Local bands we miss

They may have stopped playing gigs, but these bands continue to inspire. (Ghost of Kuji/ Flickr/

There are some brilliant local bands whose music continues to inspire many, even in their absence. They are the groups whose originality and talent have left deep marks in the souls of many music fans, no matter the genre. Gig bars such as SaGuijo, the now-closed Mayric’s, Route 196, 70s Bistro, and Freedom Bar, among others, were lucky to have had these groups grace their stages, much to the enjoyment of fans who flocked these venues each time they played. These bands have set the standards of quality in their compositions and live performances. Some may eventually return while others have permanently split. But either way, these groups gave it their best and contributed to the golden days of local rock music.



The band that made Pinoy funk famous will always be part of any list that involves the best bands int the country, especially with the classics they injected into our music culture. Their tangy guitar licks and groovy bass lines are mixed with robust and sometimes melodious vocals. It won’t be hard to imagine that most iPods or mp3 players in our country have their songs like “Piece of This” and “Panaginip” in them. POT formed in 1996, and was disbanded in 2005. A year later, they had a reunion gig in 70s Bistro. The band’s legendary vocalist Karl Roy died in 2012 due to a cardiac arrest, and is greatly missed by his peers in the industry.


Hungry Young Poets

The band’s most famous single, “Firewoman,” became the 90s alt girl local anthem on the same plane as Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” and Barbie Almalbis became every alt guy’s instant crush.  Armed with an expressively fine voice, Almalbis shows her poetic lyricism in each song, shown dangling in lines such as “I wanna give you love but all I have is rain.” Their Tagalog hit “Torpe,” captured the sentiment of a young hopeful waiting for a guy’s initiative. “Namamatay na ang mga rosas sa tabi, hindi ka pa rin bumibili,” ended with “ayoko ng torpe, pero gusto kita.” Thanks to HYP, all the girly teenage feels that belong in the 90s are immortalized in their songs.



During their active days, Sound has always been celebrated as alterna-jazz masters whose songs capture the bright and lively ambience of Manila. Their debut album, Bossa Manila (2003), is filled with tasteful keyboard play and intricately sophisticated drum lines and silky chords. It’s easy to think that the members of Sound treat their compositions in a masterful way. Their last studio album, Blue Monsoon, was released in 2007. If this band returns, they will surely make a lot of fans (and musicians) happy.



Who can forget the soul, funk, jazz, and prodigious talents of the members of Salindiwa? Correct us if we’re wrong, but is there any other band, aside from folk and reggae groups, that used a banduria during a live set?  The abstruse, almost crazy layers of music created by each member to construct their collective sound is treated and embraced as masterpieces by those who were able to see this band live when they were active. Their sound: live or not, gives a remarkable punch — heavy-yet-delicate, and amusingly perplexing.



Before they disbanded in 2011, the band set up a leg of farewell gigs all across Metro Manila to accommodate their many, heartbroken fans.  Unlike other bands who suddenly disappear, Sugarfree actually did the effort to lay out a “proper” goodbye. For men who composed heartmelters in their 4-album discography spanning from 2003 to 2011, this is something that they felt they had to do. Because they are so loved, there was even a musical inspired by the band called “Sa Wakas” named after their first studio album.



“Manila girl, Manila girl, no walls gonna block you, nobody’s gonna stop you, your feet is moving steady I dare you follow me.” Who can ever forget when their hit off their brilliant self-titled record, Manila Girl, ruled the airwaves? Or when the red lipped, leopard print-clad Myra Ruaro jumped up and down onstage with her full ska band? The other songs in their debut album are as danceable as their most famous hit. After one gold record in 1993, and Myra winning the NU Rock Award for “Best Vocalist” in 1995, the band released “Manila’s Finest” in 1996 and has been on a hiatus ever since.


Nyko Maca + Playground

The band is as exhilarating to see live as they sound. With influences ranging from afrobeat to hard bop, vocalist Nyko Maca + Playground, always present a tireless performance to those who come out to see them. The band incorporates the varying sounds of bossa nova, house, jazz, and funk in their songs, making their songs diverse and fun to listen to. Their lone studio album, Manifesto in the Raw, was released in 2006.



There was a time when local gig attendees knew the term “Explosive!” by heart not because of its meaning, but because it is the title of a hyper song by this band with a cult status and hip following. Their sound borders on heavy indie, nerdy rock, and electronic, with amusing surprises in forms of drumbeats and chords. “No penetration on the stage, please,” sings vocalist Diego Mapa in the said song, who’s now active in other musical endeavors. Monsterbot released two albums, Destroy! Destroy! (2002), and Rhomboids.



The Dela Cruz brothers are all skilled musicians, and it shows with how they reinvented local metal: brutal, melodic and intensely dynamic. Brothers Russel, Rommel and Robert formed the band in the 90’s, and included guitarist Joey Dizon in their powerful roster to replace Rommel. Jhun Siscar replaced Dizon recently, as announced in their official Facebook page.  Robert’s snappy, unflagging and vicious drumming has always been favored by hardcore fans as one of the best in the country. Their last gig announcement was in late 2013, and their return is highly-anticipated.


Dicta License

Dicta License will always be known for the groove-heavy rap and rock fusion they became famous for.  Their well-known song, “Smoke Under the Table,” was on heavy rotation during the time of its release in the now defunct and well-missed local rock radio station, NU 107.  Two years after their 5-song EP was released in 2003, Dicta License released their debut album called Paghilom, with “Ang Ating Araw” as the banner single. “Sisikat na muli ang ating araw,” is probably one of the most well-known opening lines of local songs.  While other bands are busy singing about love, hate or other kinds of emotions, Pochoy Labog’s lyricism discusses socio-political concerns and youth-centric issues. This characteristic makes the band unique, and worthy to be remembered.


Returns to watch out for:


“Happy New Year, everyone! It’s a new year, and by hook or by crook that third album is coming out,” wrote the trip hop band in their Facebook page on the first day of 2014. With two ingenious albums, Far Side of the World (2006, Terno Recordings) and Identity Theft (2008, self-released) released, Drip has established itself as one of the most innovative acts to ever surface the local scene. Vocalist Beng Calma-Alcazaren’s soothing, almost tranquilizing voice and the structural audio strength shown by the beats of of Caliph8, Malek Lopez and Ian Magbanua set the standard for acts who dabble in the experimental, trip hop and drum and bass genres.


Shiela and the Insects

This band, mixing new wave and alternative, rose from the queen city in 1994 and became a usual favorite in the metro thanks to NU 107’s influential frequencies back then. Their sound, tinged with elements of post punk revival and new wave, has become an inspiration to bands that prompted the rise of the local indie scene. Though they never stopped playing around Cebu, it has been a while since SITA released new material.  SITA will open for Moonpools and Catterpillars for the Cebu leg of their Philippine tour in early April.



Teeth became famous in the 90’s during the time of the grunge explosion, and it shows in their most famous songs such as “Laklak,” the ultimate hymn for the alcoholic or drunken-crazed youth back then. It has been said that the band will return soon, though no formal announcement of a new studio album has been made. Teeth did a surprise performance last February 27th at SaGuijo in Makati. In their Facebook page, Teeth posted a teaser saying “Muling mangangagat, abangan!”



  • Paolo Jose Cruz

    My personal choices for this list would be Fatal Posporos and Narda (especially the last incarnation of the band, circa Discotillion).

    • Camille Banzon

      The Ambassadors too, Yosha (I’m not sure if they’re still active,), Faspitch, Fatal Posporos (good one!), Sugar Hiccup, Wuds, and a lot more. 10 just seemed like a fit number but there should really be a part two. :)