syd hartha reflects on her self-awakening with new single “hiwaga”

In less than two years of being signed under Sony Music Philippines, syd hartha quickly rose to prominence with compelling pop/folk anthems that expertly balance lyrical depth with relatability and social relevance. From taking a pro-woman stand on “ayaw” to documenting the importance of self-restraint on “paru-paro,” the young singer-songwriter marks a clear step forward in terms of exploring outsider themes that even her contemporaries would seem to avoid. 

Having that same grasp of writerly elegance without resorting to repeating herself, syd hartha takes a moment to reflect on her personal actions through her latest single, “hiwaga”—a stunningly produced, stripped-down tune that deals with self-awakening and healing in preparation to becoming “the best version of herself”—to reference a line from the coming-of-age film, Lady Bird

Writing from a place of newfound perspective and riveting wisdom, syd wrote “hiwaga” as a reminder that no matter who you are and what you may be going through, you are still capable of being part of a better change. “Basically, the love you have for yourself reflects to everyone and everything around you,” the critically acclaimed musician explains. “There was a time in my life where I felt so stuck and started to question my existence and the reason for everything. What inspired me to write this song is my awakening to the fact that I was given this life for a reason. I want to heal so I can be the best version of myself for everyone around me and I want to inspire people to do the same.”

Quite a diversion from her usual sound, “hiwaga” is produced by Johnoy Danao, and performed with her backing band consisting of Bea Fabros, Raisa Racelis and Pat Sarabia. According to syd hartha, the track was recorded at the confines of the musicians’ homes under the guidance of Johnoy Danao. “Initially, we thought of a big production incorporating more instruments like horns, but we decided we wanted to give the song a lot of room to breathe and let the lyrics shine.” syd adds, “recording ‘hiwaga,’ was definitely challenging because it was our first time producing a single without seeing each other.”

The song also features a rap verse from syd herself, who admits that hip-hop has greatly influenced her songwriting. “As someone who’s so fond of several hip-hop artists’ writing and delivery, I noticed how stronger and more effective it is when the message is somehow spoken instead of sung. Also, when I wrote ‘hiwaga,’ it all started with just words; it was me having a conversation with myself. I decided then that I wanted the feel to be more conversational and more focused on the message of the lyrics.” 

syd hartha’s “hiwaga” is out now on all digital platforms worldwide via Sony Music Philippines.

Image and details provided by Sony Music Philippines in a recent press release.

Maris Racal shows her introspective side on new single “Not For Me”

Aside from making a name for herself as one of the breakout young actresses of her generation, Maris Racal has successfully dabbled in writing her own songs and challenging industry expectations with her intimate and refreshing take on pop music. From penning the chart-topping confessional “Ikaw Lang Sapat Na” to collaborating with Rico Blanco on the city pop-influenced ditty “Abot Langit,” Racal is surprisingly an effective chronicler of love anthems for the modern age—a guitar-toting songstress known for balancing commercial appeal with artistic integrity.

Bursting with youthful fervor and charismatic edge, Maris Racal’s latest single “Not For Me” stretches her introspective side of music-making to interesting places, while retaining the accessibility of her recent crossover hits. Her resounding confidence translates perfectly into the musical output, but it’s her conversational and matter-of-fact songwriting style that earns the stripes, revealing a degree of self-assuredness that comes with experience.

Inspired by Britpop acts such as Aqualung and folk-pop chanteuses like Lily Allen and Regina Spektor, Racal wrote “Not For Me” not so much for intriguing unconventionality, but as an outlet to express herself in a way that feels truthful and inherently raw. The driving piano chords and the soaring arrangements give her storytelling a more authentic spin, lending it an effortless breeziness while making sure it doesn’t lessen the emotional impact of the song.

With “Not For Me” putting a spotlight on her songwriting strengths, Maris Racal explores the complexities of romantic uncertainty with a surprisingly nuanced approach—unfiltered, no longer afraid of possibilities, and ready to own the moment.  

