Freeman Cebu Entertainment

BISROCK: Where it all began

- Maria Eleanor E. Valeros -
There was the music of BTU (With You), Abyss (Away From Me), Ledger Line (Don't Change), Meduza Taciturn (Vicious Circle), Ire (Eyes Above), and Nocturne Muzak (Sad Man's Chant) compiled for the New Cebu Music album, recorded and mixed at A. Salonga Recording Studio. It was part of my early attempts to understand the "feel of the gospel embedded in the music according to Cebuano musicians".

Then there were the likes of Antonio Tejero of "Antonio's Madness", and other local band icons in the late 80s to the early 90s such as "Roots, Damian Paniki", and ethno-tribal "Ugat" - precursors in the reinvention of Bisdak sound here in the Great South. Most of these early Bisdak bands never experienced what's it like for their original compositions to invade mainstream music. Nevertheless, what crumbs they dropped along the trail were picked up by those next in line. Despite an experienced flatline after Brown Underground Soundz, propagated by Ka Pedro of dyRT, left the airwaves in the early 90s, a few Bisdak artists moved on with the crusade to be heard.

Years back, only a handful got interested in Bisaya rock. Even Archie Uy of "Aggressive Audio" that is now a pillar of Bisrock with their "Senior Citizen" track had his share of rejection for music "unable to fit radio program format."

Most rockers back then were also the ones who shied away from using the Sugbuano language. According to Answers.com, the use of the Sugbuano language by Cebu-based bands has never been popular due to the predominance of Tagalog and English songs even in the playlists of Cebu-based FM radio stations. Certainly, the use of Sugbuano was not also the path to national fame then. Against this unwritten rule, some Cebuano rock bands started popularizing rock songs using the Sugbuano tongue. Among these bands are Aggressive Audio (Senior Citizen), Blood of the Stone (Vigilante), Gangrene (Gahapon), Glass of Dirt (Tingog sa Mamumuo), Indephums (Negatibo), Jimmicycle (Bakasi), Mantequilla (Bulinaw), Missing Filemon (Prinsipal), Phylum (Palagot sa Kontra) and Scrambled Eggs (Hilot).

Then 93.1 Smash FM - Cebu's Rock Fortress helped in upholding the Bisaya rock genre, and has given from then on the chance for, even raw, recordings to be played on air. The first of these raw recordings were that of Jimmycycle (Lansiao, Peling Gwapa fame). For the record, Bisrock was coined by writer-columnist Januar Yap in an album review he made for Missing Filemon (Sine-Sine, Englisera fame).

At about this time, I was already working on stories that feature the struggles, shares of rejections and most of all the achievements of both established and rising Bisdak bands. Before Sinulog of 2006, I chronicled the sprays and the bratatatats of top Reggae nga Bisaya band "Junior Kilat". This was shortly followed by "The Journey" of rap/hip-hop act from the South - Dice and K9 Mobbstarr - as Dice Rosaroso of "Itsumo" fame espoused on the jagged terrains of that tricky uphill climb to stardom - from the injuries created by initial rejection and detraction to the summits conquered afterwards and the view from up there.

That same week, I moved on to promote Talisay City-based hip-hop trio Königs (pronounced Koi-nigs) in the launch of their "Nganong Ni-Enter" album at Handuraw Events Café (where most Bisrockers had their debut performance), a musical project that bears of the sarcastic Bisdak punchline that lambasts specifically a person indulged in substance abuse and thus couldn't quite make much of life.

And because I have so much admiration for world music, I worked on a story about "Kadangyan" and the tribal wisdom propagated by the so-called godfather of local ethno-tribal music. Kadangyan is now in Manila backed by a major label and handled by Ms. Ann Angala, who used to manage alternative Pinoy rock bands Eraserheads and The Dawn. Take note also that punk rock band The Ambassadors (Ulipon fame), after eight years of struggle, has finally invaded Manila with Ms. Liza Nakpil (manager of RiverMaya) stirring up their career. Recently, Ambassadors embarked on a nationwide release of their album "Question Mark" containing the NU107 chartbuster "Smile" and a Sugbuano song "Daw Sama Sa Iro".

After a meeting with co-editors of this paper, I learned of the favor they have extended to the cause I am propagating and so maintained what used to be Thursday-space-only for Bisdak band features at the Entertainment Section handled by editor Nathalie Tomada. So that in the next months, the move was intensified with more stories starting with "Phylum: Classified Alternative Music". This was after a chatmate of mine named Roel "mcwhelz" Rosario, a BUGZ insider/observer, introduced me to the Bisrockin' world of the Smashers. Phylum was just the beginning and Smash FM a potent avenue.

On March 23, a vibrant Indephums (Rated-R album) presented a potpourri of subjects from matters of the heart written by incurable romantics, to plain silly-goofiness, down to the subliminal look at socio-political issues woven by beautiful minds of four men passionate about their music and whose diverse methods of upbringing and musical influences collide to produce songs that have already jolted and bolted, audio-wise, even the desensitized critics of Bisdak music. This paper took notice of that. And saw from there that while critics gave our efforts the smirk, their eyes were green with envy because Bisrock has come to a bloom.

