Kabilang Buhay is the Song of 2020
Spotify has named Bandang Lapis’ song about death, Kabilang Buhay, as the most listened to track during the past year.
STAR/ File

Kabilang Buhay is the Song of 2020

SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star) - January 21, 2021 - 12:00am

Blame it on the Pinoy’s fabled sentimental streak. Spotify has named, Kabilang Buhay, a song about death as the most listened to track during the past year. The video of the first single release from a group that calls itself Bandang Lapis is also doing very well, with now over 40 million views on YouTube. And look at what happened when Bandang Lapis performed the song at the Wish 107.5 Bus, it got an astonishing 20 million views.

Kabilang Buhay is the Tagalog term for the place where the departed go after they breathe their last on Earth. It comes across as morbid if used in a song. Like this, “Bakit ba dumating ang oras na ito/ nabalitaan ko na wala ka na/ hindi ba’t sinabi mo hindi mo ko iiwan/ hindi pababayaan na ako’y mag-isa/ hindi ba’t sinabi mo sabay tayong tatanda/ bakit bigla ka na lang nandiyan sa kabilang buhay.”

So death is not a pleasant subject. However, singing about the death of a loved one has made Bandang Lapis a success, one of the biggest in what has turned out to be a most surprising year for music. The local music industry not only breezed through nine months of COVID-19 infections with great aplomb. What was actually supposed to be a difficult time has resulted in interesting developments like Kabilang Buhay.

Although deprived of the usual promotional conduits like live TV shows and concerts, new acts like Bandang Lapis managed to score breakthroughs and now continue to flourish. Think of the reemergence of Pinoy hip-hop. The genre has been turned into introspective musings by a very talented batch of new artists. They all seem to have come out of nowhere equipped with a beat, plaintive tones and a love for the Filipino language.

And like most young people their age, they uploaded their works on the Internet. The songs easily found an audience in users with a lot of time on their hands and gadgets to while away the hours. So, people listened and watched then streamed and downloaded and watched and listened some more. Before you know it, there have been millions of those clicks and the songs have become big hits like Kabilang Buhay.

Bandang Lapis is made up of John Lester Abano on vocals; Lyn Rey Beltran on guitar; Mark Jay Nievas also on guitar; Ryanpaul Marangga on the bass guitar; Leanro Rapuno on drums; Jomari Gabriel Luna on keyboards; and Ivan Arcena Morallos, the rapper. Please note that the band is no flash in the pan. Bandang Lapis recently released a second, very strong single, Sana’y Di Na Lang that is also a big hit.

Now while Kabilang Buhay was sending music lovers into a gloomy masochistic mood filled with thoughts of the afterlife, rock alt band Ben&Ben was enjoying its biggest year by coming up with one big hit after another. Ben&Ben and Bandang Lapis are poles apart. B&B is from the gentrified part of Makati, while BL is from the densely populated urban area of Montalban. But differences notwithstanding both did very well sales-wise in 2020.

Ben&Ben, led by Paulo and Miguel Guico, scored big with several new titles from its catalogue, plus their early ones, making the charts. Among these are Sa Susunod na Habang Buhay, which coincidentally also deals with dying; Kathang Isip, Lifetime, Maybe the Night, Make It With You, Pagtingin, Nakikinig Ka Ba Sa Akin, Doors, Di Ka Sayang, Leaves and Araw-Araw.

Here now are the other songs by which 2020 will be remembered and note that most of them are hip-hop tunes: Paubaya by Moira dela Torre; Teka Lang by Emman; Ulap by Rob Daniel, Marikit by Juan Caiole and Kyle; Imahe by Magnus Haven; Binibini ft. Calvin de Leon and Panga ft. Soulthrill and Catriona by Matthaios; Hindi Tayo Puede by The Juans; Kung Di Rin Lang Ikaw by December Avenue and Moira; Higa by Arthur Nery; Sana by You Belong to the Zoo; KLWKN by Music Hero; and Malayo Ka Man by Jr. Crown, Kath, Cyclone & Young Weezy.

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