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Filipino Heritage Month: Artist Feature

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Music is one of the greatest forms of cultural expression. This October marks the 31st year that Filipino American History Month has been celebrated in the United States. Here are some influential artists within the Original Pinoy, or Pilipino, Music (OPM) scene.

To hear the songs and artists featured in this article, check out our Filipino Heritage Month Playlist!

 

Freddie Aguilar

Freddie Aguilar is a Filipino folk musician and singer-songwriter. Aguilar is a pillar of the OPM genre, being one of the first OPM artists to gain mass popularity in the Philippines and throughout the rest of the world. His 1978 hit song, “Anak” , was an apology to his parents for disobeying his father’s wishes. “I let my father read the lyrics, and he turned teary-eyed. He put his arm around me and said, ‘Now you understand what life is.’ Then, he gave me his consent to be a musician,” said Aguilar in an interview. with Philstar Global. The song gained massive attention and has been translated into 29 languages. In 2015, the song was featured in a Korean drama film, Gangnam Blues featuring Lee Min-ho. 

“‘Anak’ has become some kind of an anthem to problem children who wake up to their wrongdoings and make amends to their hurting parents,” wrote Ricky Lo for the Philippine Star. Additionally, Aguilar’s Tagalog rendition of “Bayan Ko,” originally written in Spanish during the Philippine-American War, became associated with anti-government protests during the 1986 EDSA Revolution  in which the Marcos dictatorship was toppled. Aguilar will forever be remembered as one of the greatest Filipino artists of all time, with “Anak” being a cultural success around the world.

Eraserheads 

The Eraserheads are one of the most influential bands in the OPM scene, often described as “The Beatles of the Philippines.”  BMG records published the Eraserheads’ debut album, Ultraelectromagneticpop!   in 1993, and it was a smash hit among Filipino youth. Tracks like “Ligaya,” “Pare Ko,”   and, “Toyang”  contain catchy hooks and lead singer Ely Buendia’s signature vocals. After the commercial success of “Ultraelectromagneticpop,” the band would release six more studio albums, including Circus [1994], Cutterpillow [1995] , and Natin 99 [1999] , before eventually splitting up in 2002. 

Despite their disbandment, the Eraserheads would become the voice of a new generation of Filipinos in the 1990s. “By the early 1990s, there was this new generation of young [Filipino] listeners who were looking for role models to call their own,” wrote entertainment journalist Bong Godinez in his article, The Eraserheads Saga: The Making and Unmaking of a Rock n’ Roll Dream. The Eraserheads are remembered as pioneers in the alternative Filipino rock genre and OPM as a whole, being the first Filipinos to win the prestigious MTV Asia Viewers Choice Award in 1997.

Rivermaya

Rivermaya was famous during the Filipino alternative rock scene in the ‘90s. Their self-titled first album, RiverMaya, released in November 1994, featured the tracks, “Ulan,”  and “214.”  Both would receive critical acclaim. The band would launch a successful tour of the United States and Canada in 1988. Despite their rising popularity, the frontman of the band, Bamboo Mañalac, decided to stay in the United States, taking on odd jobs such as selling shoes and even being a busboy. “I wanted to better myself as a person first and as a musician second,” said Mañalac in an interview. with ABS-CBN. He would later form another band, self titled Bamboo, and would later leave the band in 2011 to be a solo artist. Although the loss of Mañalac left the band devastated, the show still went on. Rico Blanco took over as lead vocalist and released their 4th studio album, It’s Not Easy Being Green, in 1999 which hit gold, through the Philippine Association of Record Industry, barely a month after its release. The band would gain accolades for their work as they were nominated for favorite artist in the Philippines in the 2004 MTV Asia Awards and won favorite artist in the Philippines in the 2005 MTV Asia Awards. The band has a constantly evolving lineup with members of the band departing, such as previously mentioned Rico Blanco who left in 2007. Despite the constantly changing cast, RiverMaya is still beloved by Filipinos to this day, even performing their music in The Biggest OPM Summerfest II at the Fox Theater in Redwood City on March 17, 2023 featuring other big OPM artists such as Gloc-9  and INTRoVOYS.

D’Anjou Libunao is a sophomore in his first year in journalism. He enjoys writing reviews on popular media like movies, music, and more! Outside of school he loves spending time with friends.

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