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Manila Sound is a musical genre in the Philippines that began in the mid-1970s in Manila, flourished and peaked in the mid to late 1970s, and has not waned in popularity to this day. It is often considered the "bright side" of the martial law era and has influenced all modern genres in the country by being the forerunner to OPM.
Manila Sound is typified and was popularized by the pop rock band Hotdog with its many hit singles: "Ikaw Ang Miss Universe Ng Buhay Ko" ("You Are the Miss Universe Of My Life"), "Panaginip" ("Dream"), "Langit Na Naman" ("Heaven Once Again"), "O Lumapit Ka" ("Oh, Come Closer"), "Bitin Sa Iyo" ("Left Hanging Over You"), and "Dying to Tell You", among others. The name "Manila Sound" may have been derived from Hotdog's hit single "'Manila'", which has come to epitomize this genre. Manila Sound is characterized by catchy melodic phrases. In its later period, Manila Sound was dominated by the disco mania that swept the Philippines, led by groups such as VST & Co., The Boyfriends and Hagibis, among others. Alternately described as "the marshmallow sound", Manila Sound generated a string of calculated radio hits by groups such as Cinderella, VST & Co., Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society, Florante, Rico J. Puno, Sharon Cuneta, and many others. Manila Sound's unprecedented and meteoric appeal provided viability to a Philippine recording industry that until then had relied on cover versions and imitation of foreign hits to entice consumer acceptance. Unfortunately in its later years, formula-addled lyrical bias toward camp humor and parody eventually caused the Manila Sound to devolve into an explicitly theatrical, if not juvenile, subgenre as exemplified by Hagibis (a parody of the Village People) and The Boyfriends, until it diminished in the late 1970s under a wave of disco and dance-oriented hits from American films such as Saturday Night Fever, Grease and Footloose. But perhaps more importantly, by the early 1980s, disco had waned in popularity, mirroring disco's serious backlash and decline that occurred earlier in the United States. Moreover, musical tastes had changed, moving away from soft rock into newer musical forms, particularly adult contemporary, and to a lesser extent, punk rock and new wave, and radio airplay reflected these changes.
Manila Sound's laid-back and unpretentious musical style gave way to the intricate, multi-layered, and sometimes symphonic arrangements of OPM (Original Pilipino Music) that dominated popular, radio-friendly Philippine music starting in the late 1970s up until the 1990s. OPM, spawned initially and heavily influenced by the annual Metro Manila Popular Music Festival, emerged as radio favorites. Two of OPM's early and highly successful releases were the songs "Anak" by folk rock singer-songwriter Freddie Aguilar, and "Kay Ganda Ng Ating Musika" by pianist/composer/conductor Ryan Cayabyab, both of whom produced a new generation of Original Pilipino Music, represented by artists such as Kuh Ledesma, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Basil Valdez, Gary Valenciano, Martin Nievera and later, Regine Velasquez.
A resurgence in interest in the Manila Sound in recent years has yielded several compilation albums. In 2006, the Apo Hiking Society relaunched their retro hits in a double-CD package, coupled with reinterpretations of each by Manila's young alternative bands. Riding on the appeal of this revival, The Best of Manila Sound: Hopia Mani Popcorn was released the same year, featuring interpretations of a number of classic Manila Sound hits. The Best of Manila Sound: Hopia Mani Popcorn 2 followed in 2008.
Hotdog: The brothers Dennis Garcia, Rene Garcia and Jess Garcia and their original discovery of a silk-voiced affluently-bred, Ella Del Rosario, created the legendary Hotdog band in the mid-70s, a reconfiguration of an earlier band called Red Fox, which spawned what became known globally as the 'Manila Sound'.
Crafting melodic, radio-megahit pop songs in a blend of homegrown Tagalog speak, combined with Ella Del Rosario's exclusive upper crust Spanish-American upbringing and cool slang language, Hotdog etched an indelible mark in Philippine music history with multi-generational chart toppers like "Pers Lab", "You Make Me Blush", "Manila", "Annie Batungbakal", "Bongga Ka Day", "Ikaw ang Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko", "Ako'y Bitin Sa Iyo ", "Langit na Naman", "Pers Lab 2", and "Behhh, Buti Nga", among many others. Apart from dominating Manila's music charts, the band Hotdog was instrumental in bringing the sound and quality of local pop music on par with international standards.
