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Joey Ayala: The return of the native (again)

By 1991, Ayala felt that they were ready to take their music to the next level. The gamble was that OPM audiences just might be ready for something new and original. The group’s blend of songcraft, poetic lyrics, timely topical concerns (Filipino identity, the environment), and use of indigenous instruments won immediate critical acclaim, but mainstream commercial success proved a little more elusive. In 1992, the band released a fourth album, “Lumad sa Syudad.” By that time it had helped spark the “alternative music” movement of the early 1990s. Ironically, by the time alternative Filipino music really took off in the mid-1990s with the runaway success of the Eraserheads and other bands, Bagong Lumad had called it quits. Its final concert, “Awit-Banahaw,” was an ambitious concept production about the fabled mystical mountain. Staged at the Folk Arts Theater in 1994, with ballet choreography by Agnes Locsin and the full theatrical treatment, it was arguably the band’s artistic peak. Two days later, the band broke up. Since then, generations of local musicians have counted Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad as a seminal influence. Some of them, such as Gloc 9, Bullet Dumas, Dong Abay and Juan Miguel Severo will be guest performers in “Mandiriwa.” Ayala is, however, quick to douse speculation that “Mandiriwa” marks a “return.” For one thing, the members of Bagong Lumad have thriving careers of their own: Barrios as a solo performer and recording artist; and Badiang as an in-demand bassist for, among others, Lolita Carbon. (Tio died in 2008.) For another, Joey Ayala never really left.

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