Growing up, the Philippine music industry was at its finest. Every song that a Filipino would come up with was original. When I was in grade school, there were Jamie Rivera, Gary Valenciano, Martin Nievera, Neocolours, Freddie Aguilar, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Sharon Cuneta, Rey Valera, Apo Hiking Society, Francis Magalona, Gino Padilla, Timmy Cruz, Louie Heredia, Keno, solo artists who were releasing songs, albums filled with Original Pilipino Music or OPM. It is no wonder that until now, even when decades have passed, some of them have remained in the music industry because of their hardwork, dedication, and sincerity as artists.
Of course, Francis Magalona is in heaven now but he remained our Master Rapper, the best rapper we ever had despite the numerous young ones today rapping their way to stardom. Apo Hiking Society has disbanded after more than three decades of making music but what they’ve done inspires the musicians and artists of today. Others have moved on or pursued other passions but we cannot forget their contributions to the music industry, which kept the OPM fire burning.
During my third year in high school all the way to college (1993-1999), there was an explosion of bands. Thanks to the Eraserheads, a four-male alternative rock band composing of students from UP, who opened the door widely for other aspiring bands to enter (from underground to the mainstream) and for obscure veteran rock bands to be recognized. In fact, I only learned that a certain Juan dela Cruz band exists if not for this period of time when bands were dominating the music scene. There were Half-Life Half-Death, Agaw-Agimat, The Youth, Gnash, Mutiny, Tribal Fish, Tirador, River Maya, Alamid, The Drone, The Wuds, The Jerks, Color It Red, Tame the Tikbalang, After Image, Wolf Gang, Introvoys, The Dawn, Teeth, Immaculate, Kelt’s Cross, Wailing Pixies, Bonehead, Yano, H8Red, Razorback, Saga, Parokya ni Edgar, Sugar Hiccup, Grin Department, True Faith, Weedd, Fatal Posporos, Hungry Young Poets, the list was long! Radio stations were interesting also. There were LA 105.9, NU 107, K-Lite 103.5. On TV, there was Music Bureau featuring these fantastic bands that gave us songs that truly captivated our heart and soul. They became our anthems to life. There arose rivalry between group artists (rock bands) and solo artists because of the strong clamor for good OPM music.
But the music industry remained alive with new bands, new solo artists coming in. Eraserheads has already released 8 albums. Even new radio stations were established and the best example was Jam 88.3 which became my favorite radio station from 2004 ‘til the four original DJs had left the station for what reason I don’t know. Well, I know the good reason. It’s the real reason that I don’t know about. I loved Jam 88.3 because of their cool playlists that you wouldn’t hear from other radio stations. So when the original DJs left, the programming changed, too, which I didn’t like at all.
It was, if I’m not mistaken, in mid-2000’s when cover songs became the “in” thing. Radio stations—except for the radio stations I mentioned previously—were feeding us, the music listeners, cover songs originally made by our foreign counterparts especially those in the U.S. Hungry and no options to choose from, many naïve listeners embraced the imposed culture concocted by recording companies/ music producers that cover songs became the accepted norm, and became the shortcut, the quickest way to earn money. Solo artists were releasing albums containing popular songs of American artists. If there was something good that came out of this, well, solo artists made a strong comeback and successfully dominated again the music scene. And producers liked what was happening very much. Who wouldn’t be? It was easy money. No hardwork was needed to look for composers, lyricists, or performers to craft a one piece of song with no guarantee of achieving commercial success. By doing covers of popular songs, people would surely like it and buy it.
But this short-term success had a long term effect—a very bad one—to the Philippine music industry. L.A 105.9, NU 107, and K-Lite 103.5 closed shops. Bands have disbanded. It was a tragedy, for we believed in the great talent of our Filipino artists. And now what have they done? Even they, the recording companies, who supported this “recycling of music” culture, they, too had to close their business. Because everyone was doing covers, the competition was stiff, everyone was trying to outdo each other with better cover songs one after another. Solo artists may be the surviving ones but their musicality and creativity are being repressed by just doing covers. No growth. Tragic. Total crap.
I miss the old days. If the 70s was a Golden Age of Philippine music, and this was replicate in the 90s led by the Eraserheads, I am hoping that we could bring back again our creative glory in making our very own music, truly OPM. Because these days, 80% of the music we hear are foreign. And I’m getting sick and tired of hearing that Nae Nae song.