The Muses of Melodies would always hit me at the most unsuspecting moments.
Over 10 years ago, I discovered the music of Regine Velasquez (Tagala Talaga and her prize-winning performances) and Mariah Carey (Music Box) only after I’ve stepped out of the Philippine shores and made my infamous detour to the Middle East (infamous because I stupidly thought Saudi Arabia was just somewhere near the Philippines, a detour because everybody thought “pinabili lang ako ng suka at naligaw”; I was 21 in a world of semi-retirees!)
At that time, I was helplessly hooked on Vitamin Z, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, A-Ha, Johnny Hates Jazz, Psychedelic Furs, Fra Lippo Lippi and the occasional Patatag and Gary Granada…you get the picture.
Going “mainstream”, thus, was like plunging into unfamiliar territory. And soon enough, as MTV blurs the line between alternative acts from popular ones, my musical warriors clashed wildly like one truly eclectic Live Aid concert with only one goal in mind: good old fashion music! Categories were now immaterial, although I would almost always gravitate from new wave to alternative rock.
Young and in love, the roster of my audio heroes grew from balladeers Al Jarreau, Phil Collins, Billy Joel, rock artists Bryan Adams, Corey Hart, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Sting, Santana, The Fugees, U2, and REM to grunge/alternative icons Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Bush, Seven Mary Three, Stone Temple Pilots, Sugar Ray, Live, INXS, The Cure, and The Black Crowes.
And just when I was either falling out of love or at the crossroads of a relationship, women would croon by my side to soothe my aching heart…well, the likes of Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries, Gwen Stefani of No Doubt, Sinead O’ Connor, Natalie Merchant of 10,000 Maniacs, Skunk Ananskie, Dido, Jewel (Pieces of You), Tori Amos, Annie Lennox, Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morissette, Edie Brickel and Julia Fordham.
Back in love avenue, The Corrs, Janet Jackson (Velvet Rope), and yes, the divas Mariah, Whitney Houston and Madonna would serenade me endlessly. Rock chicks Alicia Keys, Macy Gray, Pink, Paula Cole, Beyonce and Christina Aguilera (Stripped) would later join my chorus of angels.
In the end, the wanderlust in me takes over. In Singapore, I would get my adrenaline high from Travis, Coldplay, Matchbox 20, Green Day, Lifehouse and Goo Goo Dolls. Yes, even Westlife was a revelation at that time. Yet, there in the Land of Merlion was when I missed OPM most, with Asia’s Songbird Regine then riding the top of the charts—and on my list of favorites—with her unmatched heartfelt renditions. Simultaneously, in a rather strange and belated effort, I retraced the heydays of Eraserheads, Neocolours, The Dawn and After Image while intersecting a burgeoning love affair with then fast-rising South Border, Side A, Freestyle and Passage.
I knew Lea Salonga from her Sanrio days, but my puppy love blossomed as Miss Saigon entered the world stage. Christmas away from home made me pine for the more familiar voices of Zsa Zsa Padilla, Kuh Ledesma, Verni Varga, Joey Albert, Rachel Alejandro, Joanne Lorenzana, Gary Valenciano, Raymond Lauchengco, Ric Segretto, and Martin Nievera. This time also was when I came across Jaya and Lani Misalucha sealing my faith in Filipino music, a passion further fuelled later on by Kyla, Dessa, Nina and Sarah Geronimo. I rediscovered Philippines’ musical roots via the timeless works of Nonoy Zuniga, Basil Valdez, The Hotdogs, Juan dela cruz Band, Asin, Sampaguita, VST&Co., and the Apo Hiking Society. I was in for the ride of my life!
Today, as China gets its fill of hiphop music, I groove instead to my growing Tunog Kalye favorites, as well as imports Ben Folds Five, Maroon 5, Usher, compilations by Kenzo Takada, the Buena Vista Social Club, Café del Mar, Buddha Bar, Gotan Project and all those chillout, trance and world music, including Putumayo’s and DJ Anton Ramos’ cool compilations. Something I only halfheartedly enjoyed back home as Josh Groban, Vienna Teng and sometimes Marc Anthony took the center stage in my CD player.
Until Ken Hirai (Japan), Yvan Cassar (L’Odyssée de l’espèce), Yannick Noah (both of France) and Shunza (Taiwan) accidentally came along while I was browsing for bootlegged DVDs ;-). I never heard about them before, and J-Pop (where Ken ‘belongs’) never really appealed to me. More so French and Taiwanese music since their lyrics are ‘foreign’ to me. But music’s universality knows no borders, its intense hymns more powerful than the borrowed words, and never lost in translation. And so my evolution into realms yet untapped begins with them.