TICKETS to concerts of famous, foreign musical acts are pricey (if not overpriced) for many reasons. There’s the grand stage set-up with pyrotechnics and lighting effects, the different costume changes, the many back-up dancers/singers, the state-of-the-art musical instruments and sound engineers, and all the other logistics. Most importantly, there’s the much-awaited idols, like Madonna, Coldplay, Britney Spears, Chris Botti and Sting, etc. All had VIP tickets ranging from P20,000 to P60,000.
This is the formula of a sold-out and entertaining concert in westernized, colonized Philippines.
But what about a concert in an intimate venue where guests can cozily enjoy music (while sipping beer, yeah). A concert stripped down of all elaborate designs, props and back-ups. A concert featuring ethnic instruments that are part of our culture. A concert revealing our identity as Filipinos through indigenous music and ingenious lyrics.
This, on the other hand, is the formula of Joey Ayala’s “Mandiriwa” concert held last September 18 at the Music Museum.
This author got to experience it for P1,900—a price so small if compared to the enrichment, and yes of course entertainment, that the concert offered.
Produced by Vandals on the Wall and Gabi na Naman Productions, the concert also featured Ayala’s original group Ang Bagong Lumad composed of percussionist and vocalists Malou Matute and Tapati, drummer Rene “Chong” Tengasantos, and bassist and vocalist Onie Badiang, as well as guest performers Bayang Barrios, Gloc-9, Dong Abay, Bullet Dumas and Juan Miguel Severo.
Considered as a living legend in the Philippine music industry, Ayala proved this in more ways than one.
In Billboard.ph concert review, editor Francis Reyes explained it best, “The public at large knows him mostly for being an ‘environmental ethnic folk’ artist embodied in the reggae-flavored ‘Karaniwang Tao,’ the dramatic ‘Agila,’ the dark propulsive-hegalong-driven ‘Ania Na,’ and the heart-wrenching ‘Walang Hanggang Paalam’ and ‘Dumaan Ako,’ but as his fans know well, his stylistic range also authoritatively includes jazz (‘Maglakad’), and rock’n’roll (‘Barangay Kombo’ and ‘Padayon’).”
Said songs, along with other originals by Ang Bagong Lumad and duets/collaborations with the guests, were rendered masterfully live for the night. With close to 20 titles performed, the concert encompassed Ayala’s two-decade career as an artist.
He said it was 25 years ago when Ang Bagong Lumad debuted at the very same venue barefoot. That night, they wore shoes. No wonder the rapport between him and the four band members—five if we add fellow original member Barrios whose participation kept extending—was undeniable.
If rapport described Ayala and Ang Bagong Lumad, respect, on the other hand, defined his performances with the guests. First up was Dumas who chose to do a duet “Pasasalamat” with Ayala instead of singing his own. Then came Gloc-9 who was praised by Ayala for his proficiency in Filipino language. He rapped to the tune Ayala’s “Ania Na.”
Severo, a popular spoken word artist, made a loud and vivid statement with his newly penned poem, “Poot.” Provoked by the current extra-judicial killings in the country, the spoken word performance was accompanied with Ayala’s “Ikaw na ang May Baril,” coincidentally, composed during Martial Law.
Finally, Dong Abay, former frontman of Yano, performed in his usual gait, “Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo.” Visual artist Boy Dominguez, also appeared on stage to lend his talent on the harmonica.
As for the Mandiriwa (from the root word diwa or consciousness) himself, Ayala made the concert more meaningful with his wealth of wisdom. In between numbers, he shared the stories of his songs, often relating them to present times but ever so careful about making politically incorrect jokes. (Ayala grew up in Duterte-strong Davao.)
He asked the audience if they believe in climate change, noting “If you look up, you will know what is beneath you.” Say, if there are no more Philippine Eagles on the sky, then there are no more forests in the mountains.
On faith, he contemplated that “God is everything, (yet) God is nothing.” On passion, he encouraged everyone to do what they enjoy (not the other way around), and if lucky enough, earn from it like he does. On nationhood, he went on to promote a nation of play.
“Joey Ayala, for President!” he humored everyone who very well knew that he’s much better enriching Filipinos through music.