Of all the Filipino bands/musical groups that enjoy airplay in rock-format FM stations, Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad is probably the most unique sounding of all.
By: Vanessa Uy
Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad, a band that spread the message of socio-political consciousness: using their own brand of ethnic-folk fusion music. They’re one of those bands that you can probably play in your hi-fi on a school night using the High-School-Music-Project excuse for those young listeners with excessively strict parents. Even though I only listen to three of Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad albums on a regular basis namely: “Magkabilaan,” “Lumad sa Syudad,” and “Mga Awit ng Tanod-lupa” I know more than enough on what to like about this band.
Joey Ayala has been writing songs since the mid- 1980’s. During the “golden age” of the Pinoy rock music scene (early to mid-1990’s). Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad was probably the only act in regular airplay- at that time- who are not cashing in on the popularity of the alternative rock/grunge/foxcore movement of the 1990’s American music scene. The only other ethnic-folk-rock fusion act that I can compare them with confidence is the Pakistani rock band Junoon, even though it’s a cognitively dissonant comparison.
To me, Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad’s artistic integrity probably survived the rigors of disillusionment brought about by their own and their contemporaries relatively fast rise into stardom during the 1994-95 period. Most of their really talented contemporaries seem to vanish without a trace. The message of their songs has always been to raise awareness of examining our own actions. Whether what we do on a daily basis can cause us to become a pawn, an innocent by-stander or someone who is willing to get their hands dirty like Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel to act upon things to bring change. While their songs go on to philosophize, the lyrics maintain an aesthetic appeal that they are an integral part of the songs rather than mere jingoistic slogans and sound bytes.
Most-if not all-of Joey Ayala’s songs are very enlightening. The song Hithit-Buga from the “Lumad sa Syudad” album was supposedly more than a public-service message in support for the governments anti-smoking campaign. I herd from a radio DJ a few months ago that Joey Ayala was trying to kick the habit at the time when he wrote that song. Little Brown Man is about the hardships faced by Filipinos living in America. This song might also be Joey Ayala’s critique of the runaway “American Disposable Consumerism” and the Filipino-Americans who are victimized by this evil doctrine.
My most favorite Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad album in more ways than one is “Mga Awit ng Tanod-lupa.” Maybe this is because it is the most gorgeous-sounding and well recorded of all of their albums. Maybe this is because Joey Ayala’s excellent musicianship is very much highlighted here, or maybe I’m just a natural-born-eco-warrior. Joey Ayala probably single-handedly brought the message of environmental awareness to the mid-1990’s Pinoy rock scene. Mind you, this was 10 years before Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” made environmentalism in vogue for the under-25 crowd.
In the “Mga Awit ng Tanod-lupa” album, one of the member’s of Bagong Lumad namely Bayang Barrios displayed her singing prowess in the song Walang Ibang Sadia. With a talent like this, she deserves a full- length album release.
In more ways than one, Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad is probably one of the best Filipino bands in existence. To me they are the best Filipino band, period. I like the way they use various ethnic-old school-cultural minority- Filipino musical instruments that you can only hear and see most of the time in museums or those boring Music classes in the High-School curricula. The way Joey Ayala and his band combine these instruments with a modern rock drum set. Write music in a rock context where each ethnic instrument’s beauty is allowed to shine through is really ingenious. Basing on the conservative and jaded nature of rock format FM stations, Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad probably lived very charmed lives to be able to get any radio airplay.
These days, jaw-dropping musicianship is no longer enough to impress the powers-that-be in the music industry. In an age where pubescent porn stars are clamoring for legitimacy by entering the music biz. I’m just glad there’s a large body of excellent recorded works out there like the ones made by Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad are still available. These are viable tools for putting any would be Stalinist pseudo-rock stars in their place.