The following months saw stories of "Scrambled Eggs" (Naglibog fame) wherein Jay-R "Itchoy" Siaboc was the newbie vocalist, after Clenn Sunico who penned most of the Scrambled songs left to form "Mano-Mano" (Sony-BMG). I was one of those who saw how Itchoy grew from a neophyte performer to the first runner-up Dreamer that he is right now. That prowess and promise he possesses fuel our efforts to keep the cause burning. The FREEMAN is first to have focused on the power of Bisrock to change certain preferences. On print, TF never cared if the rockers are newbies or without names yet or sans purchasing power. We provided the "much needed mileage". Itchoy has successfully taken it to the national entertainment scene.

On June 8, Makadawa (Maka-Bisrock) expressed the goal of creating songs that amid a face of "flimflaminess" on the surface, would go farther in reach, deeper in range, and would leave a lasting impact on listeners as these themes don the spirit of pro-activism and progressive values as in the league of Pinoy music pillar-icons "Asin" and "Yano". This paper shared in the band's advocacy. How about pushing for Bisdak aggressive rock, we deliberated!

In the following week, the yearning of struggling "Assembly Language" on the completion of their materials for an Extended Play album was featured. Through their track "Tabang", the band decodes the message of bliss amid poverty. Tabang is the amplification of Assembly's experience when they had to munch on stale bread worth a peso each, and wash the baked stuff down with iced water worth another peso after a practice session at a studio in the Lahug area to deal with budget constraints. Though this paper didn't provide assistance in monetary terms, support flowed by providing a venue for the group's clean blend to be underscored. Last December 22, Assembly Language played for the opening of Zzubu Rock Bar (Iskul of Bisrock), an effort to "resurrect the glorious days of Colon, a revival of the Club 99 spirit which was watering hole of rockistas back then," underscores Ritzé Arriba of Zzubu Recording Studios.

Assembly Language shone in their "Chinita" as they received the wildest cheer from the crowd for songs in the vernacular.

In the late part of June, I was already translating some of my feature articles to the vernacular for Banat News for the "Banda, Musika and Campus Kalandrakas" themes of Hugyaw section handled by editor Ryan Mark Borinaga. Now, I have a twice-a-week writing assignment for both TF Entertainment page (Tuesday and Friday) and Banat News (Band Influence every Wednesday and Musika every Friday).

With three long lists (and growing longer!) provided by Ramil "DJ Ram" Dizon of Smash FM who, aside from Marit Stinus Remonde, believes so much in the potential of honing all Bisayang pinulongan - Hiligaynon, Waray, Leyteñong Bisaya, Bol-anong Bisaya, Ilonggo, and Bacoleño, aside from Sugbuano.

"YourVoice, YourChoice Tingog Kabataan" took on a reformat in mid-November and occupied an MWF sked, 10 am to noontime as "BisrocKabataan (Republika's "Tingog Kabataan" is still official song) with this writer as co-anchor on Mondays on a somewhat-public-affairs-type of presenting issues/concerns of the Bisrockin' community. An Ultimate Bisrocker/Fan steps in on Wednesdays and Charlton "Tonton" Miparanum of Phylum (Palagot sa Kontra, Itoy-Itoy fame) on Fridays. Bré Ambungan partners with DJ Ram on all three days to discuss about the issues/concerns of the youth and their music.

Bisrock has come of age. It has led to the creation of clans of supporters from every nook and cranny in the metropolis and towns (Deadspotters Society, Isuya Boys, G-Clan, Bisrock Lovers Clan, Kapabis or Kabataan Para sa Bisrock Clan, Emo Bisrock Clan, among many others. It opened online chat channels and websites such as the Bisrock Café and #Bisrock Undernet Channel at MiRC. It has also given our youngsters inspiration to get united in one theme - that is the love for Sugbuanong Binisaya and to get cohesive in their communal involvement as well as to be decisive in pushing for the cause on "non-remix of musical creations, and anti-piracy".

The support has tested too their participation in the upholding of the culture of reading as they grab copies after copies of TF and Banat to check on the features most especially D'Kazins (Naunsa Na fame) - the band to watch. And places where Bisrockers gather - Handuraw and Kahayag in Mabolo, La Mer at Mango Square, and Zzubu in Colon corner Mabini streets.

And so they learned that gone is the age of excesses in the trappings of being rockers, a subculture that worshipped drugs, promiscuity and fleeting fame. Bisrockistas are into Kontra Droga campaign (Talamban gig), HIV/AIDS Spread the Word Not The Virus campaign (Labangon gig), benefit concert for a patient suffering from leukemia (Cebu Normal University gig). Recently, I was tickled at the idea of "overseas gig" for Bisrock bands. Agipo (Sikwati, Batang Nangka fame) travelled all the way from San Fernando town to Angasil in Mactan and cross the Gilutongan channel to Santa Rosa for the Olango island gig (by demand!) at the Baring gym.

Broadcast mileage began with Smash. Print space began here at The Freeman and Banat, but where Bisrock has actually begun is found in every heart that adores that message of upholding Bisdak music. Hearts that crave for upholding of the beauty of regional culture, hearts that delight in the delivery of songs in the native tongue - counting in what YooMaxx (Yoyoy Villame and Max Surban) propagated. Bisrock began with the youth who feel the real high that comes from great music that adores a rich culture of poetry as in the works of Ossified (Deep Pressed, Problem Solving, Mad'a Ra'g Smile fame), of the legacy of indigenous cultures and of interracial influences that allow us to discern who we really are as a people and as musicians.

Bisrock has taken root in this long search for how Bisdaks should really sound in the new age. And it felt good to know our efforts paved way for bands to gain respect of the community. It comes with a bang - with a jolt - just like the ushering in of the New Year!

Rock on, Bisdaks!

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