Baby Gil, Philippine Star's influential entertainment columnist, observed: "Hotdog, with Ella Del Rosario's beautifully angelic voice streaming through the airwaves during the clangs of martial law, immediately killed colonial mentality in pop music with its phenomenal original music. Influenced largely by Ella's regal societal class and beauty, gated palatial upbringing, her Spanish-American roots, her uniquely tonal and sweetly charming international accent, combined with her private school upbringing, a magnetic charm, affluent mannerisms and English-speaking mannerisms, suddenly it was cool to talk Taglish and listen to a Pinoy pop band. But a decade before that, the current Filipino songs were "God Knows" by Pablo Vergara and "Sapagka't Kami ay Tao Lamang" by Tony Marquez that teen-aged Music buyers would never be caught dead listening to."
The songs of Hotdog heavily influenced and sowed the seeds of Original Filipino Music or OPM that was to later emerge in the late 1970s to way past the 1980s. Also for the first time, local songs begun to dominate the Philippine airwaves, club and disco music scenes, five-star hotel lobbies and lounges, food and retail malls, and even Philippine Airline cabins arriving home from international flights (then monopolized by American pop and rock songs) and establish the style and identity of mainstream Filipino music. From the lowly farmers in the hinterland rice paddies, to taxi drivers gaily plying the streets, to the exclusively-rich colegialas in private colleges and renowned universities, everyone was playing and singing Hotdog songs, glued to pop radio stations eagerly awaiting hit after hit, and fans couldn't get enough of baby-faced beauty Ella Del Rosario, who quickly rose to mega stardom and considered a beloved icon, and especially pointed out as a national treasure by then First Lady Imelda Marcos. Fans flocked to personally attend her TV shows, ticket sales skyrocketed with her movies and many named their female children after this much-adored celebrity. Since then, songs by Hotdog have been used in movies, television advertisements, radio commercials, videoke products, cellphone ringtones, and so forth.
In a nation of musically-inclined people, Hotdog and Ella del Rosario's songs rank highest among the most recognized and revered. Ella's solo stint when she was quickly signed up by Vicor and Canary labels skyrocketed to mega-stardom. Easily compared to the impact of the Beatles, The resonant popularity and illustrious glory in Filipino pop music history and culture by what President Marcos and media moguls such as Doroy Valencia wrote that Hotdog and Ella's phenomenon paved the way for the spectacular solo musical careers of female pop singers. For example, as Hotdog's original female celebrity-singer turned independent celebrity soloist, multi-awarded platinum hit Diva and five-time Awit Music awardee and Hall of Fame icon Ella del Rosario, is forever considered the supreme Pop, Samba and Disco Queen of the Philippines. Ella Del Rosario's' solo career hits such as "O Lumapit Ka", "Mr. Disco", "Sabik na Sabik", "I Love You", and including several hit advertising and commercial jingles, earned her the title of Manila Sound Queen. Others that followed were Zsa Zsa Padilla, Gina Montes and Maso Diez.
VST and Company: Initially starting with the Sotto Brothers, the group scored a number of disco hits such as "Disco Fever", "Awitin Mo Isasayaw Ko", "Kiss Kiss", "Step No Step Yes", "Swing", "Tayo'y Magsayawan", and "Rock Baby Rock" along with romantic ballads like "Ikaw Ang Aking Mahal" and "Ipagpatawad Mo". Currently, VST and Company has incorporated Bossa Nova influences in its music as evidenced by its album, The Bossa Nova Collection: VST and Company. The group also help launched the careers of some Filipino artists, particularly that of Sharon Cuneta.
The Boyfriends: Famous for the song "Sumayaw, Sumunod" which became a big disco hit, they also released the disco songs "Araw-araw, Oras-oras" and "Dance With Me", and the love ballads "Nais Kong Malaman Mo", "First Love", and "Bakit Labis Kitang Mahal".
Soul Jugglers: Funk band that released the singles "Hanggang Magdamag" and "Pinoy Disko".
