I’ve Heard That Before: Musical Tales Pt.I

I was, or I should say I am not much of  a musician. Yes, I love music, life would be incomplete or at least, less enjoyable without it.

Yes I can play the guitar. My own preference is a 12-string that can produce all sorts of sweet music to compensate for my lack of dexterity with my left hand, and the apparent ineptitude with the chord chart. I can also sing.

But enough about me.

Instead let’s talk about the artists I enjoyed assisting with our nightly gigs  where I work. Best part of the job, actually. It’s when I get to see them live, hear them play, feel the songs. Stomp with the beat.

There’s this duo, The Komradze, whom I met quite recently, and an instant favorite of mine. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of them. Every night is a different sort of musical trip, but Thursdays is when the guys sing my generation. Imagine, if you will, songs from British bands that came out in the 80s, all beautifully rendered with  two voices, prolific drumming, guitar work that works, and a few snippets of harmonica sprinkled where it should be. I am talking about taking a song and making it their own. Then, there’s The Institute, with Jowi at the helm, a guitar virtuoso (he wouldn’t admit to it) that has been surrounded by musicians all his life, and wields a mean Strat. My musical preferences sit snugly with these guys, a bit of jazz and funk, pop and ballads, hell, they can play most of the songs I grew up with. And, perks of the job, I got dibs with the band, so once in a while I do get to sing with them.

That’s not the half of it.

Jazz and Benjie, and Allot when he has to fill in, are the sort of musicians who have been a round the circuit for a while. I’ll tell you more about them. Then there’s Mia & Paul, whom I get to enjoy every Saturday. Rain and Red, Odie, Lady Mae, Creative Minds, Viola, Roland, Walking-Waling these artists are what makes me groove with the music, a testament to the choice of entertainment we have.

I like music.

To hear it live makes it more raw and personal. With musicians like them, makes the experience more relevant, more guttural.

Politics bore me, so why talk about it. Local movies stink, that is putting it mildly. But the music circuit, keeps the beating heart of the city alive. My love for books is only superseded by music, which is a very tiny margin, If I should say so myself.

So I guess from here on in, this will be a a series of blog post of my nightly foray into live music.

 

Good Food, Art, Rhythm and Booze

More than a decade now, there is one quaint place built from an idea that good food need not be expensive, and that there should be lush foliage and live music with the gastronomic pleasures being served. True enough, there is this small corner of Manila, snugly blooming in the middle of three busy streets, Bamboo Giant Malate, as versatile and resilient as its namesake.

Komradze At Bamboo Giant Malate

Pepe and Jerome dishing out music from the 80s

With art at its heart, and music as its soul, Bamboo Giant is not just a restaurant with an extensive menu, and a roster of seasoned musicians dishing out well loved tunes as regulars and newcomers enjoy the camaraderie, savor the dishes, or just pass the night from a busy day with a brew or two. At thirteen years old, a milestone in itself, Bamboo Giant Malate has become an institution of sorts, a habit worth keeping or a new discovery that keeps them coming back for more. I’d love tell you all about it, but that would spoil the experience, rather, this is an open invitation for you to come and visit, sit down and talk,and let Bamboo Giant Malate speak in rhythms and beats.

The name is so appropriate, it sprouted siblings, each with it’s own character, but a common theme – Bamboo Grande, Patio Papa, Ka Boy Grill – and the youngest shoot to come up, Bamboo Intramuros, a somewhat refined version with a mass appeal, a bigger floor area, yet still rooted in the same fertile soil of art, good food, rhythm and booze, all in the name of fun, relaxation and good conversations. Bamboo Intramuros has taken the step toward growth as it celebrated its first year of existence, keeping that inherent trait but evolving its own uniqueness. Although I should inform you first hand, if you have to come, come early, as the place, like its older kin, seem to throb and buzz as the sun sets. People come back not as customers, but as family and friends, most of them want to enjoy a good meal before going home, others drink to celebrate, ease the day down, and then there are those who want to entertain their own guest, and with the nightly live music, who could argue?

As it gets dark, the place is ablaze with music.

Bamboo Giant Malate

On a regular busy night

And not just any kind of music, mind you. Not the videoke kind. No, the place is unapologetic when it comes to entertainment, but would give you choice musicians, veterans of the circuit, real artists who sing and play well loved tunes in their own stripped-down sets of classic rock, country, folk, transcending genres, not just pop, but would even perform songs you hardly ever hear on radio nowadays. Oh, they do love to rock once in a while. Actually, it’s what makes the nightly entertainment worth waiting for. I have seen and heard the lineup for a whole week and I could not be more pleased.

Bamboo Giant Malate Noy & Cezar

Fretboard mastery and extensive song lineup

Bamboo Giant Malate and Bambu Intramuros are the same with its consumer friendly entrees and drinks. We also take pride in creating art out of discarded stuff people just throw away. Recycle, Reuse and Repurpose anything that could be turned into beautiful decors, light covers and whatever it is that could erstwhile be just another piece of junk littering the streets.

