Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Tribe Called Fish

The Pinoy music scene had a love affair with a thing called foxcore courtesy of a band called Tribal Fish.

By: Vanessa Uy

For those who remembered, foxcore is a musical movement by women musicians who are into punk rock. This means being less adept at your musical instrument (usually an electric guitar) and being bitchy as the early 1990’s definition apply.

Tribal Fish are Leilani “Toks” Toquero on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Tsin Reyes on lead guitar, Rowena “Taweng” Isidro on bass, and “Bullet” Kondo on drums. I acquired recently from a garage sale a worn out cassette tape of their eponymous album probably from 1994. Despite of the shaky sound quality, their musicianship skills still shine through.

In this article, I interviewed anyone who had seen them perform in the flesh. I’m only confident on the opinions and views of those fans whose musical inclinations are somewhat similar to mine. To them Tribal Fish epitomize the foxcore creed through and through, although they are more skilled than most of their contemporaries in musicianship skills especially playing guitar. One of them remembers their very first gig back in March 10, 1994 in the then center of the hipness universe Club Dredd. They were one of the freshest sounding foxcore bands in the Pinoy music scene at the time. They’re style is a mix of catchy power pop and punk with guitar virtuosity thrown in for good measure.

Another band, which was their contemporary, was Keltscross (a topic for latter review) gave the Pinoy foxcore movement much needed exposure to the denizens of uninitiated teens which at the time only thought that “Original Filipino Music” is this faux “R&B” pre copulation music for spoiled rich folks. Sadly, this is still true in the 21st Century.

Desperate for originality, majority of foxcore bands from the early “1990’s,” prefer a tonally dark sounding Gibson SG electric guitar and Marshall amp/speaker combo as opposed to the all Fender set up of the Sex Pistols circa 1977. In Tribal Fish the basic loud distorted three chord rock n’ roll format still remains, the lyrics are about the darker side of man’s inhumanity to their fellowman, the Philippine culture of politically motivated violence which seems a hang over from the Marcos regime. My favorite song on this album is “Sayaw Lukring.” This song is about a woman dealt with a bad fate being ostracized by everyone around her. I can identify with this, except the people who are presently ostracizing me are peeved by my relatively- charmed-spoiled-white-Jewish-girl kind of life. One of Tribal Fish’s more unconventional songs-lyric wise- is “Wag Kang Baboy” which makes one think that these group of punks are sticklers for good personal hygiene. This topic to me is kind of anathema to anarchist punk I think.

Women in “Pinoy Rock” are not new. For those who still remember or care to, in the 1970’s there was Sampaguita and Lolita Carbon, the lead vocalist of the band Asin. Lolita Carbon also had solo projects since then. Though even until now Filipina rock music performers are still somewhat of a novelty act. One fan recalls a radio interview of Tribal Fish from around November of 1994, which Leilani Toquero says: “It wasn’t our primary intention to form an all girl group.” Maybe there’s something to this “chemistry between band members” thing after all.

Sadly true then as it is now. Being a girl can be a drawback if you play in a band. Compounded by being young and still living with the parents. The same parents, permissive or otherwise, who are expected in Filipino society to frown upon their daughters if they stay up all night to play in a ratty, cigarette-smoke-filled venues with horny and drug-addled adolescent males and girls who are into sexual experimentation. Is “We’re not in Kansas anymore” the apt statement?

School and day jobs can also take their toll, especially here in our country where music piracy gained it’s present day “Filipiniana” status like Dr. Jose Rizal’s original home or something. Being a rock star just won’t pay the bills, except if you have a really, “REALLY” charmed life. Tribal Fish lost lead guitarist Tsin Reyes to her scholastic obligations. And add to that the perennial hassle of getting parental permission to play in out-of-town gigs. And you’ve got yourself an insurmountable problem that can really stifle your creativity.

In today’s Pinoy music scene, it’s more likely that we will never see and hear a band like Tribal Fish ever again. The band du jour are these bland, coma- inducing faux Parisian CafĂ© chanteuses who sound like they’ve taken a wrong turn and are now 12,000 klicks from Havana or something. To me 1994 was Pinoy Rocks “finest hour” as evident on the other bands from this period like Yano, The Youth, and The Teeth.


Diogenes said...

Your blog on the band Tribal Fish is the most extensive so far on Philippine soil. I've visited and ompared to your blog on Tribal Fish, theirs looks like the message fragment received by the US Navy submarine Executive Officer (USS Alabama) played by Denzel Washington in the movie "Chrimson Tide". I've "inherited" from my uncle photos (about 20 of them) when Tribal Fish was playing one of their live gigs in Club Dredd back in 1994. These photos of Tribal Fish's live gig are not digital so scanning these could result in a "relatively" dodgy quality. If you're interested, you can contact me at .

Anonymous said...

hi, my name is ron ruiz.i am bullet kondo's husband.what a great piece on tribal sure know what you're writing about.i have bookmarked your blog page(is that what you call it?) and i can't wait to show it to my wife.for your information, bullet and i are now living in baguio city and raising a beautiful 4-month old daughter named jade patti(bullet insisted on patti in honor of patti smith).on the 31st of this month, tribal fish will play for the first time in ten years at the strawberry woodstock festival in la trinidad, benguet.taweng has been living a blissful domestic life in the states for a number of years now so robert javier of the youth will handle the bass chores.lani will come up on the 31st.they plan to have a 1-hour run-through in a baguio city rehearsal studio which i have been tasked, nay commanded, to book.they are both scared out of their wits.the 3-day concert(now why do they have to put woodstock in every marathon gig ever put up since 1969? strawberry jam would have been better though no less imaginative)will be aired live on the net at can contact her, if you want to,via my email address -