Sumayaw, Sumunod: How bass brought groove to Manila Sound
Whether you lived through it or discovered it from sitting in the back of your parents’ car as they blasted it on the speakers, we can all agree that Filipino disco music is timeless. The songs had lyrics that encapsulated the culture of its time and simple melodies with rhythms that made anyone want to get up and dance.
“Sa disco music, meron tayong four on the floor beat, rhythm guitar, at orchestra section. Pero ang bubuo nito ang bass,” says Musikalikot podcast host Maisie Joven. The podcast explores the rich and quirky history of Filipino music. In the episode “Bakit Mahalaga ang Bass sa Pagbuo ng Manila Sound?” she and bassists Patrick Puey and Bobby Taylo discuss the underrated role that the bass plays in music, especially in the iconic Manila Sound.
Ilagay mo, kid
Patrick Puey, who has played the bass for nearly 12 years says that the bass is used “to connect the rhythm parts with the melodic, harmonic parts … Your role as a bassist is to bridge (the drums and other instruments) together.”
The idea of having a bass or bass-like instrument to tie a song together wasn’t born with blues and rock and roll. Early incarnations have been present even in medieval times with the rebab, and in the renaissance period with the viola da gamba.
However, despite its long-standing presence in music, Joven notes “Sa lahat ng instrumento ng ordinaryong banda, ang bass ang hindi kadalasang natututukan.” To the untrained ear, it’s true. Often we can barely hear the low thrumming of the instrument, but you’d feel like something was missing if it were absent.
“Sonically, it binds the song. Makes it full. Parang lahat ma-treble. Pero siya, binubuo niya. Kung wala yung bass, ang sakit sa tenga,” says 50-year bassist and ABS-CBN musical director Bobby Taylo.
And it's the power of the humble bass that’s responsible for a song’s groove that pulls you onto the dance floor.
It’s important to remember that it was also in the 1970s that Martial Law was declared. But perhaps it was because of the darkness of those times that the music industry flourished.
“People gotta have some diversion from what’s happening locally,” says Taylo. He adds that there was also a lot of foreign disco in the market, and Filipinos, not a bunch to fall behind on the latest trends, took part.
“Nung 70s, music dito sa Manila, almost (all were) cover songs,” says Taylo. “Siguro people got tired of that. Nung 1975, merong bandang nag introduce ng their kind of music—medyo taglish that caught on fast. Walang social boundaries kahit Assumption ka, kahit taga public school, kahit ordinaryong tao, pumatok sila, and that was Hotdog.” Soon, VST & Co., The Boyfriends, and others followed suit.
“It was probably the best time for locally produced disco music besides folk, rock, and jazz,” Taylo adds. True enough, those songs withstood the test of time and are still beloved and danced to until today.
“It’s the repetitive, percussive bass style being disco that makes it engaging. Apektado yung audience. Napapasaya sila—I hope napapasaya sila bukod sa napapasayaw, and I miss that.” he says.
“Musikalikot” is a podcast that discusses the rich and quirky history of Filipino music.
“Musikalikot” is a PumaPodcast production.