration — a pencil head for the letter “A” turned upside down, an inverted triangle representing “what we aim for: upholding the interest of the many over and superior to the few. Change the system, or as illustrated, invert the triangle if we must!”

In effect, a coming-out gig for this remarkable collective of talents — think LAPIS trustees Gary Granada, Chikoy Pura, Bayang Barrios, Lolita Carbon, Cooky Chua, just for starters — “Mag-alay sa Bayan” is a mixed bag of styles and subject matters (there are even a couple of Christmas songs), all, as Granada says in a promotion video, “awiting patungkol sa interes ng karaniwang mamamayang Pilipino.”

There is Jimmy Melendrez’s tragicomic “Tambay Prototype” on the all too familiar travails of a fresh graduate desperately looking for decent work in a market of high expectations but diminishing compensation.

The bouncy keyboard riffs of “Anyare”, by Monet Silvestre — yes, “Pinoy Dream Academy’s” Teacher Monet, music director of Kundirana and member of The Tux — are a deceptively snappy platform for the searing question he throws at those whose comfortable existence blinds them to the darker realities of life in these islands:

Anong nangyare? Nagtatanong ka pa
Nabulag ka na sa buhay mong malaya
Malaya ba’ng tawag mo sa gan’to
Kung kababayan mo’y
Naghihirap sa harap mo/Pinapatay sa harap mo

Barrios’ “Katribo Ko”, from her 1997 album “Bayang Makulay”, performed this time around with the band Naliyagan, is all the more timely and poignant because of the continuing oppression of the lumad as she asks:

Katribo ko, buhi pa ba kamo?

Her other contribution to the album, “Kababaihan Makapangyarihan”, composed with Geejay Arriola and performed with Carbon and Chua as Tres Marias, is at once a paean — Kababaihan ay makapangyarihan — affirmation — Sa pagbabago ng ating kasaysayan/Tayo ay makapangyarihan/Pandayin ang bukas – and challenge — Kumilos na ngayon/Ang bukas ay ‘di na maghihintay/Katarungan, kalayaan, pagkaka-pantay-pantay — that echoes, most likely deliberately, the national anthem.

Ramirez’s “Mabait na Bata” is an engaging little ditty with a marching order, given just the right touch by his two sons Elian — probably the youngest drummer to jam with The Jerks — and Hugo:

At kung sakali kami ay malaki na
Sa pagbabago ng mundo kami ay sasama

The prolific Ramirez has two more contributions, “Bangon Pilipino”, a call to rise up after a disaster, and the title track “Mag-alay sa Bayan”, in which he is joined by Boogs Villareal.

Granada weighs in with five songs. There is “Bayan Muna”, which was recorded last year by more than a hundred volunteer singers. “Guro”, performed with Pura and Tres Marias, honors teachers’ multiple roles as educators, surrogate parents and, yes, repositories of youth’s heartaches even as they struggle to keep body and soul together, and assures them:

Nais kang minsan pang pasasalamatan
At samahan sa mga ipinaglalaban mo

And did we mention that it is catchy enough to actually perform at class reunions or school programs to honor our mentors?

And then there are “Migranteng Manggagawa”, “Sandugo” and “Mamamayan Mamamayani”.

Plagpul’s “Cancer” is a funky rock bashing of a health system in which only the rich have the right to get sick because only they can afford the treatment.

Rounding off the album are the two Christmas songs — Christine Bendebel’s “Pangarap Ko Ngayong Pasko” and Pura’s “Paskong Biyaya” — and Xandra Bisenio’s “Kapayapaan Ngayon Na”.

The buzz is work on a second collection may start anytime soon. If “Mag-alay sa Bayan” is any indication, this just might signal a resurgence of socially relevant popular music at a time when it is most needed.

The album will be launched at a concert on March 19 at 70′s Bistro with Silvestre as musical director.

To know more about the album, watch the promotional video below:

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