Cinderella: Pop band more commonly known for its love songs, particularly "T.L. Ako Sa'yo", "Bato Sa Buhangin", "Sa Aking Pag-iisa", "Ang Boyfriend kong Baduy", "May Crush Ako Sa 'Yo", "Pag-ibig Ko'y Ibang Iba", "Superstar ng Buhay Ko", and "Tulak Ng Bibig, Kabig Ng Dibdib". Cecile Colayco and the late Yolly Samson were lead vocalists. In its later output, Cinderella incorporated Bossa Nova in its repertoire, as exemplified in the album The Bossa Nova Collection: Cinderella.
Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society: More popularly known as the APO Hiking Society, their album releases from 1975 to 1980 included many songs such as "Softly", "Love Is For Singing", "Mahirap Magmahal ng Syota Ng Iba", "Show Me A Smile", "Bakit Ang Babae Sa Tagal Ng Pagsasama (tila Mas Mahirap Maintindihan)", "Hanggang May Pag-ibig", "Batang-Bata Ka Pa", "Nakapagtataka", "Pag-ibig", "Kabilugan Ng Buwan", and "Pumapatak Ang Ulan". APO started out as a large musical ensemble, but was later reduced to a trio consisting of Jim Paredes, Danny Javier and Buboy Garovillo, which achieved great success during the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. In December 2009, APO announced its plans for retiring from active performance, citing "diminished creative processes". After a series of warmly-received concerts in February 2010, the group officially disbanded. Kami nAPO Muna, a tribute album, is a latter-day release.
Jessa Zaragoza-Dingdong Avanzado: Considered as the first duo to have a phenomenal claim in Manila Sound and O.P.M. during 1988 to 2000, Dingdong Avanzado had the highest sales in O.P.M History with hits like "Maghihintay Sayo", "Basta't Kasama Kita", "Paalam Na", "Wish I Could", and "Here to Stay". As for Jessa, she popularized the 1997 hit song "Bakit Pa" and released other songs such as "Di Ba't Ikaw", "Paano Ba Aaminin", "Paano Kaya" and "Just Can't Help Feelin'", all Vehnee Saturno compositions under OctoArts. She reached her career peak in 2000 for the hit song "Ibigay Mo Na" and in 2004 for the Sharon Cuneta revival "Sanay Wala Nang Wakas". In 2009, she made a wave with her singing The Greatest Icons Volume 1 and in 2012-2013 with the hit singles "Nasaan", "Pag Wala Na Ang Ulan" and "Ayoko Na".
Hagibis: Members: Sonny Parsons, Bernie Fineza, Mike Respall, Joji Garcia, and Mon Picazo. Song-and-dance male group known for its disco hits "Katawan", "Lalake", "Legs", "Nanggigigil Ako", "Babae", and "Ilagay Mo Kid". The group's musical and performing style nearly parallels that of the American disco group The Village People.
Rey Valera: Pop artist and singer-songwriter known for releasing a string of romantic ballads including "Di Mo Pansin", "Kamusta Ka", "Kung Kailangan Mo Ako", "Maging Sino Ka Man", "Malayo Pa Ang Umaga", "Naalaala Ka", "Pangako Sa Iyo", "Kung Tayo'y Magkalayo", and "Kahit Maputi Na ang Buhok Ko", among others. He made his first appearance in music with the group Electric Hair Band.
Sharon Cuneta: Pop singer/screen actress who started her musical career as a twelve-year-old in 1978 when she released a Rey Valera composition entitled "Mr. DJ". She also recorded a cover version of "I-swing Mo Ako", which was a VST & Co. original release. Two other singles, "Kahit Maputi Na ang Buhok Ko" (another Rey Valera composition) and "High School Life" also received considerable airplay. She later successfully crossed over into OPM, retaining and even increasing her commercial appeal.
Rico J. Puno: Soul balladeer acclaimed for a number of hit songs, including "Lupa", "Damdamin", "May Bukas Pa", "Kapalaran", "Macho Gwapito", "Sorry Na Puede Ba", and "Diyos ang Pag-ibig", among many others. After the collapse of the Manila Sound, he remained popular with the emergent OPM (Original Pilipino Music) genre. At present, he continues to perform locally and internationally. He is likewise famed for recasting American pop songs (e.g. "The Way We Were") with Tagalog lyrics with the aim of reaching a bigger sector of the listening public.
