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Rivermaya in 2011 (From left to right : Peralta, David, Elgar, & Escueta)
Background information
Origin Manila, Philippines
Genres OPM, Pinoy rock, alternative rock, pop rock
Years active 1994–present
Labels Universal,[1] BMG, Viva, Warner Music, Revolver
Associated acts
Website www.rivermaya.ph
Members Mark Escueta
Mike Elgar
Norby David
Ryan Peralta
Past members Rico Blanco
Bamboo Mañalac
Nathan Azarcon
Perfecto de Castro
Kakoy Legaspi
Jayson Fernandez
Japs Sergio

Rivermaya is one of the most influential and critically acclaimed Filipino rock bands in the Philippines. Formed in 1994, they are one of the several bands who spearheaded the 90s Philippine alternative rock explosion. Rivermaya is currently composed of Mark Escueta, Mike Elgar, Ryan Peralta and Norby David. Former members included Rico Blanco, who had been the original songwriter of the band, and vocalist Bamboo Mañalac, who later formed the band Bamboo. Rivermaya is the fourteenth biggest-selling artists/act in the Philippines.[2]


Formation and early years (1993)[edit]

The first line-up consisted of Jesse Gonzales on vocals, Kenneth Ilagan on guitars, Nathan Azarcon on bass guitar, Rome Velayo on drums, and Rico Blanco on keyboards and backing vocals. They were managed by Lizza Nakpil and director Chito Roño who had the intention of molding the group into a rock show band. The band was then called Xaga.

Classic line-up and mainstream success (1994–2001)[edit]

Bamboo Mañalac performing.
Bamboo Mañalac, the youngest member of the group and was the band's lead vocalist of Rivermaya from 1994 to 1998 and its original frontman.

In the process of grueling practice sessions, Ilagan was replaced with Perfecto "Perf" de Castro; Azarcon's childhood friend, Mark Escueta, to replace Velayo, as well as former classmate Francisco "Bamboo" Mañalac to replace Gonzales. With Bamboo as frontman, the band members themselves decided to disband Xaga and form the band Rivermaya. They started putting together original songs like "Ulan" [Rain], "214", and "Awit ng Kabataan" [Song of the Youth] (mostly composed by Rico Blanco) in demo form for prospective recording companies.

By November 1994, the band had released its first album, the self-titled Rivermaya, and its first single, "Ulan"; followed by "214". Critically praised for its fresh, excitingly new pop/rock sound, the album went on to become one of the best acts in the 1990s.

Citing artistic differences, Perf de Castro was adamant in leaving the group and returned to his project band "The Blues Trio," a band later renamed "Axis" until its final inception as "Triaxis." Rico Blanco became the full time guitarist while Nathan Azarcon's friend J John Valencia filled in as session secondary guitar player on live shows.

The band's second album Trip, followed with the singles "Kisapmata" [Blink of an Eye], "Himala" [Miracle], "Flower", "Princess of Disguise" and "Panahon Na Naman" [It's Time Once Again]. Whilce Portacio, creator of the X-Men's "Bishop" and co-founder of Image Comics, designed the album art for Trip.

In 1997, the band released its third album, Atomic Bomb, with the single "Hinahanap-hanap Kita" [Always Wanting to See You]. The album gained positive responses from listeners and received heavy airplay from radio stations. During this period, Rivermaya also released the Rivermaya Remixed album, put together with the help of DJ Toti Dalmacion of Groove Nation.

Departure of Bamboo Mañalac (1998)[edit]

The band then embarked on a US and Canada tour with Jyel Tagbo (from the rapcore group G-Spot and a Slapshock sessionist) unofficially absorbed in the band as a session musician. It was also at this time that Bamboo Mañalac decided to stay in the U.S. (he eventually went on to form his own band, Bamboo in 2003).

Rico Blanco performing.
Rico Blanco, the chief composer of the band; He was the band's keyboardist/guitarist by the time the debut album was released, he later became the band's full-time guitarist when Perf de Castro left a year after their debut album was released & later became the band's frontman after Bamboo's departure in 1998.

Rivermaya decided to forge on, with Rico Blanco taking on lead vocals and released their fourth album, It's Not Easy Being Green containing the singles "Nerbyoso" [Nervous], "Shattered Like", and "Rodeo".