Not For Me” is out now on all digital platforms worldwide via Sony Music Philippines.

The OPM Archive Foundation launches initiative to collect Filipino music artifacts

During the virtual presser attended by members of the press last August 26, 2020 (Wednesday), The OPM Archive Foundation has announced its official plans to collect Filipino music memorabilia and champion digital archiving in a time that needs preservation of cultural artifacts.

Heading the OPM Archive Foundation are the “next gen” members of the group, Moy Ortiz, President; Krina Cayabyab, Vice President; Dinah Remolacio, Treasurer and Chevy Salvador, Secretary, while the more senior members will stay on as board members and advisers.

The archive is a separate entity from Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM) in that it will serve as a foundation that collects and documents not just the actual original Filipino music, but also narratives, photographs, music sheets and press releases. Originally, the term “OPM” referred to the inclusive period from the 70s to 80s when a rich influx of new and modern sounds, melodies, lyrics, singers and musicians flooded the airwaves, and even the theater, with original dance musicals as “Rama Hari” and “Tales of the Manuvu”. Among the familiar and popular voices that emerged, aside from Celeste Legaspi’s were Basil Valdez, Hajji Alejandro, Sampaguita, Mike Hanopol, Florante, Freddie Aguilar, Leah Navarro, Didith Reyes, just to name a few.

The archive, however, for the purposes of music research and study for future generations, shall extend its borders to the precedents of this era, the 60’s, and extend to the present, and hopefully can be sustained into the future, for the identification and recognition of music development. The accompanying narratives will seek to contextualize the music in its specific social relevance that defined each period, and perhaps identify continuity to the next period.

Plans for the OPM Archive gave rise before the lockdown, when the Filipinas Heritage Library (FHL), where the archive was to be housed, was ready to receive the hard copy donations. With the lockdown, FHL head, Suzanne Yupangco and the archive group agreed to go digital. This does not, however, preclude the collecting of hard copies once the quarantine period is over. There is nothing like seeing the original “in the flesh”. While each hard copy donation will be digitized, the original copies will also be preserved through actual preventive conservation, knowing how digitization alone can be prone to obsolescence because of evolving digital formats.

Music plays a major role in peoples’ lives. It is something everyone cares about. And the archive hopes to ensure that the musical gems it documents and collects will live on from generation to generation, so children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren can appreciate, learn from, and perhaps someday, revise, improvise, follow or change approaches to music.

The archive is now open for digital collection, and is open to the public for donations. Just log on to opmarchive.com.

The launch of the OPM Archive is an initiative of founding members of OPM, led by its founder and first president, Celeste Legaspi, with Girlie Rodis, Tats Rejante Manahan, Lyca Benitez Brown, next generation members, Moy Ortiz, Chevy Salvador, Dinah Remolacio and Krina Cayabyab.

Image and details provided by the OPM Archive Foundation in a recent press release.

Zack Tabudlo takes charge of his fear and soars in love with latest single, “Nangangamba”

“I wrote down some lyrics about the things I was going through at the time. I was in a situation where I felt like someone I liked was playing too hard to get, and the song pretty much circles around that idea: that sometimes when we play too hard to get, we lose people who really love us or people who [turn out to] feel the same way.”

Singer-songwriter and producer Zack Tabudlo finds renewed perspective on time’s delicate role in shaping your own destiny, setting an ultimatum on fear with his newest single, “Nangangamba,” out today on digital platforms worldwide.
On his first release under Island Records Philippines, Zack urges listeners to take ownership of their own feelings: that inaction may shield you from pain, yes, but ultimately it’ll get you nowhere. He brings love songs up a notch, infusing pop and R&B elements to his powerful vocals—a testament to his ever-evolving songwriting and production style. But moreover, it signals a shift on his creative choices in keeping his individual artistry as dynamic as his growth in the music industry. “With these new tracks, I’m sure people who have experienced these would relate so much more… [the latest single] is very different, music-wise and in terms of maturity,” he shares.

