Bangkong Kahoy
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Belako & Talahib People's Music

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Posporos is a series of concerts in which Spanish and Philippine bands perform together, launched in 2016 by the Embassy of Spain in the Philippines and the Instituto Cervantes de Manila. An artistic residence was newly incorporated in July 2018 that took Belako for two nights into the jungle together with Talahib People’s Music, practitioners of Philippine traditional music. Bangkong Kahoy is the outcome of this experience.

Belako is from Mungia (Vizcaya) and was born in May 2011. It is made up of Josu Billelabeitia (guitar, voice), Lore Billelabeitia (bass, keyboards, voice), Cris Lizarraga (voice, keyboards), and Lander Zalakain (drums, voice). After several concerts and two demo tapes, the quartet won an important radio competition, which enabled them to play at high-level festivals such as Bilbao BBK Live. In March 2013 they launched their first long-playing record, Eurie, which they took on tour for over fifty concerts. In June 2014 the band released two EPs and presented its own record company, Belako Rekords. They went on a new summer tour and won important prizes from the magazine Rolling Stone and at the Premios MIN [Independent Music Prizes]. In 2016 they release Hamen, an album that took them abroad to more than 100 concerts, playing in countries such as Portugal, England, Scotland, Mexico, and Germany. They received further important prizes such as the Ojo Crítico from RNE [Spanish National Radio Service] or the prize for the Best Live Show at the Premios MIN. In 2017 they launched Render Me Numb, Trivial Violence and set off on a world tour through countries such as Russia, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, United States, Germany, England, and Scotland. In 2018 they added more dates to the tour and again played in major cities abroad, such as at the festival Vive Latino in Mexico, SXSW in Austin (Texas), and the Community Festival in London. In addition, at the 2018 Premios MIN awards ceremony they received prizes in the categories Best Artist, Best Live Show, and Best Video Clip.

Our Philippine adventure began on July 2, 2018, when Álvaro from the embassy picked us up at the airport in Manila. We were exhausted from having played three straight nights at the mythical Finsbury Park in London, yet even so the jet lag it made it difficult for us to sleep. The first few days were thus relaxed. We visited some places in Manila, like the market, Chinatown, or several historical sights, and we got to know some people with whom we would spend the next few days: Burn, a musician from the local band Talahib (later we would meet the rest of the members) and assistant to Álvaro and Guillermo, who together made the fabulous program Posporos possible that brought Belako to the Philippines, and Jaime, Jayvee, Denvie, Ulasha, and Kris from Dominus, tasked with documenting every step we took. After settling down and after a few interviews and promotional activities, we played the two concerts scheduled in Manila. The first one was an acoustic one for a local radio station with other bands, the second an electric one with all of our arsenal in the well-known hall XX XX. Although they were great, the best still lay before us. The most important part of the program was a residency and collaboration with Talahib in the jungle of Bangkong Kahoy. There we became good friends with this band of Philippine traditional music, who similarly mix styles such as reggae and rock, and we also enjoyed the surroundings a lot. They showed us how to play traditional Philippine instruments as well as some dances and moves. The highpoint was when the two bands wrote a song together. We chose a small abandoned tower in the middle of the jungle for this and took all the recording equipment and generators there. After each band had played a few songs, we began to work on our joint song, all of us together. At first it seemed something very difficult, not only because it is hard enough to write a song with so many people, but also because both of the bands are very different. Yet, to everyone’s surprise, we did not need a lot of time to compose it. In fact, in half an hour the song was finished, arranged, and recorded. The two bands agreed that it was not very usual to get it done so quickly … There must have been some type of connection between us in that corner of the Philippine jungle. An experience we will not easily forget.

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Talahib People’s Music is a world music rock band from the Philippines, perhaps one of the best in the country. The band members come from different disciplines of the arts. The band was formed in July 2000. Over time, they have come into their own, paying homage to the Filipino heritage with a medley of native instruments, homegrown music, and a bevy of bona fide performances.

Fast forward nineteen years later: coming into the spotlight, their provocative lyricism coupled with breathtaking beats bring audiences across the nation and the world to their feet. Talahib crafted an 11-track album entitled "Talahib: Mga Awit ng Pag-Ibig at Digmaan" [Songs of Love and War], inspired by their indigenous roots and the influences of blues, dance, reggae, and rock music. 

The band has given a broad range of performances and exhibitions in annual music festivals, in broadcast media, and in open and public performances. In 2013, Talahib People’s Music travelled, performed, and participated at the Images Festival in Aalborg City and P-Noise Festival in Copenhagen, Denmark, from August 30 to September 9, 2013, representing the Philippines. 

The members of Talahib People’s Music are Arvy Rojas (vocals), Bonjo Agustin (vocals and acoustic guitar), Burn Belacho (lead guitar and hegalong), Lj Pasion (bass guitar), Domeng Molina (percussion and gangsa), Max Celada (percussion), Jones De Vera (percussion), Darrel Roberto (drums), and Jaime Hernandez Jr., the manager of the group.

Waking up early was a challenge after a night of fun and music at XX XX, where we watched Spanish band Belako share the stage with another local band. It was one thing watching them on stage but the day we spent travelling to Bangkong Kahoy to share our very own culture through our music was something else entirely. It was six in the morning and we were already on the road headed to Dolores, Quezon. Armed with excitement and all our indigenous instruments, we geared up for the three-day residency program Posporos Hotel. 

Music transcends language and culture. We did not know many Spanish words and phrases but it did not take long before we jammed to the same beat with Cris, Josu, Lander, and Lore as they tried out the Filipino instruments we use for our music, such as the gangsa, hegalong, kulintang, or agung, and the crowd’s favorite, the bamboo harp we call kubing. In between sore hands from all the djembe drum jams and the cool breeze up in the valley, we learned more about our similarities and how most of our songs speak the same themes: freedom, resistance, and hope.

Bringing out the inner storytellers in us, we have collaboratively written a song written in Basque and Filipino and overlaid it with our signature indie-rock tunes. It was such a feat having to perform and record it live before the beautiful landscape as audience. But the highlight of this cross-cultural exchange is how, in each note we play together, in every exchange of ideas, we seamlessly bridge divides and build meaningful global relations that leave a positive impact not just on the music scene but for the whole Filipino-Spanish community.

This publication is commissioned by the Embassy of Spain in the Philippines in conjunction with the Spanish Cooperation through the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the AECID nor of the Embassy.

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