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Every so often, the death knell of local music is rung. Some pop culture observer, often wistfully recalling the glory days of Rivermaya and Eraserheads, will come out with a scathing critique of our current musical landscape.
But I’ll let you in on a secret: OPM isn’t dead. Not even close. You just have to know where to look, and accept that things have changed. “Come on guys, it’s 2017.” (Lustre, 2017)
Remember the days when you once had to take a trip to a record bar just to buy a CD, or wait all day for a music video channel to briefly play your favorite song? Now you’re only a few taps away from purchasing an entire album online, and only a few seconds away from watching a music video on YouTube.
And it’s not just the audience who has benefited from this massive media shift. Gone are the days when national radio or cable television was the only way for artists to gain listeners. With the proliferation of audio and video streaming and distribution services such as Spotify and Soundcloud, every garage band and bedroom DJ has an equal chance at fame.
So yes, it’s true that the landscape has changed. But the talent? That definitely hasn’t. The music in this country is as vibrant and talented as ever.
Enter Mandaue Nights, Cebu’s answer to the synth pop/synthwave revival movement. Composed of Karl Lucente and Gino Rosales, Mandaue Nights combines breezy Bisaya lyrics with a dreamy 80s pop sound to fill a musical need we didn’t even know we had. The six songs on their New Wave-inspired Love City EP (a mixture of Bisaya and English songs; available on Spotify and iTunes) are all deeply personal and evoke their hometown of Mandaue – think midnight drives, empty highways, and city lights that have doubtless inspired countless other Cebuano artists.
On their debut single “You & I,” a sparkling nostalgia-driven beat is accompanied by simple, heartfelt lyrics (“Basta naay ikaw ug ako”) that immediately hit home. (Fun fact: this was the very first song the duo ever worked on!) “First Kiss” taps into the heady high and physical rush of falling in love, with mentions of cold sweats and hands that won’t stay still. The lover’s repeated question of “Unsay kalaki nato?” (Ano ba tong ginagawa natin?) is pleading yet hopeful, and easily captures the intense yearning of young love. The band goes bittersweet on “Turn Back Time,” singing about regret and wasted moments, while somehow still sounding like this could have been played at your high school prom. “Take Me”, featuring fellow Cebuano duo Sepia Times, will instantly take you to the dance floor with its carefree vibe and endlessly danceable sound. The EP ends with the sleek “Super Sonic Love” featuring Eskina Jones, a tribute to a fluorescent whirlwind romance.
Like many local indie artists today, Mandaue Nights is a true product of the Internet age, successfully utilizing social media to publish and promote their own music. “We just started posting it on Facebook and then to other social media sites,” Karl shares. With a little extra help from their friends Amira Al-alawi and Nikko Tan, Mandaue Nights soon grew to 4K Likes on Facebook in just over a year. The band is also fairly active on Twitter and Instagram, where they announce their gigs, share fan art, and post candid photos. Though they claim that they don’t really have a fanbase yet (“All I can see are just supportive friends, as always,” claims Gino), it’s hard to deny their growing audience.
Going digital has truly opened the playing field and helped several independent artists reach commercial success beyond just their immediate audience. Services like Spotify and YouTube, which help the duo earn revenue on top of their live performances, have also allowed them to easily reach listeners outside Mandaue, gaining fans in Manila, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, and even outside the country. They currently have 2,793 monthly listeners on Spotify (with over 50k streams for “You & I” alone), and the “First Kiss” music video has garnered over 18k views on YouTube. They recently appeared on Rappler Live Jam, performing songs from their EP and doing a short skit where they teach Bisaya words. Thanks to the audience they’ve built up online, they’ve also performed in several music festivals and gigs outside Cebu.
Along with other regional acts such as Missing Filemon, The Ambassadors, and Smooth Friction, Mandaue Nights represents the new guard in the Pinoy music scene. These artists aren’t afraid to explore their musical boundaries while still paying homage to their roots, and their fans love them for it. For Mandaue Nights’ non-Bisaya-speaking fans, the language divide is bridged by Tagalog captions on their music videos, but it doesn’t really matter. Their songs are a #MOOD, and the emotions are universal.
When asked about what’s next for Mandaue Nights, Karl and Gino remain focused on their art. “We’ll just keep making music, and letting our music reach the other parts of Visayas and Mindanao.” The duo is also expanding, with new member Victor Titus coming in as their drummer, so expect more live performances and new songs soon. We’ve already seen great things from Mandaue Nights, and we’re all excited for what’s to come.
The future of original Pinoy music remains bright.
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