Part of this artistic growth is Zack’s experience of writing “Nangangamba,” a song he wrote a year ago. He cites an earlier failed romance as the inspiration behind the song. “I wrote down some lyrics about the things I was going through at the time. I was in a situation where I felt like someone I liked was playing too hard to get, and the song pretty much circles around that idea: that sometimes when we play too hard to get, we lose people who really love us or people who [turn out to] feel the same way.” The process of writing the actual song didn’t take long once the idea set in. “It all started with a melody that popped into my head while I was in class. Every time melodies or ideas pop in my head, I always grab my phone to record them just to make sure I won’t forget. But this time, I knew I needed at least a couple of chords on any instrument just to seal the idea. I recorded all the chords I needed using a ukulele. When I got home I went straight to my home studio and finished the production with my vocals and everything. Five to six hours later, ‘Nangangamba’ was born.”

Now finally set to be released, “Nangangamba” unintentionally—and fittingly—became a case of practicing what you preach, as he sings, “Ito na ang pagkakataon / Wala nang pipigil sa’yo / ‘Wag ka nang mahihiya / Sabihin na ang totoo.” In some ways, the lockdown allowed him to reprioritize. “I have a home studio and all the equipment I need. Having all the time in the world made me focus more and be motivated to write lots of songs compared to when I was also studying at the same time.”

Acquiring skills over time also made it possible to avoid tremendous adjustments to recording and producing the single despite limitations during the quarantine. “Just like in my old tracks, I’ve worked on them from top to bottom. I’m the producer, writer, singer, arranger, as well as the mixing and mastering engineer. It was really fun experimenting with different genres and I really like the vibe of each and every song I’ve been making lately. There are samples I’ve worked on from scratch with these tracks and I really can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”

His latest career step as part of the brand-new Island Records roster excites the multi-disciplinary artist. “Everyone in MCA Music Philippines and Island Records Philippines are amazing… They’ve been very supportive and very creative when it comes to ideas or projects, and I know I have a very strong team behind me.”

About Zack Tabudlo

Zack Tabudlo is a singer-songwriter and producer from Manila, Philippines. He joined The Voice Kids in 2014 and went on to establish his solo career, writing and performing his own music. His first single, “Stay Here,” was released in 2018 and was featured on several Spotify playlists, including “Men of OPM,” “Philippines Viral 50,” and “OPM Says Chillax.” His subsequent single, “Mahal O Biro,” was again included in “Men of OPM” and “Pinoy Love Ballads” playlists. Zack premiered his first single of 2020, the chill-pop track “This Is Love,” in February.

He has also collaborated with several OPM artists, undertaking writer and producer roles. He’s most recently been credited in arranging and producing Carlo Aquino’s single “Balisong” and Sharlene San Pedro’s “Everything Will Be Alright” and “Pusong Naliligaw.”

Now on a fresh path in his career, Zack sets his sights to winning the hearts of his audience both locally and internationally as one of the bold new signees to Island Records Philippines.

Image and details provided by Island Records Philippines in a recent press release.

Barbie Almalbis honors Filipino optimism with “Umagang Kay Ganda” music video

Filipina rock icon Barbie Almalbis hopes to encourage and inspire listeners to rise above the extraordinary times.

With the official release of “Umagang Kay Ganda,” the third single of her upcoming new album under Sony Music Philippines, the Dahilan singer-songwriter uses her platform to pay tribute to the courage and optimism of the Filipino people.

“The current situation has made so many of us experience such a profound sense of loss, and it has also given us a rare chance to stop and reassess our lives and consider the things that we really value,” the acclaimed pop-rock artist shares. “I hope Umagang Kay Ganda will be a blessing especially to our frontliners. It is our little way to say thank you for the selflessness that they have continually shown and the sacrifices that they have made to help us get through this together.”

