Music during the 1960s and the early 70s in the Philippines were largely characterized by the Rock genre. Since the United States occupied the Philippines from 1898 to 1946, many forms of American culture took root in the Filipino people, including music. Many of the different forms transferred during this time were American blues, folk, R&B, and rock-n-roll.
In the early 1960s, as electric instruments and new musical technology was introduced, instrumental American and British bands like The Shadows and The Ventures flourished. During this time, many Filipino instrumental bands also gained spotlight as well; some of these groups who gained fame were: The Deltas, The Celtics, RJ & the Riots, The Technicolors, The Downbeats, The Hi-Jacks, and the Electromaniacs. Through these bands, the first Filipino-songwriters were born.
Later in 1963, the British Invasion brought mainstream bands like the Beatles to the Philippines. Due to their popularity and their important of the counterculture furthered the possibility of socio-political lyrics with mature comments on real life into popular music. Immensely influenced by this new breed of British artists, Filipino bands began adopting similar music styles.
Up until the 1970s, popular rock music was composed and produced entirely in English. Later, in the early 70s rock music began to be composed in local languages. Bands like the Juan Dela Cruz Band were the first to compose and perform in local dialects. This mixing of Tagalog and English lyrics became a popular trend. The mixing of the two languages, called “Taglish,” was already commonly used in casual speech in the Philippines, but rarely in musical form. Using this language mixing in song lyrics was seen as a bold new move, but through the success of many popular Taglish songs, like Sharon Cuneta’s first hit “Mr DJ,” broke the barrier for generations to come.
During the 1970s, Filipino music grew more nationalistic and political along with using more Tagalog in the composition of lyrics. Pop music still dominated the airwaves with artists such as Apo Hiking Society and Hotdog. Songs which were popularized by Taglish lyrics such as “Ang Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko” also helped further innovate the new generation of music called “Manila Sound” and “OPM (Original Pilipino Music).”
While Taglish songs were gaining fame, social and political themes made their way into the music industry through folk and rock genres. One of the most prominent artists during this period was Freddie Aguilar. Other artists included Asin and Florante. Freddie’s debut single “Anak,” become one of the most commercially successful releases in Filipino history. This song also became widely popular in other Asian countries and made its way into storming through Europe.
The bands of the 1960s and 70s were the first to be considered as “Classic Pinoy Rock.” I found the Classic Pinoy Rock music history of the Philippines fascinating because of the manner Filipinos mixed English and Tagalog cultures and lyrics to create something entirely different than before. Although much of society was controlled by martial law and strict containment of society during the 1960s and early 70s, rock music flourished due to its anti-government theme and its ability to characterize the Filipino people’s rebellious feelings for cultural norms. -NC