Pinoy rock

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Pinoy rock, or Filipino rock, is the brand of rock music produced in the Philippines or by Filipinos. It has become as diverse as the rock music genre itself, and bands adopting this style are now further classified under more specific genres or combinations of genres like alternative rock, post-grunge, ethnic, new wave, pop rock, punk rock, funk, reggae, heavy metal, ska, and recently, indie. Because these genres are generally considered to fall under the broad rock music category, Pinoy rock may be more specifically defined as rock music with Filipino cultural sensibilities. It is very easy to identify a Pinoy rock song because the lyrics are often in Filipino, Tagalog, or any other language native to the Philippines.


One of the first popular Filipino ballerinas was Bobby Gonzales, whose major hit was "Hahabul-Habol". Eddie Mesa, another teen idol from the period, became known as the "Elvis Presley of the Philippines". Back then, many Filipinos referred to rock bands as "combos", many of which used nontraditional instruments like floor-bass bongos, maracas, and gas tanks.[1]


In the early 1960s, as electric instruments and new technology became available, instrumental American and British bands like The Shadows and The Ventures flourished. In 1963, during the British Invasion, bands such as The Beatles rose to mainstream audiences worldwide. Their widespread popularity and their embrace of the counterculture injected the possibility of socio-political lyrics with mature comments on real life into popular music. Immensely influenced by this new breed of British artists, many Filipino bands began adopting similar musical styles.


Into the early 1970s, Filipino music was growing more nationalistic and socio-political in nature, as well as using Tagalog more often. Pop music still dominated the airwaves with disco and funk bands such as the APO Hiking Society and Hotdog. Songs like Hotdog's "Ikaw ang Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko" ("You are the Miss Universe of My Life") combined Filipino and English within the same song. This helped innovate the so-called "Manila Sound". OPM (Original Pilipino Music) also became popular.

However, emerging social and political consciousness somehow creeped into the industry with the traditional allied genres that are folk and rock music. Folk musicians and bands included Freddie Aguilar, Asin, Heber Bartolome and Florante. (In 1978, Freddie Aguilar's debut single, "Anak", became the most commercially successful Filipino recording in history. The song became known also in other Asian countries and in Europe.) Perhaps Asin, an ethnic-folk band, was the first commercial band to successfully bring a pro-environment song to the airwaves with "Masdan Mo Ang Kapaligiran". Also famous for providing subtle rebellious (anti-Marcos dictatorship sentiment was growing at that time) and peace messages behind its skillful vocal harmonizing, Asin gave the masses hits such as "Bayan Kong Sinilangan (Cotabato)" and "Balita".

Juan de la Cruz Band, a garage and blues-rock influenced group consisting of drummer Joey "Pepe" Smith, bassist Mike Hanopol, and lead guitarist Wally Gonzales, are often credited for ushering in the first "rock & roll revolution" in the Philippines that lasted from the late '60s to the late '70s (also known as the "Golden Age of Pinoy Rock"). Considered by many[who?] to be the "grandfathers" of Pinoy rock, they played a large role in re-awakening national pride through their bluesy Tagalog rock songs at a time when the music circulating predominantly in the local scene used lyrics in English. During a Woodstock-esque concert in Luneta Park, the group performed their original "Himig Natin" for the first time.

Being influenced by the counterculture, the bands of the '70s were known to have never been sidelined commercially and sometimes took the center stage by storm. The radio station DZRJ, particularly the AM weekend "Pinoy Rock and Rhythm" show hosted by the ex-Fine Arts student from Philippine Women's University named Dante David, a.k.a. Howlin' Dave, provided the much-needed support and publicity to Pinoy rock during this era.

Today, many music journalists[who?] refer to the works of these pioneering artists as Classic Pinoy Rock to distinguish them from the works of relatively younger Pinoy rock bands, especially those that emerged in the 1980s through the 1990s, much as other rock traditions are divided into classic rock and modern rock.


