Sorry for the silence. I have been busy with some personal stuff that I haven’t been able to update my vlog.
This is a first of 2 posts about a monumental event in Philippine music that happened a few nights ago, which makes it even more personal as I had 2 very close friends who were part of it.
A few months ago, April 30 to be exact, my friend, songwriter and producer, Trina Belamide, invited me to a recording of her new song. An entry to the first Philippine Popular Music Festival, a songwriting competition, where the grand prize is a whopping P1,000,000, a first in songwriting competitions.
The Philippine Popular Music Festival or Philpop, is the new Metropop, or The Metro Manila Popular Song Festival,
It was “the country’s pioneering and once foremost songwriting competition,” according to The Philippine Star. Its objective was to promote the advancement of Filipino music, and its chief proponents were Teodoro Valencia and Imee Marcos.
The songwriting competition was originally open to all music composers. From the Fifth festival onwards, the competition was divided into Professional and Amateur Divisions, to give new songwriters a level playing field without competing with more well-known composers. It ran from 1977 to 1985 and was relaunched in 1996 and had its last run in 2003.
Trina won 2nd place in Metropop 1996, with the song “Shine”, recorded by Ima Castro and interpreted then by “The Company’s” Sweet Plantado, and now popularized once again by Regine Velasquez.
Trina is no stranger in the music industry. She has penned numerous hits such as The Company’s “Now That I Have You”, Regine Velasquez’s “You’ve Made Me Stronger”, and also the 1995 World Youth Day theme, “Tell The World Of His Love”, and is also a multi-awarded producer.
And now I wouldn’t be surprised if this new song she cooked up would be a hit too.
She’s calling it BIGTIME, and it talks about a girl who is back with a vengeance, as she was constantly ignored then by a guy she likes. And now that she’s hit the BIGTIME, the roles are reversed and now the guy’s after her.
The song is a throwback to the 1950’s big band era, where the trio Andrew Sisters, curly hair, polka dots, and bebop reigned supreme.
Professional musicians like Trina know the difference between live and digital instruments just by listening to them and there was no way she would resort to recreating the big band sound using digitized instruments. So she commissioned Mel Villena, master arranger and musical director of the AMP Big Band to arrange BIGTIME and record all the instruments live. Something unheard of in this digital age.
I was there to document the whole recording process. From the guitar, piano, trumpets, trombone and saxes. It was a very chilling experience for me. I have never heard that kind of big band sound live in my life.
As soon as the recording of the instruements were done, it was time for the vocals by the trio called Baihana. These 20 something girls have a very distinct sound to them. A sound that was popularized decades before they were even born. Their style is reminiscent of The Andrew Sisters, also a trio from the 50’s.
I have heard of Baihana before. I have also seen some of their performances on YouTube, but this was the first time I would hear them live and recording. And needless to say, I am now a fan.
All I gotta say is the big band arrangment plus Baihana’s authentic 1950’s sound made BIGTIME a reality. I’m sure it was exactly what Trina was thinking.
So after the mixing of the song, Trina submitted her entry for Philpop. And after 2 short weeks, Trina made it to the final 14, besting almost 3,000 entries from around the globe. The final 14 was a good mix of Filipino music genres, from pop, reggae, rock, dance, r&b and folk. All beautifully crafted, all worthy of a spot in the finals.
Many issues circulated and attacked Philpop, its brains Ryan Cayabyab, Trina and some of the amateur and professional songwriters who made it to the finals, but I’m not even gonna talk about that. It was just a bad case of sourgraping by some of the songwriters who didn’t make it to the finals.
Two weeks before the finals night, Trina was very busy with BIGTIME. Voice, choreography and dance rehearsals with Baihana, costume fittings, final mixings, band and tech rehearsals for the show, paperwork, and campaigning. I helped out with some of the choreography and campaigning.
And I was there at the finals night too. It was held at the Philippine International Convention Center or PICC last July 14, 8PM, and was televised over TV5 around 11PM.
The stage design was beautiful, the production numbers by some of the country’s top performers were flawless, hosts Nikki Gil and Ogie Alcasid were very engaging, the board of judges all worthy and the top 14 entries were all deserving in their own way. Of course I was rooting for BIGTIME all the way. But I had some other favorites too.
BIGTIME didn’t win, but I’m sure it made a BIGTIME mark that night. Family, fans, friends and colleagues all joined in to support Trina and the rest of the candidates and of course to support Original Pilipino Music (OPM).
Here’s an unofficial music video I made using BTS footage of the making of BIGTIME,
Special thanks to my friend Jhett Baroma for some of the pictures and also to Ms. Girlie Rodis and Geoffrey Yusooncho.
You can download BIGTIME from iTunes or MyMusic.