IN THE age of novelty songs, and acoustic renditions of this and that song, one would have thought that the glorious days of ethnic Filipino music are gone forever. Well, think again.

Currently circulating the airwaves, and are about to break into the mainstream are two noteworthy records from two noteworthy artists: Cynthia Alexander’s Rippingyarns and Pinikpikan’s Kaamulan.

Ethnic pop

Cynthia Alexander’s Rippingyarns (independent, 2000) is a haunting concoction of ethereal vocals and extraordinary instrumentals. Most of the tunes may remind one of the more mainstream group Barbie’s Cradle, but with Alexander’s trademark clear and unearthly vocal style makes the record different from all else. The album proves worthy of its Best Bass Player award at the 1997 NU 107 Rock Awards for the exceptional bass lines done in this album. The well-written lyrics, though short, reflect many of the composer’s sentiments about rather mundane things.

Most of the thirteen tracks are short, and not one Banggi, turning it into a spectacle brimming with gypsy and flamenco influences. The lyrics to the album’s twelve tracks are an eclectic mix of English, Tagalog, Spanish, French, Visayan, Cordilleran, and Bicol, showing the band’s multi-cultural influences.

Meaningful pieces can be found on this album—messages of hope, calls for awareness, and reminders of our Filipino identity. The group’s “danceable psychedelic-spiritual-trance fusion” beats compliment their lyrics perfectly.

Out of the two albums – Kaamulan proves to be more ethnic. Rippingyarns dwells more on the personal sentiments of the composer, taking a break from the usual ethnic-laced lyrics. Though catchy at first, listeners would be bored with the seemingly monotonous tunes one has to endure to get to the good part. Kaamulan, though dealing with personal sentiments just as well, reaches out to its listeners to relay the composers’ messages more effectively. Each of the songs in this seventy-minute record stands on its own. Evident in their lyrics, too, are the composers’ views on certain issues that are relevant in present-day societies.

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Though less than a craze, the local ethnic music scene is continuing to invade mainstream. Ambitious as it may sound, pop culture might someday share its throne with local ethnic artists like Alexander and Pinikpikan. And as the “untalented” goes home with a talent search’s grand prize as they often do, who knows?


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