A welcome alternative from Bayang Barrios
In a world reeling from the vocal histrionics of singing contests winners and their equally soaring idols, the music of Bayang Barrios is a welcome alternative. Intense and full-bodied, her singing never fails to mesmerize and she uses that remarkable voice to provide advice to the youth facing a darkening future and to give vent to her concern for nature, the welfare of indigenous peoples and other worthy causes.
Such themes are what we usually find in the modern folk recordings by Filipino talents. There was a time many years ago when folk was the hot music of the moment and Freddie Aguilar, Asin and Joey Ayala's Bagong Lumad of which Bayang was a member, were the leading artists. Unfortunately, the genre has since gone out of favor. This past decade has seen folk relegated to the backseat in favor of trendier and whatever is now considered more commercial stuff.
Thankfully, Bayang Barrios refuses to be cowed by this development. She bravely plods on, undaunted by the competition and the supposed demands of the market.
Alon, her latest album and second indie release, showcases the unique blend of folk and rock that has always been associated with her. Indie is showbiz slang for independent and it means that promo-wise Bayang this time around does not have the backing of a major record label.
I am glad to say though that this situation has not in any way affected the integrity of her music and her determination to come up with a high-quality recording. Alon is well-produced with meaningful songs straddling that interesting line between folk and jazz. Each of these is presented with well-thought out and mostly innovative arrangements that surprise, gladden and in some cases, also agitate.
Most familiar among these is Malayo Man, Malapit Din, the song composed by Bayang herself that won the Grand Prize at the Metropop songwriting competition two years ago. Most prominent is Alon, a breezy tune about hurrying through the day and winding down in the evening. Written and arranged by Bayang's husband, Mike Villegas, it anchors the package as the first and last cuts.
The most beautiful among them is Halik sa Hangin, a bittersweet lament about a lost love sang to the moon and the wind. Most haunting is Buhi Sa Kanunay, a traditional Visayan love song that has Bayang's vocals at its best. But the most interesting of them all is Asa Ka ng Asa, another Bayang composition arranged here as a multi-layered reggae tune. This is the kind that makes you wonder why nobody has taken any notice of Filipino talents as potential World Music stars.
Other songs are Asya, Sa Piling Mo, Matagal Mo Nang Mundo, Isipin Mo Nalang, Nag-iisang Mundo and Naglalakbay.