In the early to mid-1980s, Pinoy rock became the music of Filipino protesters. Groups like RP, with Goff Macaraeg and Bob Aves, Nuklus, Sinaglahi, UP Sintunados, Patatag, Tambisan, and soloists like the nationalist folk rock singers Paul Galang and Jess Santiago, the progressive folk duo Inang Laya, the progressive Pinoy rock band The Jerks, and also the then very young Noel Cabangon were a hit on street concerts and campus tours. These groups of artists eventually reunited and formed Buklod (Bukluran ng mga Musikero para sa Bayan), which later Rom Donggeto of Sinaglahi, Noel Cabangon and Rene Bongcocan of Lingkod Sining took as their new band name when it disbanded after the EDSA Revolution. Aguilar's "Bayan Ko" ("My Country") became an anthem during the 1986 EDSA Revolution. A subculture rejected this kind of socially aware lyrics. Thus, recordings of these early protest groups mentioned above were banned from radio stations but not in DZRJ, owned by composer, musician and businessman, Ramon "RJ" Jacinto. Another underground group that would seriously explore the possibilities of sound to incorporate into their music was The Third Stream Band. Experimenting with Flangers, Analog and Digital Delays, Reverb and Echo Chambers, Distortion boxes, Compressors, Octavers, and other musical gadget available at that time. They were also broadcast by DZRJ's 'Pinoy Rock and Rhythm'. That group was then labeled an Avant Garde group.

The fact that around the world, mainstays such as Bob Dylan with his controversial lyrics, and bands such as Guns N' Roses, Iron Maiden and Queensryche all got record company and radio support with their heavy, socially aware lyrics that allowed to be embraced by an aware audience, had no bearing on the Philippine music industry who chose to dumb down the impetus of music as it tried to break new ground, keeping music still-born and ersatz, thus further dumbing down the masses due to lack of proper support, piloted by shortsighted program directors. The band Nuklus with Joven Aguilar, Jesus Nebreja and Ariel Angus was given airplay with their winning of the 1st Tuklas Songwiriting piece "Ang Mamang May Baril". The song became the anthem of the movement against abuses of the military in the early to mid-1980s. Likewise, RP's "While Angels March" received airplay on NU107 as its launch pad, which in turn paved the way for other groups to follow the original yellow brick road like The Dawn. RP's song, illuminating the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust that even today nears the edge of reality, taking into consideration the song was released in 1985, signed to Blackgold Records with the album Street Legal, about being a nuclear armament free zone, which later found the duo without a record company after a period. While product placement through advertising by companies selling food and beverages was the basic support for rock groups wanting to get a leg up, a beverage company paying for music videos that sandwiched in its product placement within the band's artistic intent, diluted and compromised the artist's fervor as the music industry was ineffectual to support itself. That media, too controlled by political and financial constraints, led the direction of music and art to be waylaid into a narrow mindset, leaving much of it unheard and unsupported, rendering the artistry and the messages to get buried under the rubble of shortsightedness and censorship. Meanwhile, the aforementioned bands Guns N' Roses, Iron Maiden, etc. received Philippine record company and radio support. The opium of the masses turned into the saccharin of the unknowing. Had more groups been allowed to come to the forefront, the zeitgeist of the Filipino culture may have taken a more stable road, based on awareness, not being kept naive. Because the masses were kept in the dark, a record company's target demographic is an intellectually retarded market, which it keeps needing to feed if only to survive. Now that the rest of the music world has invaded Philippine shores, the music industry has nothing much to offer in the way of viable artists as it did not keep up with the natural world class progression, seeking only to address the local industry with mimicry and gimmickry. Rather than listen to the artist, it listened to the businessmen, who are not artists themselves. This stunted the growth of the Pinoy rock genre.

The most popular Pinoy rock band in the Philippines in the 1980s was arguably The Dawn, whose early songs were largely influenced by new wave and post-punk, the dominant alternative music genres in the Philippines during that period. The Dawn came to prominence in 1986, when its independently released single "Enveloped Ideas" became an instant favorite among listeners of DWXB-FM 102.7, or WXB 102, a now-defunct FM radio station popular in the mid-'80s that heavily played new wave, post-punk, and similar genres.

Many music journalists and enthusiasts, as well as musicians themselves, attributed the flourishing in the mid-'80s of new wave and post-punk influenced bands to DWXB-FM, which began playing independently released singles of unsigned local bands. This helped many of the struggling bands in this era to achieve cult status. These bands included Dean's December, Ethnic Faces, Identity Crisis and Violent Playground, all of which were able to record and release their respective albums in the years that followed.

Other Pinoy rock groups took their cue from these pioneers and started recording their own songs, and this proved beneficial to the Pinoy rock scene, which brought back creativity and originality to the awareness of fledgling musicians. Among them, The Dawn, AfterImage and Introvoys proved to be the enduring and more successful groups. Each was able to sustain a relatively long career.