With the help of constant collaborators, Barbie and her bandmates put a creative stamp in reimagining “Umagang Kay Ganda,” while making sure that its empowering message shines through the intricate arrangement. “Karel and I initially jammed it and he wrote lines for the instrumental section, then we arranged the rest with Nikko on keyboard and Jonard on drums. We were able to record the rhythm section just a few weeks before the lockdown.” As a result, the new version conveys the timeless appeal of the original, while exuding a warmer approach in terms of production details.

Inspiring music video

The official release of Barbie Almalbis’ latest single comes with an accompanying music video that brings to light everyday stories of hope and love for the country amidst the global health crisis.

Interspersed with scenes of the new normal, the visuals for “Umagang Kay Ganda” also showcase the heroic deeds of our frontliners and several acts of compassion and resilience from ordinary Filipino folks.

Barbie adds, “Although some people consider music and visual arts as non-essentials these days, I’ve found that many are actually turning to the arts as a way of coping and feeling connected to others. We want to remind people of the real hope that we have and can hold on to, even as we confront the invisible enemy on a day to day basis. We’ll be able to stand above difficult situations and hurdle these atrocities with the gift of love and compassion.”

The music video is also part of Magnolia Dari Creme’s campaign reminding us that in extraordinary times as in the normal times, tomorrow always brings us new chances for a brighter day as long as we are with the ones we love.

Image and details provided by Sony Music Philippines in a recent press release.

 

Sponge Cola signs to Sony Music, releases new song “Lumipas Ang Tag-Araw”

Sponge Cola has officially signed to Sony Music—the record label that released their debut album, Palabas.

To mark this return, the award-winning band drops a new song entitled “Lumipas Ang Tag-araw,” out now on all digital platforms worldwide. 

Capturing the essence of a belated summer anthem in less than four minutes, Sponge Cola’s latest single soars into the fast lane with verses that turn romantic yearning into an inescapable sing-along, and a power pop surge that packs a ton of punch. 

Connection in separation

The captivating and relatable lyrics echo the collective frustration of not being with the people we deeply care about and love. But on the other side of the narrative, the song presents an opportunity to weather the insurmountable odds through perseverance and resilience to get through life—thanks to the support and kindness of friends and family. “It’s a story of connection in separation, and how we can be a source of comfort for each other during difficult times,” guitarist Armo Armovit adds.

Vocalist and guitarist Yael Yuzon fondly recalls the inspiration behind “Lumipas Ang Tag-araw” after driving his wife to work one morning under the new normal. He remembers becoming intensely emotional out of nowhere. “It was a strange feeling: a realization about everything that has or hasn’t happened since Covid-19, which yanked us away from our usual. And at that moment, this bright and happy melody just came to me, then some words and harmonies. When I got home, I fleshed everything out and recorded a demo within a few minutes. I guess I just needed to uplift myself, so I wrote something uplifting– something that doesn’t highlight the struggle everyone has been trying to deal with during the pandemic and the lockdown.” The creative and emotional surge led to writing the initial draft of “Lumipas Ang Tag-araw”—a love song that deals with the struggles of physical connection in the time of pandemic.

“Virtual” recording

The upbeat pop-rock tune is the first song that the band arranged and recorded in the comforts of their home, without being together in the same place. Armovit shares the challenging process that transpired during the preliminary stages of the recording. “We sent demos and voice memos to each other back and forth, tweaking parts, creating variations, until we all agreed on a final arrangement. Everyone then had to record their own parts at home and send it to a communal online drive for the producer, Angee Rozul, to bring everything together for the final track.”

Under normal circumstances, Sponge Cola would usually write the song, arrange it in a rehearsal space, and record it together in a studio. But due to the nationwide lockdown imposed in the previous months, the alternative rock quartet decided to use the time and resources available at their disposal to record individually at their own place. “There was a lot of self-editing because you’re not being policed by your bandmates or a producer constantly keeping tabs on possible mistakes or improvements, at least in person,” says Yael Yuzon. “It was all about laying in your parts when the song was passed on to you, and you had the responsibility to keep things right and easy for the next guy to add on to.”

