Martin takes on other music icons


Concert King Martin Nievera has found time to do a new album. It is called Mga Awit At Damdamin, a collection of original songs by Filipino composers that is a sequel to his Himig Ng Damdamin CD of a year ago. I think it is great that Martin who has an impressive catalogue of covers of foreign songs has gone local and is now mining our rich musical heritage. There is nothing better for a troubled industry than to have a big name like Martin take matters into his own hands. He is getting OPM songs heard again.

Television, today’s most powerful medium is mistakenly hung up on American Top 40 songs that are mainly hip-hop. So most young singers around think that these are the songs they should sing even if they cannot make head or tail of what the lyrics are saying. They just gyrate while mouthing inanities. The situation is dealing a slow death to Filipino music and the only way to save it is to get OPM heard. That is what Martin has been doing with his recent albums. Basil Valdez did it too with his contemporary classics in Basil S. Valdez. And while he is not in the same league as Basil or Martin as a singer, Willie Revillame has also been doing wonders for local pop music.

And now, let us check out what wonders has Martin come up with in his Mga Awit At Damdamin. First off, I am glad that Ikaw Lamang, by Allan Danug, the theme of the soap series Nasaan Ka Elisa? closes the album. Although it is a good song, it would have stood out like a sore thumb elsewhere in the line-up. This is not only because it is the only new work in the album but also because the soaring arrangement by Paolo Zarate is better suited to melodrama than to the mellow mood of the rest of the CD.

Martin in a mellow mood? Or maybe it should be, Martin in a mellow mood! No matter. Both are correct. Martin who has always brought out his emotions in a big way in his songs is now in a sweet, introspective, mellow mood. Must be the age, he recently turned 50 years old. Must be because he just wanted the change. But whatever the reason, his sound here is a welcome change that sounds young and very appealing. Or maybe that is the only way there is to approach the songs he has chosen to do. Martin has taken on a formidable line-up, most of which are iconic songs, that other great artists would not dare attempt to cover.

Included are: Dadalhin composed by Tats Faustino and originally recorded by Regine Velasquez; Habang May Buhay written by Wency Cornejo and which he first recorded with the Afterimage and which was later a movie for Donna Cruz; Ito Rapadas’ Sa Kanya, which was a hit for Ogie Alcasid; Ang Lahat Ng Ito’y Para Sa ‘Yo, written by Nonong Pedero and popularized by Hajji Alejandro; Kapalaran by Chito Ilacad and a phenomenal seller for Rico J. Puno.

Huwag Na Lang Kaya by Medwin Marfil for his band True Faith; Ikaw Ang Musika by Greg Lozano for the Bloomfields; Together Forever that has already gone from Rico J to Renz Verano; Ngayon At Kailanman, the breakthrough song by George Canseco for Basil Valdez; Bakit Labis Kitang Mahal by Alex Mallillin for the Boyfriends and later a movie theme for Lea Salonga; and Hahanapin Ko by Jose Mari Chan and Jimmy Santiago that was a Metro Pop Music Festival Finalist performed by Anthony Castelo.

It would have been so easy to turn on the drama for these songs and Martin would still have sounded great but he chose instead to go all quiet. As a result we have guitar-led arrangements that tickle the senses in a soft, teasing manner. Very nice. 

I have three top choices. One is the laid-back Hahanapin Ko, arranged by Marvin Querido. The other two were both arranged by Albert Tamayo. These are the jazzy Huwag Na Lang Kaya and the musing Sa Kanya that comes across like the prayer of a happy, contented soul.












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