DWXB-FM went off the air on June 9, 1987. The new Cory Aquino-led government began sequestering properties owned by her predecessor Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies, including the home that DWXB-FM beamed from. DWXB-FM was revived as an online radio station on September 10, 2005 by Sutton Records, with the original DJs broadcasting from Manila.


During the start of the decade, The Hayp, Introvoys and AfterImage were among the prominent bands enjoying mainstream recognition. But their collective popularity was later overshadowed by younger bands that eventually emerged. An underground music scene was already burgeoning in some unknown bars in Manila. Red Rocks (which later became Club Dredd), together with Mayric's (now Sazi's) and Kampo (Yosh in the mid '90s), were the only venues where unsigned bands were allowed to play their own songs. Bands were influenced from such genres as power pop, shoegazer, post-punk, alternative rock (Eraserheads, Color It Red, The Youth, Half Life Half Death, Feet like Fins, Advent Call, Alamid), hard rock, heavy metal (Razorback, Askals, Wolfgang, Dahong Palay), hardcore, punk and death metal (Skychurch, Genital Grinder, Death After Birth, Disinterment, Kabaong ni Kamatayan, Loads of Motherhood, WUDS, Yano, Bad Omen, Rumblebelly, Disinterment, Deiphago).

The late 1980s and early 1990s marked the beginning of what was known as the era of underground rock and progressive music, with NU107.5 playing unknown bands through Francis Brew's "In the Raw". It was through this station that many of the prominent and promising rock bands were discovered such as The Breed, GreyHoundz, Slapshock, Sugar Free, Fatal Posporos, Itchy Worms, Peryodiko, Monsterbot, Tanya Markova, Pedicab, and many others. NU107.5 was the only radio station that played music longer than the standard radio format would allow, as well as soundtracks (The Reel Score). Apart from allotting air time to new and known foreign rock bands such as Save Ferris, Veruca Salt, Metallica, Audioslave and Sound Garden etc., it gave full exposure to Filipino groups such as Sugar Hiccup, Eraserheads, Imago, Cynthia Alexander, Parokya ni Edgar, Wolfgang, Razorback, Ciudad, Teeth, Urbandub, Putreska, Tropical Depression, Rivermaya, Yano, Siakol, and Cheese. Its prestigious NU107 Rock Awards honored the Philippine rock industry's best and brightest for 17 years. These Rock Awardees now rule the local scene.

To add to the plight of the underground bands, radio stations would not play their music due to the payola system in the radio industry despite the fact that most of these bands, if not all, had self-produced (indie) albums. But DWLA 105.9 challenged the current system by providing a venue for the bands to broadcast their original songs. Pinoy rock enthusiasts were finally elated to hear their favorite underground bands ruling the airwaves.

Radio station LA 105.9 advocated Filipino rock music, playing original amateur (even if poorly recorded) singles and gave new avenues for emerging bands outside organized underground concerts. Rock n' Rhythm, a local music magazine also supported this scene with news and updates, band interviews, album and concert reviews, carrying on the torch that the defunct Jingle Chordbook and Moptop (popular Philippine rock music magazines during the '70s and '80s, respectively) have entrailed. The band explosion opened avenues for non-traditional artists as well, like Intermidya, for example. Their musical instruments looked like materials from a junk shop glued together and which had names like Sandata#1, Sandata#2, Baby Sandata, etc.

The commercial success of Eraserheads paved the way for more Pinoy rock acts such as Rivermaya, Rizal Underground and The Youth getting record deals. Some brave all-female bands got signed (Kelt's Cross, Tribal Fish, Agaw Agimat) and a few solo artists as well (Maegan Aguilar, Bayang Barrios, DJ Alvaro). Rappers crossed over with great success (Francis M with Hardware Syndrome and Erectus), despite some earlier controversy with hip hop-bashing allegedly incited by some artists. These bands adopted a variety of influences both in image and music; many fell under a particular genre; however, the crossing over of styles was most often inevitable.

Unfortunately, around 1995, the height of the Pinoy band scene was exploited up to its wits. Bands were guesting almost everywhere from noon-time TV shows and movies to drama sitcoms like Maalaala Mo Kaya. Even the Miss Universe pageant held in the country was not spared.

The rise of NU 107.

Although the 1990s were more inclined to be about pop rock bands mentioned above, many Filipino rock fans were ardent supporters of the more creative and independent Filipino underground community. Diverse not by name alone, these underground musicians were not easily attracted to mainstream pop sensibilities and grew their own market without the support of corrupt major labels that some critics and artists viewed as responsible for damaging most Filipino music careers.

