Bayang Barrios sings Musikang Pilipino

SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil - The Philippine Star

Bayang Barrios has sent out a call to save Filipino music.

“Tunog Pilipino/ Buhayin natin ito/ Tunog Pilipino, Ipagbunyi sa buong mundo,” she sings. This comes from one of her latest works, Ipagbunyi Sa Buong Mundo where she extols the beauty of Filipino music with “Mga himig sa ating ugat nakatanim….ang musikang Pilipinong ating tinalikdan/ Mula hilaga, timog, silangan at kanluran/ Tunog Pilipino ating ipagyabang.”

This call comes at a time when the local music business is down at the dumps and real Filipino music is almost an anachronism. I listened to her plea and I am now torn between telling her to “Wake up Bayang, accept it, times have changed,” or “Praise you girl, for being a true Filipino and sticking to your guts.” The second is said with applause and a call for other artists to rally behind Bayang’s cause, lest they get buried in the quagmire of the music from TV talent shows.

Co-written with her husband, the composer and music producer Mike Villegas, and arranged by Bayang herself together with Sammy Asuncion and the band Kalayo, Ipagbunyi Sa Buong Mundo is one of the cuts in Bayang’s new album titled Malaya. And as is usual with the Lumad song artist’s output these past 20 years, it is not only a celebration of Filipino music but also of beliefs and sentiments that Filipinos should nurture and hold dear.

I do not know how Bayang came to this deep love for everything Filipino. Given her strong good looks and clear vocal tones, she could have also made it big with Western pop or even classical music. Maybe it was because of her Lumad heritage. Bayang comes from a family of indigenous people from Agusan Del Sur in Mindanao. Maybe it was because she started her career in Joey Ayala’s Bagong Lumad band. Or maybe it was simply because, she grew up at a time when Filipino artists took patriotism and the welfare of their country very seriously and wove their views into their creations.

No matter what the reason, I admire how she has kept her music as pure as possible by today’s standards. She cedes only to the World Music genre that has happily found a perfect marriage with native Filipino rhythms. This sound permeates Malaya as Bayang prays, plays, rouses people to action, lulls them to rest or simply falls in love. Just as she was years ago with the memorable Harinawa, Bagong Umaga or Isipin Mo Na Lang, her singing is sincere, intense and such a joy to listen to.

Malaya, which is Bayang’s first album release in nearly four years, blends modern classics and new songs set to acoustic arrangements by well-known musicians. The first single out of the CD is Gising Na, Kaibigan, which was written by Lolita Carbon and was a big hit for the folk rock band Asin back in the ’70s. Also included is Bathala by Joey Ayala, who also arranged and played the guitar. Then there is also Iisa by Gary Granada who joins Bayang in a heartfelt duet.

Also in the CD are Naghahari by Mike Villegas; Malaya by Pinoy reggae artist Popong Landero; Ayala’s Bata Batuta and Awit Ng Mortal; Adto Na Kita and Ulan, Init by Onie Badiang of Yano; and Makakabangon Din by Bayang and Asuncion. My favorite of the batch is Pahinga, a simple lullaby also composed by Barrios and Asuncion. It is Bayang’s singing, so soothing and the laidback string arrangement that makes this a real gem.

Bayang has had her share of awards but I doubt very much if talent show contestants would choose her songs for competition. But who cares? Her music reminds me of what Lolita Carbon so aptly said in Gising Na Kaibigan some three decades ago: “Nakita mo na ba ang mga bagay na dapat mong makita/ Nagawa mo na ba ang mga bagay na dapat mong gawin/ kalagan ng tali sa paa/ imulat na ang ‘yong mga mata/ kay sarap ng buhay lalo na’t alam mo kung saan pupunta.”

Bayang knows her place and where she is going. She has messages that should be heard and she makes beautiful music. Most of all, she brings this to us with a purpose. I am sure that those who will listen to Malaya will find quiet in their souls and will come away with encouragement in their hearts. Again I say, “Kay sarap ng buhay lalo na’t alam mo kung saan pupunta.”











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