Five years ago, I interviewed Dong Abay and asked his opinion on the state of homegrown music, after a cultural critic and writer implied in a published article that OPM (Original Pilipino Music) was dead.
His parting words struck me the most: “As long as we write songs, create original music and people listen to it, Filipino music lives on.”
Dong Abay was right. The local independent music scene is stronger than ever. While there are still a few major labels that take Pinoy artists under their wing, being signed up is no longer a necessity.
It’s much easier for artists to record, produce, and promote their music, and to reach an even larger audience through streaming platforms and social media. There are so many artists to discover, whether you’re into rock, hip-hop, electronic or any other genre and sub-genre you can think of. Filipino music lives on and kicks ass.
Dong will always be remembered as the frontman of Yano, lending his voice and stage presence to timeless hits such as “Banal na Aso,” “Senti.” “Tsinelas,” and “Esem.” It’s been a while since Yano disbanded, though, and Dong continues to do what is necessary to keep Filipino music alive: to write songs and create music.
The singer recently released Humanidad, his fourth solo album, which he co-produced with the members of D.A.M.O. (Dong Abay Music Organization). Dong consider his new bandmates—Simon Tan, Abe Billano, and Kakoy Legaspi—as “gifts” given to him by the “Music Force.”
Humanidad is a manifestation of Dong’s poetic take on songwriting. Also inspired by literary works he loves, the 14-track album touches on varied themes and issues both socio-political and universal.
In an interview with FHM.com.ph, Dong Abay answered a few questions regarding life in general, his latest album, and what it took to create such a masterpiece.
What was your motivation for releasing a new album after several years? How does it feel to finally release it?
Dong: Well, I have a kick-ass band committed to music. I feel like being given a new lease on life, ha ha!
Why is it called Humanidad?
D: The word has a natural appeal to me as I took Humanities as an area of study in U.P. Diliman.
From a personal/songwriter’s/producer’s perspective, how is it different from your previous works?
D: I think the sound in itself is different from my past musical works because it flowed organically through years of creativity with bandmates I love to play with.
Please tell us about the process you went through to produce the album and how long it took to finish.
D: I gave the 14 plus pages of lyrics, chords, and home demos to my band way back in 2014, and from then on we tried to perform them live during our concerts sandwiched between my classic songs. We are thankful to the bars for letting us use the stage as a practice and rehearsal venue for the new songs.
What was your inspiration for the album/songs? Were the songs written all in one go or were there songs that you wrote previously?
D: Nature, life, humanity, society. The tracks in Humanidad were picked and chosen by yours truly from my garden of songs. Some were written as early as 1991, but many are freshly made.
You seem to have a sunnier disposition now. And utterly sober? Has something changed? In what way, and what has caused this change?
D: I've always had a sunny disposition. After all, I have a tattoo of the sun. Ha ha. I think it has something to do with the knowledge of unknowing and knowing what to do in life, art, and music. Gardening, farming, and communing with nature helped me get my feet back on the ground.
Some of your songs seem inspirational and uplifting, brimming with positivity. Track #5, “Dasal,” specifically mentions “Panginoon” in the lyrics. Does this mean you’re more religious now?
D: I have to be. Negativity will not result in a positive world-view. "Dasal" came from the satirical writings of Mark Twain. I'm not religious in the first place. I would want to consider myself a spiritual being.
Which among the tracks are your favorites and why? Which song best represents where you are in life right now?
D: I have no favoritism among my songs. They are all my brainchildren so I treat them all the same. Humanidad the album best represents what I really am today.
What message would you like to impart through the album, and to your fans in general?
D: That "music is the only truth" (borrowed from Jack Kerouac).
“Humanidad” is available online through the Humanidad Facebook Page, and is being sold at Treskul Records & Cafe in Boni and Bebop Records in Makati Cinema Square for only P300 (exclusive of shipping and handling. You can also buy the album during Dong Abay's bar gigs.