A big chunk of these bands shared the same ideology of refusing to be exploited. It was only a matter of time when two factors, piracy and technology, brought major labels to reconsider their business dealings. In effect, most underground musicians secured their own spots in the metal, gothic, punk and hardcore genres.

This national scene influenced provincial bands as well. In the Bicol region, the Pinoy rock scene was carried by bands such as Boardwork, Bluestar, Idiocy and Hellbent, to name a few. Local rock concerts became the go-to school fund raising activities, such that there was a concert almost every week. With the explosion of the band scene, however, came hordes of wannabes who wanted a part of the action, albeit lacking in talent. The proliferation of bands with a dearth of talent eventually caused the loss of interest of the locals and as such, contributed to the fading out of the scene.[citation needed]


In the early 2000s, hip hop, reggae, acoustic pop/jazz and R&B-influenced bands dominated the Philippine music scene, causing Pinoy rock to take a backseat. Only a number of Pinoy rock bands managed to stay in the mainstream during this period. In 2003, a not-so-well-known home-educated DJ named DJ RO started playing in a small bar and restaurant known as Gweilos; DJ RO helped promote the club every Monday night while there was an emergence of Filipino rock bands like Bamboo, Orange and Lemons and Kitchie Nadal that started performing in Gweilos and eventually became popular. In 2004, Pinoy rock once again gained prominence, with the rise of yet another wave of Filipino rock bands. During this time, the Pinoy rock music scene in Cebu also gained exposure.

2001 saw indie band The Pin-Up Girls, made up of former Keltscross members and underground musicians, signing to Know-It-All Records in Tacoma, Washington, making them the first Manila-based band to sign with an American label. This development caused quite a negative reaction from the Manila rock scene as most musicians deemed the band unworthy of the break.

The Pin-Up Girls released an EP worldwide called Taste Test that sold out. Know-It-All then printed a new batch dubbed "Taste Test: The Expanded Menu". The lead-off single "Caress" hit number one on the New Jersey and Internet-based radio,

2004 also saw the emergence of the first Philippine virtual band, Mistula. With the internet as their stage, Mistula came alive through their official website, a fusion of music, graphic art, literature, photography and other art forms.

The rest of the 2000s further ushered in the mainstream buzz on Pinoy rock, and along with it bands that leaned more towards pop sensibilities. During this time, Pinoy rock, more than ever, gained mainstream exposure. "Pogi" ("pretty-face") rock was born (with such bands as Hale, Cueshe, Sponge Cola, Callalily and the new, post-Rico Blanco Rivermaya), although an obscure, provincial band that called itself Groupies' Panciteria tried to assert a different political path, releasing in 2009 an mp3 album for free downloading on Soundclick after having been inspired by the politics of ultra-independent rock artist Dong Abay; the half-send-up-of and half-tribute-to-commercial-TV 2005 album by the band Itchyworms called Noontime Show; and the downloadable protest-folk albums of Gary Granada.[2][3]

2006 was when Filipino band, Kāla appeared in the commercial music scene with their full-length album entitled Manila High, distributed by SonyBMG Music Entertainment. Their first hit was "Jeepney" which was released in the summer of 2006. According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the band started the resurgence of the Manila Sound genre into the modern world through their own mix of funky, jazzy electronic rock music.

The band was also part of the tribute album Hopia Mani Popcorn. They made a funky remake of VST & Co.'s "Rock Baby Rock" which hit number 1 in the airwaves.

In recent years as well, bands like Urbandub, Pupil, Chicosci, Slapshock and Typecast have also played in other countries such as Singapore and the US, amongst others. Some have even garnered nominations and recognition from internationally based publications and award-giving bodies. This is mainly attributed to the effect of the internet and globalization on almost anything including music, as listeners from other countries can now see and hear songs and videos of bands overseas without leaving their country.


In mid-2010, NU 107, known as the nation's premier FM station using a rock format, had been taken down as it was sold by its management after a declining interest by the audience. In the early 2010s, rock music is still largely popular in the country, despite declining in sales and the domination of K-Pop, pop and electronic music.

Following NU left the airwaves, another FM station Jam 88.3 has been fully transitioned to alternative rock/indie pop, including songs played by local popular rock artists and bands, as well as indie acts that are under "Fresh Filter".

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Groupies' Panciteria's free downloadable mp3 album Heto Na. . . Ating Jackal Virgin on
  3. ^ Certain albums of Gary Granada continue to be offered for free downloading as mp3 files at his website

External links[edit]