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Bayang Barrios, HARINAWA, Tao Music, 2001

By Grace Nono

Note: "Harinawa" means "if only" or "I wish . ."

I first heard Bayang Barrios sing one rainy morning in our parish church in Barangay San Teodoro, Bunawan, Agusan del Sur. This was fifteen years ago. She sang a radio hit (in church!) and I remembered her voice as textured, rounded, and carrying a lot of feeling. "A natural," I told myself. Little did I know that five years later, our paths would again cross in Manila's Philippine alternative music scene, where she sang in Joey Ayala's Bagong Lumad, while I was a fledgling solo music artist. Now after another decade of trials and triumphs shaping our spirits and womanhood, we once again meet in Tao Music, the independent record label that I co-founded with my co-producer and husband Bob Aves, and where we have welcomed Bayang as one of the artists whose works represent the search for the Filipino's living voice, a voice that reflects the present while asserting a sense of cultural rootedness. The recent launch of Bayang's second album "Harinawa" (Tao Music, 2001) produced by Sammy Asuncion, Bob Aves, Bayang Barrios, and Billy Bonnevie at the 70s Bistro, testifies to the woman artist's triumph over life's hurdles, and to the power of collaboration. Let us hear from the creative team that helped shape "Harinawa," and from Bayang herself.

SAMMY: When I first approached Bayang about producing her new album, I told her, "Bayang, sana iba na." Bob (Aves ) and I thought of introducing pop coupled with world music elements to Bayang's sound. She responded to our suggestions very well and gave us her full trust in conceptualizing the direction of the music. She had four songs, Mike (Villegas) contributed one, and I wrote seven. Bob arranged them all, while taking into consideration my inputs. For instance, Bayang's folkish song when rearranged, was given a wholly different treatment. I am very happy with the result. It is pop music, but in our own terms. Even my friends who don't like pop music have told me that they like the album. This is the result of what Bob and I talked about earlier, of artists collaborating with each other to come up with better music. Wala nang kanya-kanya.

BOB: We knew where Bayang was coming from, from the folk, ethnic-pop approach that was associated with Joey Ayala. Although she maintained this style to a certain degree in this album, we also had to create a new Bayang image which she herself wanted, one that is more rock and blues oriented. Bayang has great talent and has had enough experience as a singer to try this new approach.

BAYANG: Mas buo ang boses ko ngayon, sa pagbigkas at sa pag-interpret. At mas matured ang mga musikero ngayon. 'Yung first album ko kasi ("Bayang Makulay," Universal Records), first time ni Mike (Villegas) mag-produce, at first time ko ring mag-compose ng kanta. Hugot ng hugot ng mga experiences from Joey (Ayala), at sa ibang bandang kakilala. Ngayon, mas focused ang music. At dahil independent at sariling kayod, mas mahirap nga pero enjoy dahil wala kang ibang sisisihin kung palpak kundi ang sarili mo. At pag positive naman ang resulta, masarap, dahil nagawa mo at kaya mo palang gawin! Sa "Bayang Makulay" although mula sa simula ay may recording company, producer, at ibinibigay lahat ng kailangan ko sa pasahe, pagkain, kailangan ng musikero, antay naman ako ng antay kung kailan nila ito ilalabas. Tapos, na-frustrate ako noong walang nangyari. Sa album na ito, hindi ako naghintay. Dere-deretso kami. Ako na rin mismo ang nagpo-promote kaya sa proseso ay natututo kung ano ang gagawin. Masaya, kasi kontrolado ko.

MIKE: As a musician, mas makulit si Bayang ngayon. She has a sound she's after. She's a journeywoman, having traveled to Europe and the US, between the first and second albums.

The difference between Bayang's first and second albums is that the first was approached from a song-writer's point of view which meant raw guitar and a percussion-heavy style. The second however veers away from the acoustic-folk formula, dabbling in a lot of real rock, heavy synthesis, and more progressive arrangements. The second was approached from an arranger's point of view.

BILLY: Bayang is an artist still trying to get out of her cocoon. She's faced with the challenge presented by popular music, as well as that of keeping to her roots. She's caught in between.

I like "Harinawa" because of its socially-relevant songs like "Inang Bayan," "Guro," "Kapayapaan". All songs are actually radio-friendly but unfortunately, the big recording companies did not see their potential; maybe because they might compete with their other releases?

SAMMY: We had no choice but to go independent - which is not that bad because you get the direct sales for your albums. In the end, it looks like you can even earn more.

BILLY: Pioneering world music in the Philippines is not easy but we believe it is a worthwhile thing to do. Tao Music is the one defining world music here, in a way where Filipinos can contribute their own talents and sensibilities.

One thing we have realized in this project is that when there is a collaboration between different artists, composers, arrangers, sound engineers, producers, it is possible to come-up with a product that is truly


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