Music video

According to Armovit, the lockdown-inspired music video of “Lumipas ang Tag-Araw” takes an intimate look into the fictional and real-life character’s personal worlds—their bedrooms, living spaces, confined homes—and the routine that they’re up to, in hopes of coping with the situation under quarantine. “It was also our first time working under special conditions, where we had to film all the scenes ourselves with our own phones and cameras. I’m very thankful for the help and guidance from King Palisoc, our director, and the creative ideas from his team.”

Image and details provided by Sony Music Philippines in a recent press release.

Benjamin Kheng and Ben&Ben grill each other on Instagram live show, B.B.Q.

After their much buzzed TikTok collaboration which attracted an audience of more than 3 million, Singapore-based alt pop artist Benjamin Kheng and award-winning Filipino band Ben&Ben will be blessing the regional social media feeds once again with their follow-up collaboration on Instagram Live on June 23 at 10 pm.

The nine-piece collective behind hits such as “Lifetime,” “Pagtingin” and “Doors” will be joining Benjamin Kheng’s IG Live show, B.B.Q.—short for Ben’s Burning Questions.
Known for its hilarious banters and challenges, B.B.Q. encourages celebrity guests to pass 10 challenges with varying levels of difficulty.

If the participants surmount the test, they will be given a chance to “grill” Benjamin through a burning question or a flaming dare. The online show airs live on Benjamin Kheng’s Instagram every week.

Benjamin Kheng releases solo debut EP

Following his previous singles “Wicked,” “Find Me,” and “Lovers Forever,” the Singaporean multimedia star has just released his highly anticipated EP, A Sea That Never Stops.

The 6-track EP features three new tracks ‘Shiny’, ‘Already Home’, and ‘Make Do’ in addition to his previous singles.

A Sea That Never Stops focuses on fresh music – with each song embracing nuanced stories paired with novel production, yet heavily drawing upon Benjamin’s musical influences of gospel, rock, and musical theater. It fully encompasses Benjamin’s creative range and lends promise to his future musical endeavors.

Reflecting wholeheartedly on the significance of the EP title, Benjamin says, “Time has a way of teaching us how to say goodbye to things and people we’re not ready to – it just happens. Things simply end, people simply die, and we’re dragged on with time. We’re saying hello to new chapters before we’ve closed old ones. I guess I started writing these songs at the biting point of saying goodbye to the old and hello to the new, and I slowly began accepting the fact that I was part of a sea of waves that would eventually crash, disappear and go back into the ocean.”

Ben&Ben’s “Lifetime” amasses more than 5 million hits in a week

The critically acclaimed group is breaking records once again with the release of their new single, “Lifetime.” The folk-pop ballad has amassed more than 5 million streams on Spotify and YouTube combined, giving listeners a taste of their introspective songwriting in a time that needs comforting words and hope.

Ben&Ben premiered the hit song on TikTok Live! last June 13. It’s their first live performance together in one place after the lockdown period.

Benjamin Kheng’s solo debut EP, A Sea That Never Stops!and Ben&Ben’s latest single, “Lifetime” are both available on all digital and streaming platforms worldwide via Sony Music.

Image and details provided by Sony Music in a recent press release.

The Itchyworms return with back-to-back singles under Sony Music

With live shows on a temporary standstill and the global music landscape currently at odds with the challenges that come with the complete shift to the digital realm, more artists are surprisingly making records that represent the specificity of the times. Never mind the logistical restrictions on the music-making process: What’s important is that they’re channeling their personal experiences during forced and self-imposed quarantine through songs that function like the pep talk the world needs right now—most of the time, comforting and hopeful, but sometimes a complete validation of our collective rage, loneliness, and frustration inside.

Now returning with two new singles that capture the universal sentiments of grappling with an invisible peril, The Itchyworms drops back to back releases under Sony Music Philippines—their first under a major label since 2008’s Self-Titled.

Two new singles

“Armageddon Blues” and “The Silence” are two new songs inspired by the band’s response to the ongoing social, mental, and emotional crisis that people from around the globe are facing in the midst of a pandemic.