But don’t take my word for it. Do drop by sometime, if your itinerary has Manila in it, they would be delighted to to have you.

 

Disc[h]ordance

I’m wondering why I woke up, yet again, in the middle of the night. Too many thoughts running around in my waking hours that when I did fall asleep, these seemingly unrelenting train of thought kept chugging on its tracks even when I am unconscious, that I had to get up and make use of the temporary solitude night always brings.

Partly, maybe, because Tony and I were chatting on Facebook and it always involves music and art, something I have always loved with those short online conversations we have been doing. Maybe, it was because my love affair with my 7-year-old Bandilla 12-string guitar is really coming to an end.

And it was heartbreaking.

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All the wood that made the grade to be of musical quality. The craftsmanship it took to build the body from different species of trees. The sound it makes. The long sustained notes filling the air and lingering there like the trail end of a good perfume. The harmony of 6 strings, augmented by 6 more strings to create an ensemble of  unified sound cleanly coming off from the fretboard of mahogany. The brass frets cleanly separating pitch and notes while the fingers press hard against the wood. It’s has always amazed me how something so organic, so Earthly could produce music that has been a part of humanity’s triumphs and frustrations,  the love and decadence, the loneliness and joy. Truly, something you can be proud of as a human – the invention of the guitar. Or any musical instrument, for that matter. But the acoustic guitar is my own selfish indulgence.

And my own 12-string inevitable demise is one of those things that’s hard to get over.

Heartbreaking.

You see,  when I choose my guitar, I go for the feel. The grip of my hand on the neck. The embrace that will keep its body close to mine. The tonality of the wood itself. The sustain. You got to have sustain when you strike the strings lovingly and the sound just lifts up and stays there. Like a memory of a loved one.

Choosing and the purchase of a musical instrument is one thing. Playing it is an entirely different appreciation. Because then you will have to change the strings when you bought it. But to change the strings, you have to be sure you have it tuned. I like tuning my own guitar. Not with an electronic tuner, but by ear, or if a piano is available, but that is rare, so I go for the pipe tuner. And you listen to the songs you want to play, and try to play along. if it felt good, then you have a guitar. Choose the strings you know fit your playing and singing style.

And you make music.

All the skill. The art. The wood. The steel. The influences. The practice. The preparation. You play in harmony with your guitar and it’s like you wrote that favorite song you are now singing.

And that is  going to be your feeling every time you pick up that wonderful instrument and sing the songs you want to sing. Play, however mediocre your guitar playing is, it doesn’t matter. All it matters is the song that resonates.

Hey! It’s me playing and singing!

And you and your guitar just made all those woodcutting, hours of painstaking hard work from luthier shop, and the patience of learning the chords makes it all worthwhile. And you keep playing and singing songs as long as the harmony you have with your instrument is alive, there in your heart.

But it is heartbreaking.

To see and feel that what  used to make good music is at an end. The bridge just wont keep forever. Once it is broken, it will never be the same again. Obviously I’ve tried various ways of keeping the guitar in its form, but the initial break taught me to accept the fact that we will never make music like we used to.

And I am heartbroken.

And I don’t have the heart to throw away a part of me. A part of Big Momma Earth tha grew from the soil and once held its own ecological balance of life forms in its branches and leaves.

Dale Custodio sent me a link for a documentary, Musicwood and while I enjoyed a very interesting look on trees and the guitar industry, It made me feel a lot worse seeing my guitar not being able to make good music anymore.

The worst part is, I have been thinking about the cacophony that has appeared at my workplace , somewhat blindsided me, or maybe it was not me alone who feel this kind of noise, but it is me who heard it like a badly tuned tuba.

I loved that team.

Heck. we made good music with Photoshop and After Effects and Metra and Final Cut Pro.

Man, we were rocking! A group of individuals, from different ways of life, of different skill sets and training, creating beautiful graphics for the news. I still think we are the rock stars of that tv network. The things these kids can make with a computer, it has always amazed me that I could be part of that symphony. It like magic, really.

But even wizards lose their touch.

And an acoustic guitar loses its spirit at the first break. It will not sound the same.

I can do so much to do repairs and think of my own solutions, but in the end, it will not sound the way it used to. A more expensive set of strings is never the answer for a guitar with a broken bridge. because the cracks are on the inside. I had it repaired by a very qualified and skillful guitar tech, but all the same . . . .

It will not sound the way it used to.

So I have to let it go. maybe I’ll look around for a new guitar, but not just now. it’s not like your dog died, so you replace it with another that looks like the last one.

No way.

I’ll keep her remains. Probably take down the strings this weekend. But tomorrow, I go out and see if there’s another place I could play good music. Maybe a  group of people I could be harmonious with again.

But until then, I am heartbroken.