Other artists/bands that contributed to Manila Sound include ABC Express ("Magandang Binibini (I Love You)"), Asin ("Itanong Mo Sa Mga Bata"), Azul ("O Pag-ibig"), Blue Jeans ("Paniwalaan Mo"), Bong Peñera and the Batucada ("Samba Song"), Blakdyak ("Don't Do That Joey", "Good Boy", "Modelong Charing", Noon At Ngayon"), Celeste Legaspi ("Saranggola Ni Pepe", "Mamang Sorbetero", "Tuliro", "Gaano Kita Kamahal"), Cherie Gil ("Boy"), Ella del Rosario ("Mr. Disco", "Lagi Na Lamang", "Shake It Baby"), Fred Panopio ("Ang Kawawang Cowboy", "Bilmoko", "Pitong Gatang"), Jose Mari Chan ("Can We Just Stop and Talk Awhile", "Refrain"), Juan de la Cruz Band ("Ang Himig Natin"), Junior ("Yakap"), Labuyo ("Tuloy Pa Rin"), Pat Castillo ("Aso't Pusa"), Rainmakers ("Binibini", "OK Sa Akin", "You and Me", "Miss Maganda"), Singsing ("Usapan", "Oh Babe"), Tito Mina ("Ikaw Pa Rin", "Honey", "Got To Let You Know", "Both In Love"), And Wadab ("Pag Tumatagal Lalong Tumitibay", "Iniibig Kita").
Villar Records (Mareco Broadcasting Network, Inc.), Alpha Records and Vicor Music Philippines (and its subsidiary imprints, Sunshine Records and Blackgold Records) were recording companies that pioneered the Manila Sound.
Over the years since Manila Sound's decline, many performers have released cover versions of the more popular songs of this genre, indicating its continuing appeal to new generations of listeners. These artists and their covers include Barbie's Cradle ("Langit Na Naman"), Donna Cruz ("Boy"), Freestyle ("Bakit Ba Ganyan"), Janno Gibbs ("Binibini", "Ipagpatawad Mo"), Jolina Magdangal ("T.L. Ako Sa Iyo"), Manilyn Reynes ("Mr. Disco", "Shake It Baby"), Manilyn Reynes & Kempee De Leon ("Nais Kong Malaman Mo"), Prettier Than Pink ("Ang Boyfriend Kong Baduy"), Sitti Navarro ("Samba Song"), Tina Paner ("Sana"), Vina Morales ("Pers Lab"), and White Lies ("First Love Never Dies").
In 2006, the Filipino funk band, Kala appeared in the music scene with its retro-sounding first single, "Jeepney", which became a major hit. According to the Philippine Inquirer, the band revived and redefined the Manila Sound genre through their funk-rock-hip music. Rene Garcia (co-founder of the band Hotdog) praised Kala by "carrying out the funky groove of the 1970s with the sounds of today." The multi-awarded band also took part in the tribute album, Hopia Mani Popcorn. Kala's funky cover version of VST and Co.'s "Rock Baby Rock" became a hit.
The resurgence, rediscovery, and remodelling of the Manila Sound is a boost to the Philippine music industry.
New Manila Sound and New OPM are terms coined to distinguish new songs that follow the Manila Sound style from those made in the 1970s and 1980s. Songs in this category are not remakes, and are currently circulating in the Independent Music Movement, mainly on the Internet, through the fledgling group SongwritersPh. The label IndiePinoy is one of the few independent labels that have released new songs mostly without the benefit of radio and television media exposure, but through alternative distribution means such as online and mobile downloads. The same group also created RadioPilipinas.com in 2008, and is touted to be the first Philippine-based Internet radio that airs OPM and alternative music, when the local FM radio stations have changed format and programming.
The Manila Sound is essentially styled as catchy and melodic, smooth, lightly orchestrated, accessible folk/soft rock, sometimes fused with funk, light jazz and disco. Broadly speaking however, it includes quite a number of genres (e.g. pop, vocal music, soft rock, folk pop, disco, soul, Latin jazz, funk, etc.), and should therefore probably be best regarded as a period in Philippine popular music rather than as a single musical style. Manila Sound typified the prevailing pop sound of the era and drew its influences from the singer-songwriter genre of American music during the 1970s. A great majority of Manila Sound songs were composed in Tagalog or Taglish, although some were also written in English. Sometimes, they included "juvenile lyrics", and less frequently, "swardspeak" (aka "gayspeak", i.e. homosexual slang) recast with novelty, comedic or satirical undertones.