“Armageddon Blues,” in particular, is an update of an old demo recorded by Jazz Nicolas (lead vocals, drums, piano, keyboards, keytar) and Chino Singson (lead guitarist and backing vocals). With crunching guitar riffs, Beatlesque pop melodies, and raw but in-your-face production, the latest track from the band exhibits both ends of the emotional spectrum, as filtered through the lens of happy-sappy music geeks. As Chino recalls. “I remember it being a fun song to record. If you listen to the lyrics, you’ll see it’s very tongue-in-cheek, but very heartfelt.”

Written in 2005, the song was supposed to be included on the quartet’s critically acclaimed album, Noontime Show and the follow-up record, Self-Titled, but The Itchyworms felt that it was thematically different and completely ahead of its time. “Time jump to more than 15 years later, I was the only one who had a copy of the demo,” Jugs Jugueta (co-lead vocals, rhythm guitar, percussion, keyboards) narrates. “Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) happened, and I sent them the demo of ‘Armageddon Blues,’ telling The Itchyworms to release the song, because it captures the somewhat end-of-the-world vibe of our present situation. A couple of weeks into the ECQ, we realized that we’re in this for the long haul, and that we had to do something creative. We decided to write and record a few songs inspired by our experiences during COVID-19.”

The songwriting sessions birthed another single, which already made its rounds on Facebook a week earlier. Following the official release of “Armageddon Blues” on all streaming and digital platforms worldwide a day late, “The Silence” was written by Jugs Jugueta and Jazz Nicolas, and recorded and produced by The Itchyworms entirely during the Enhanced Community Quarantine imposed over Metro Manila due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s what we think everyone is going through right now. Nobody could’ve foreseen 2020 to be like this,” Jugs shares the underlying theme behind the song. Musically, it’s a mish-mash of influences that put Depeche Mode, Radiohead, The Beatles, and The Walking Dead in a blender: The production seethes with soaring builds and nuanced sonic details, but ends abruptly in faded noise—as if the transmission is suddenly lost in the background, its silence “killing us” infinitely and metaphorically.

A “Quarantine” Album

Both songs are part of their upcoming album, Waiting For The End To Start, which was conceptualized and recorded while the members of The Itchyworms were confined in their homes, connected digitally by their resounding “shared” experiences. “Expect it to be unpolished and imperfect,” Jazz describes the new album. “Maybe a little lo-fi. It’s not necessarily all about COVID-19, but this is the result of what we feel during this time. So there’s restlessness, loneliness, boredom, delirium, fear, uncertainty, and all that jazz.”
Chino puts into perspective the concept behind the 8-track release, which will most likely drop sometime in July 2020. “Like any collection of music, it is a record of its time: A snapshot of the artist’s reaction to his or her circumstances. But it’s a concept album in that our aim was to create art in the midst of a pandemic, to capture our emotions in the music we record, even with the limited recording gear we have at home. So you’ll hear amp buzz and imperfect vocals, but for me that’s part of the spirit of true rock.”

Reunion with Sony Music PH

Waiting For The End To Start is their second album to be released under Sony Music Philippines. After their groundbreaking major label opus, Self-Titled, which made an impact in the local music scene at the tail end of 2008, the band was forced to go indie after the label’s short-lived hiatus handling domestic releases.

Speaking of their reignited ties with the international record label, Jugs tells in a statement: “Aside from the fact that we felt a sense of familiarity with Roslyn Pineda of Sony Music PH, as we’ve known her since our college days, we believed that Sony, being an International record company, could help us reach a wider audience. We want to reach new and foreign audiences, because our music is universal and capable of touching several hearts here and abroad.”

Chino adds, “I feel that Sony is a good place to be for an artist. Their team is small but they work hard and have their artists’ interests at heart.”

Armageddon Blues” is now out on various digital and streaming platforms worldwide. “The Silence” was officially released on May 22, 2020.

Image and details provided by Sony Music Philippines in a recent press release