3 kings of Manila Sound

Hajji Alejandro, Rey Valera and Rico J. Puno were young performers trying to make a name for themselves when two landmark recordings were released in 1974. These were Pers Lab by Hot Dog and Buhat by The New Minstrels. One blended English and Pilipino lyrics about young love against a sweet melody. The other brought a classic danza by Mike Velarde up to date with a pop arrangement. The success of these songs paved the way to stardom for Hajji, Valera and Rico J.

Rico was singing in a small joint called Spindle in Banawe when Manila Sound happened. Inspired by Pers Lab, he took to adding his own Tagalog words to popular songs like The Way We Were. "Alaala, ng tayo’y mag-sweethearts pa/namamasyal pa sa Luneta ng walang pera," sang Rico J and soon he was recording his first album, performing in bigger clubs and turning into one of the most successful entertainers of all time. His first hit was of course, The Way We Were. After he proved himself also adept with originals Kapalaran and revivals like Buhat, Rico made even bigger hits.

Inspired by the success of Rico J, Rey Valera, a singer/songwriter from Bulacan dared to try his luck at Vicor Music. He had already been doing gigs with his own rock band here and abroad but what he wanted most of all was to make a record. His first single was Ako Si Superman, where he was billed simply as Valera. It was however after he had writen songs for other artists like Mr. DJ for Sharon Cuneta, Pangako for Geraldine and Sorry Puwede Ba for Rico that his career as a singer took off. Maging Sino Ka Man, Naaalala Ka and Kumusta Ka were some of his own hits. Today, Rey is known for his many compositions which have become classics of the Manila Sound era.

Hajji Alejandro was a vocalist with the Circus Band when he was enticed to try his luck as a solo act. Once more inspired by the success of Rico J, producer Willy Cruz took the hits, Charade and The Worst That Could Happen and provided them with new lyrics. They became Tag-araw and Panakip-butas and made Hajji a star. He was given the tag Kilabot ng Mga Kolehiyala and was soon making other hits like May Minamahal, Nakapagtataka and others. His interpretation of Ryan Cayabyab’s Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika won the Grand Prize at the first Metro Manila Popular Song Festival and later at the Seoul Song Festival.

Rico, Valera and Hajji were three of the biggest stars of the glory days of Filipino music. It is to their credit that they have retained the same vast degree of talent, unique performing style and the capability to excite an audience over nearly 30 years. Truth to tell, I cannot name any among the younger crop of male singers who can hold a candle against any of these three, let alone all of them together.

And together they will be for the first time when they perform on Oct. 5, Oct. 6 and Oct. 19 at the Music Museum in Greenhills. The Viva Concert presentation is the first of The Greatest Hits Series, a line-up of shows that will feature the best songs and performers in the history of Philippine pop music. Tickets are priced at P1300, P1000 and P800 are now available at the Music Museum and at the Viva Concerts office.
Current tunes
Unlike during the ‘70s and early ’80s, Filipino music today is in the doldrums. It is unfortunately sandwiched between those trying to sing a-go-go dancers called Sex Bomb and the rapping Salbakutah. We are also in that uncertain period, that catches people by surprise every year. "Hey, it’s almost over and I still have so much to do," or "Hey, it’s almost over and I have not done anything yet." So while they are still deciding whether they are ready to party up to New Year’s Day or if they will cram like mad to catch up with what had been neglected, the music is also neither here nor there.

Here now are the tunes that we hear the most these days: Only Hope, by Mandy Moore, Complicated by Avril Lavigne; Best in Me by Blue; If Tomorrow Never Comes by Ronan Keating; Cry by Mandy Moore; Dadalhin Kita by Regine Velasquez; Someday We’ll Know by Nelly featuring Kelly Rollins of Destiny’s Child; With 1 Last Song by A1; Sana by Ogie Alcasid; and Cleaning Up My Closet by Eminem.











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