The band released its fifth studio album, aptly called Free, entirely for free on the Internet as well as on CDs distributed at their gigs. Free went on to be named "Best Album of 2000" at the NU Rock Awards.

Nathan performing.
Nathan Azarcon was one of the members of Rivermaya from 1994 to 2001.

In 2001, Nathan Azarcon departed from the group. This signaled a new line up change.

Second evolution of line-up (2001–2007)[edit]

Rico Blanco and Mark Escueta remained as members. They recruited three different musicians to fill in the space left by the former members. Completing the lineup were familiar local guitar heroes, Victor "Kakoy" Legaspi (from blues band Mr. Crayon) and Mike Elgar (from 7 Foot Junior) as well as Japs Sergio (from Daydream Cycle) on bass guitar. This new line-up allowed Rico Blanco to handle vocal duties full-time during live shows.

Together, this lineup released Tuloy ang Ligaya ['The Fun Continues'], preceded by the EP "Alab ng Puso" [Fire of the Heart], featuring a remix by Raimund Marasigan's Squid 9.

The band released the albums Tuloy ang Ligaya and Between the Stars and the Waves, producing the singles "Umaaraw, Umuulan" [Sometimes It Shines, Sometimes It Rains], "Wag Na Init Ulo, Baby" [Don't Be Mad Anymore, Baby], "A Love to Share", "Balisong" [Butterfly Knife], "Sunday Driving", "Table for Two", "241", and "Atat" [Eager].

Legaspi resigned in 2004 but continues to be the axeman for other popular acts, such as Julianne Tarroja, and Peryodiko, among others.

International success (2004–2007)[edit]

The band found a variety of partners who commissioned such works as "Liwanag sa Dilim" [Light In The Dark], "Posible" [Possible] (Southeast Asian Games' Athletes Anthem) and "You'll Be Safe Here".

"You'll Be Safe Here", originally created as the theme for the ABS-CBN TV series Spirits (directed by Rivermaya co-manager Chito S. Rono) would be the song to take Rivermaya outside the country. Released as an EP by Warner Music Philippines, it also became the song that MTV Asia selected for performance at the 2006 Asia Awards. Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child introduced the group, and they were backed up by Thailand’s Royal Symphony Orchestra during live performance. It was the first time that a Filipino band was invited to perform in the said event.

An album of compiled works, titled "You'll Be Safe Here", is distributed in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Rivermaya embarked on a series of Asian tours, including at Thailand's Pattaya Music Fest (2008, 2009) as well as Singapore's Mosaic Festival (run by The Esplanade); and Bangkok's Fat Fest as well as in Indonesia's MTV Staying Alive show.

In the Philippines, the Rivermaya Greatest Hits 2006 album on Viva Records was followed by an album dedicated to its music heroes: Isang Ugat, Isang Dugo ['One Root, One Blood'].

At the end of March 2007, Rivermaya scored again another first for the Philippines as their videos, "You'll Be Safe Here" and the recent video remake "Balisong" were chosen as the first Asian artists to have full-length music videos featured on the Star World Channel.

In 2008–2009 Rivermaya performed at the Marina Bay New Years' Countdown in Singapore and became the first Filipino band invited to perform at the 2009 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix.

Rivermaya is also often referred to as "Banda ng Bayan" [The Band of the Nation], a nickname they share with Parokya ni Edgar.

Departure of Rico Blanco (2007)[edit]

On May 2007, rumors of Rico Blanco quitting the group surfaced. The band's management team refused to comment, as did the other members. It was not until a few more days before Rico Blanco officially announced his departure from the group. Both Rivermaya and its management have taken the announcement in stride and have denied rumors that the band would disband as a result. "No one member is greater than the whole," declared Rivermaya management in an official statement released on June 14, 2007.

After Rico Blanco left, Rivermaya released a new single, "Sayang" [Such a Waste], penned by Japs Sergio and described by the band as "an open letter to the fans."

In addition, Studio 23 announced the selection of Rivermaya to create the new theme song for the station. The new song is titled "Sumigaw" [Shout] and marks the release of a second single in two months for the band, accelerating Rivermaya's pace for new songs rapidly (In previous years, the band had managed to release only a single every 12 months).

