Sponge Cola, Barbie Almalbis, Zild, and More on the Role of Musicians during the Pandemic, High Hopes for OPM | Wish Connect (August 1 to 31)

Sep 18, 2020

“In these trying times, we’re just trying to be musicians. That’s enough for [us] to be inspired, to keep working on, you know, music, because it’s who [we] are. It’s what [we’re] built for,” shared Yael Yuzon. The Sponge Cola vocalist bared his musician’s soul and talked about the whole OPM circuit’s impetus amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis during the band’s recent Wish Connect stint.

With live music venues closing its doors, concerts and festivities being put on hold, and thousands from the live events industry losing their jobs, it’s hard to remain unaffected — especially when we don’t know when things will go back to the way they were before.

In this Wish Connect feature, we discuss the quarantine reflections, new musical experiences, and the collective wishes for the OPM scene of some of last month’s premier guest acts — from the likes of Ogie Alcasid, Barbie Almalbis, The Itchyworms, and The CompanY. 

The birth of new songs

The stay-at-home mandate may have stifled the creative pursuits of some, but for young Filipino music-makers like Zild and Clara Benin, it actually paved the way for them to come up with fresh pieces that aim to document their journeys — and take their listeners for the beautiful ride. 

“‘It’s Okay’ was written during the lockdown to help me process my emotions and remind myself that it’s okay to feel these things — feel worried and frustrated. It’s just all part of being human. It’s good to sit with your feelings and acknowledge them, and know that you’re not alone, and that so many of us are going through the same thing. Writing [this] song just helped me accept where I was and what was going on with me and all around me,” Benin shared, acknowledging how songwriting plays an important role in keeping her mental health in check.

For Zild, it’s during this time that he’s able to know himself better. And his way of immortalizing this particular period in his life is through “Homework Machine,” a special quarantine-produced album composed of ten tracks.

“I was surrounded, for a very long time, by different kinds of people with different opinions and points of view. Now that we are in quarantine, I only see myself and hear my own thoughts. So, maybe my outlet or form of expression during these times is this album — it contains what I want to say and what I actually think about,” the IV of Spades frontman shared during our Facebook Live show. 

Coming from a five-year-long writer’s block, rockoustic singer-songwriter Barbie Almalbis, on the other hand, revealed that it was with the help of her husband, painter Martin Honasan, that she was able to return to crafting songs and releasing an EP last year. 

“Since my last album [was] released in 2014, I found it a bit hard to write. So I just keep trying to write but I couldn’t come up with something that I really like. So, Martin started encouraging me to keep going and then he said, ‘I’ll help you write. Let’s write together.’ So, we started writing together and the first song that we released was called ‘Tigre.’ It’s about our cat Vernie. That’s just the name of the song because she’s, you know, our little tiger,” the “Tabing Ilog” singer said.

Alongside her 2020 offerings “Comment” and “Iyong-Iyo,” Almalbis recently released her rendition of Butch Monserrat’s “Umagang Kay Ganda” as a “tribute to our Covid-19 front-liners and to all the people who have been working so hard all these months.”

“We just wanted to help and encourage them, in a little way, to let them know that we are praying for them, standing with them, and also doing our part, to see this pandemic over, and that we would come out of [this] on the other side,” the Filipina musician told us while reflecting upon the track’s timeless message about the hope and certainty that we have from God’s faithfulness.

New musical ties

For a special Wish Connect comeback, pop-rock band The Itchyworms brought along with them the country’s premier vocal group The CompanY to musically transport us back to the boogie era. 

The two OPM mainstays caught up with their fans and promoted their latest collaborative track under Sony Music Philippines titled “I-Boogie Mo Ako Baby.” The song is originally penned by “‘Di Na Muli” songwriters Jazz Nicolas and Wally Acolola for the 2017 Marie Jemora-directed film “Flip The Record.”

During their guesting, The CompanY members gushed about their dream collaboration with The Itchyworms and confessed that they are big fans of the band even before their musical team-up. In fact, the vocal group’s most streamed track on Spotify is their “Lighthearted OPM” album version of The Itchyworms’ “Akin Ka Na Lang.” 

Nicolas made it apparent that the admiration was mutual, and admitted that they felt a little bit intimidated when they saw how well the vocal group performed — as well as how precise their music sheets had been. They were also and shared that it was a “pleasure to see [that] level of professionalism.”

READ: The Itchyworms Make Noise For Mental Health Awareness With ‘The Silence’

In a witty “who wore it better” tweet, OPM icon Ogie Alcasid has interacted with K-Rock act Day6’s Jae Park. The Korean-American guitarist retweeted Star Music’s teaser video of Alcasid’s new track featuring esteemed singer-songwriter Moira Dela Torre and even messaged him that “it sounded good.”

The song aptly called “Beautiful” is written by the former Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mangaawit (OPM) President to offer a glimmer of hope in this time of turmoil. 

“I just felt that during this time, we really need inspiration. It’s very, very difficult to say [that] something can be beautiful in these times when we’re going through so much difficulty. Just the Lord telling us, ‘Don’t worry, I’m doing something. Just hold onto Me,’ I know that there’s a lot of unrest and uncertainty, but God is our anchor and He is doing something beautiful. That’s the message of the song and that’s why it’s called ‘Beautiful,’” Alcasid explained.

Getting by every day is indeed a battle of sorts. And for musicians, the horizon —  where all of the struggles brought forth by the pandemic will end — still remains hazy. 

“For everything to return to normal, I don’t know when, I don’t know how. For now, let’s deal with it by using the technology that we have. And also, at the same time, just keep creating. If the front-liners have to be there to take care of the sick, then at the same time, our job as entertainers is to entertain people. There are so many people out there who really need inspiration. And our job as entertainers is really to provide entertainment even if we are not earning,” remarked the Filipino hitmaker who closed his Wish Connect stint on a hopeful note.

A musician’s calling

Despite the many hindrances and heartbreaks, at the end of the day, for these artists, the magical things that music brings to their lives are more than enough. 

“In these times, we also realize how we’re lucky enough to be able to do music. It gives us a lot of joy. And for the support we receive online lately from all over the world and from the Philippines, it means a lot to us,” said Joakim Rosenlund of Swedish pop band Joe & The Anchor.

“As musicians, specifically as a songwriter and somebody who can produce decent quality of music from home, I was one of the few people who were blessed with this gift or this capacity to still do what I am doing, to still execute my passion while at home, while on lockdown, which is to write songs and inspire people,” singer-songwriter from Olongapo iSID enthused. 

Albeit limitations, music is still being championed in so many ways by people who acknowledge that the artform is more than just a profession, but rather an oath; a pledge to create inspiring pieces — whatever the situation may be. 

Taking the opportune moment on Wish Connect, Sponge Cola’s drummer Ted Mark Cruz appealed to the music community. “Now more than ever, we need more music, we need more musicians; we need more hope, we need something to get us through, even just [for] one day. And now more than ever, we need each other, we have to work with each other to get through this. There is a way out of this. This will end, we will get out of this stronger and better than we ever were.”

“This is a great chance for us to try new things. We shouldn’t shy away from being challenged. We shouldn’t shy away from the hardships, [this should] inspire us to make more, to create better things, and to share it to the people who need it most,” vocalist Yael Yuzon added.

Never miss the latest from Wish Connect. Catch the online radio, hosted by DJ Ray Holiday, DJ Faye, DJ Alice, DJ Adam, and DJ Jenie, LIVE on our official Facebook page — Mondays through Fridays at 7 p.m. PHT. Stay tuned via our social media pages for updates.

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