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The New Filipino Rock

The last couple of years have been an incredible time for Filipino rock music. While the creativity and the passion for music has always been there, recent years have seen a bumper crop of interesting, new, on-the-circuit bands, many of whom are doing some very cool things. Spurred on by new technology like mp3 players, music blogs, file sharing, You Tube, free recording software, and social networks that makes the creation, discovery and sharing of music much easier, new bands have been coming up so quickly that following the gig circuit today becomes a bewildering exercise.

Contributing to this renaissance is the strange but welcome return of Filipino rock to the country’s musical main stage. Somehow, band music (i.e. music made by bands) has risen in cultural currency. Seeing, listening to, and being in bands has become “a thing”, both in a good way and in a bad way. Media channels previously dedicated to more immediately commercial middle-of-the-road fare have reformatted, and now freely play records that aren’t even available in stores (another effect of the digitization of new music).

But the important this is that, with a much broader base of support today than a few years ago, and with easy access to an incredible range of musical influences and techniques, young bands have unprecedented leeway in producing new ideas in music, and have that music reach a good audience.

These days, unsigned bands with self-released albums and EPs can have an actual chance to have a hit record on the radio, to have a video on rotation on mainstream TV, and to have a solid gig following. It is not uncommon for a resolutely indie band to be mentioned in a national broadsheet or to appear in the culture section of a completely non-musical nationally-circulated magazine.

A new wave of immensely talented young acts such as Sleepwalk Circus, Ang Bandang Shirley, Turbogoth, Musical O, and Twin Lobster play to packed crowds in Metro Manila’s best rock clubs. Bands like Sandwich and Pedicab play to a crowd of hipster kids in a hole in the wall bar in Quezon City one night then play in Singapore the next. A band from Leyte makes it big on Metro Manila radio. A kid listens to a song by Sandwich on his Go Gear and is inspired to form a band. It’s all happening now.

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