On August 11, 2007, during a mini press conference held at Mogwai Bar and Café in Cubao's Marikina Shoe Expo, Rivermaya released its all-new 5-song Bagong Liwanag ['New Light'] EP, which hit stores nationwide starting August 15. This 5-song EP is released on the band's own label, Revolver Music, and licensed to Warner Music Philippines.[3]

Third evolution of line-up (2007–2011)[edit]

Jayson Fernandez served as the lead vocalist after Blanco's departure from 2007 to 2011.

Rivermaya also held auditions for a new vocalist. Out of more than 400 participants, only 80 were chosen to join the semi-finals. The auditions was televised on Studio 23, which was titled Bagong Liwanag. Aside from the band members, main judges are Rivermaya manager Lizza Nakpil, The Dawn guitarist Francis Reyes, and Razorback bassist Louie Talan.

On October 24, 2007, then-18-year-old Jayson Fernandez (usually spelled as "Jason") was announced as the winner and new member of Rivermaya.

On February 2008, Rivermaya released the album entitled Buhay ['Life'] with the carrier single "Sugal ng Kapalaran" [Gamble of Fate] penned by Sergio with both Fernandez and Sergio doing the vocals, while Elgar and Escueta do backing vocals.

In October 2008, after allegedly discovering several acts of misappropriation of funds involving the bands' royalties and talent fees, the current Rivermaya band members announced that the band had parted ways with their longtime manager Lizza Nakpil. She was charged with the crime of estafa, sued for damages, and the court has issued a Writ of Preliminary Injunction forbidding further contact with Rivermaya.[4]

Rivermaya has played in Singapore at the Marina Bay New Year Countdown in December 31, 2008 while in September 2009, the group is the first Filipino band invited to perform on 3 different stages at the 2009 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix and in the same month and year, the band released the album Closest Thing To Heaven with the track "Dangal" [Dignity] as the carrier single.

Fourth and fifth evolution of line-up; present status (2011–present)[edit]

Left to right: Peralta, David, Elgar, Sergio and Escueta

In February 22, 2011, Rivermaya's official Facebook page announce that they will release their music video titled "Remenis" [Reminisce] and will formally introduce their new members, Ryan Peralta and Norby David of the band Overtone.

On March 19, 2013, Rivermaya released the album Panatang Makabanda ['A Vow for the Band Passionate'].

Departure of Jayson Fernandez (2011)[edit]

On August 28, 2011, after months of speculation, Jayson Fernandez stated that he had left Rivermaya after 4 years with the group citing musical differences as the primary reason.[5] Paolo Valenciano (son of Gary Valenciano) and Vinci Montaner of Parokya ni Edgar simultaneously filled in as temporary lead vocalists for some occasional gigs weeks after Fernandez's departure. Mark Escueta, Mike Elgar and Norby David now simultaneously switch over the lead vocal duties.

After taking a brief hiatus, on November 2012, Japs Sergio posted on his official Facebook page that he left Rivermaya, in order to pursue his new band, Peso Movement.

Band members[edit]

Current members[edit]

  • Mark Escueta – lead vocals, guitars, occasional percussion (2011–present); drums & percussion, trumpet, occasional guitars, backing vocals (1994–2011)
  • Mike Elgar – lead vocals (2011–present); guitars (2001–present); keyboards (2007–2011)
  • Norby David – lead vocals, bass guitar, occasional acoustic guitars (2011–present)
  • Ryan Peralta – drums & percussion, keyboards (2011–present)

Former members[edit]

  • Rico Blanco – lead vocals (1998–2007); co-lead and backing vocals (1994–1998); guitars (1994–2007); keyboards (1994–2007)
  • Francisco "Bamboo" Mañalac – lead vocals (1994–1998)
  • Nathan Azarcon – bass guitar, backing vocals (1994–2001)
  • Perfecto "Perf" de Castro – guitars, backing vocals (1994–1995)
  • Victor "Kakoy" Legaspi – guitars (2001–2004)
  • Jayson Fernandez – lead vocals, guitars (2007–2011)
  • John Paul "Japs" Sergio – bass guitar, occasional lead vocals, occasional guitars (2001–2012)


Rivermaya performing at U.P. Diliman (2007)
For a full, detailed list, see: Rivermaya discography


External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Grip Stand Throw" by Sandwich &
"Serve In Silence" by Wolfgang
NU Rock Awards
Album of the Year
"Free (Rivermaya album)"

Succeeded by
"4-Track Mind"