February 05, 2007

New music from old guitars

(The Bro's Mustache house CD at last! Restrung: Lumang Gitara, Bagong Kanta)

TUESDAY, January 30, was a milestone of sorts for My Bro’s Mustache, a popular folk music bar in Quezon City owned by lovable couple Gigi and Boy Vinzon.

The venue was packed with all its friends and supporters waiting for the grand tadaah of the night—the launch of its CD featuring its stable of musicians. Mind you, these musicians are not just the usual flash-in-the-pan, one-hit-wonders now filling our airwaves. The names will probably sound familiar to most of you, especially those who were already lovin’ and rockin’ in the ’60s and ’70s – Florante, Joey “Pepe” Smith, Wally Gonzalez, Heber Bartolome, Lolita Carbon, Susan Fernandez, Lester Demetillo – permanent fixtures in the folk music and rock and roll scene in those decades.

(From left: Noel Cabangon, Rannie Raymundo, Mon Espia)

Aptly called Restrung: Lumang Gitara, Bagong Kanta (The Artists of My Bro’s Mustache), the CD features all these great music legends singing new songs, but still doing what they do best, providing searching commentaries on present-day events and political situations. Their music is still edgy, almost militant, which harks back to the tumultuous years of the First Quarter Storm, but very much applicable to our lives today.

Among the crew, my favorite has to be Florante’s Araw, Gabi, which talks about the pitfalls of a drug addict’s lifestyle; and Susan Fernandez’s haunting Dalagita sa Dilim. Fernandez’s divine angelic voice provides an effective counterpoint to the otherwise heavy topic of prostitution.

(Wally Gonzalez)

But the CD isn’t all just political and social commentary. There are stirring love songs and simple sweet melodies by a number of today’s finest musicians like Noel Cabangon, Mon Espia, Rannie Raymundo, as well as a few surprises from relatively unknown singers but who are extremely talented, if their first songs are of any indication.

For instance, I am taken by the unpretentiousness of Hans and Reagan’s Patty (dedicated to one of the boys’ crush), moved by Joniver’s soulful Cursed By Your Love (he sounds like a rougher Binky Lampano, but a fine bluesman nonetheless), cheered up by Espia’s affectionate Caleb (his son who makes a debut as well on his proud papa’s cut), and enamored with Raymundo’s charming Stop Me.

Of course Cabangon’s passionate Tinitiis Kita has long endeared me (taken from his 2003 opus Medjas) and someone called Rey Almentario has written the most poignant music and lyrics to Walang Katulad. While not a love song, The Storm of Chickoy Pura will show you the softer, acoustic side of The Jerks’ frontman. Even Lolita Carbon (of the famed Asin) surprises with Hawak Kamay because she croons her blues instead of screaming her usual passions. Paul Galang wraps up the entire package with his tribute to the great singers and hymns of our time (like the Juan dela Cruz's Ang Himig Natin) with a song for Pepe Smith entitled Salamat Pepe. The ex-Juan dela Cruz lead singer does a cameo on the cut.

(Boy Vinzon)

Produced by Espia, acknowledged as the real genius behind the erstwhile Labuyo and Gary V.’s fave guitarist (he never travels anywhere without Mon), Restrung is not only just a bunch of artists getting together to make fine music but a family who has found a home in Boy and Gigi’s bar. Even during the night’s album launch, there were no egos as each artist was willing to take a back seat, and accompany the performer of the moment. (But of course, one couldn’t help but allow the spotlight to shine a bit longer on legends like Pepe and Wally. Expectedly, there were a lot of weed jokes from Pepe.) The entire evening felt like one grand music peace-out...I mean, how often can you get all these legendary performers on one stage and in one night alone? It was truly one of those rare events that only Bro's can accomplish.

(Joey 'Pepe' Smith)

It is in this bar where these stars shine even brighter, energized as their old fans relive their wild days even as they reach across to a younger generation of passionate lovers of honest and outstanding real music. At Bro’s, and its CD, there is only love and great music. And that’s good enough for me.

Restrung: Lumang Gitara, Bagong Kanta (P299) is available at My Bro’s Mustache, 68 Sct. Tuazon cor Sct. Madriñan, Quezon City. Proceeds from the sale of the CD go to the artists.

(This is an expanded version of my story which came out in the Life Section of the BusinessMirror, Feb. 2, 2007. All photos by the author.)

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