A sort of homecoming for Joey Ayala
by rick olivares
How does a recording artist who came up in the early 1980’s remain a creative force in this new millennium?
For Joey Ayala… it’s going back to the past… with a creative eye to the future.
This coming September, Joey Ayala and Ang Bagong Lumad will return to the Music Museum where exactly 25 years ago, they performed and launch three records all at once. Those records were his debut, "Panganay Ng Umaga," "Magkabilaan," and "Mga Awit ng Tanod-lupa."
Will lightning strike twice with Ayala launching a new album in this “sort of homecoming?”
“Hmm,” he mused with his eyes ablaze with thought and possibility.
Now at 61 years of age, Ayala’s creative spark has not dampened one iota. “I have enough songs, but I haven’t decided to either launch it as a new album or in single form,” said Ayala during a photo shoot for the promotional materials for the upcoming show at A Space in Legaspi Village, Makati.
For that show, Ayala still has to decide on the set list. He pauses for a moment his brow knotted in mild concern. “It is so different from when I first came up to today,” he pointed out. “Now I have to consider how much of the old stuff do I perform and how much new materials do I introduce. Some want to hear old songs while some might look for new ones. Some might wonder, ‘why is Joey playing jazz?’”
When Ayala first came into national consciousness after rising up from Davao with his home recordings, his music was lumped together with folk and even acoustic rock. Ayala’s music later was pigeon-holed into the category called, “world music.” Ayala is kind of at a loss to describe his music especially now.
“My life and journey as a musician has seen me play in Kuala Lumpur to London and many other places. I recall when I performed in a festival in London with Grace Nono, there were so many other musicians from all over the world – Egypt, Africa, Tibet. I found myself drawn to their music. Eye opener, ba? Over the years, I have expanded my horizons. My music has changed. I’ve adapted Middle Eastern styles, Flamenco, Spanish sounds, and others into my own style. Even my voice is different. You have to grow as an artist. I cannot sound like it is 1982,” he shared.
And 25 years later, Ayala is still having a lot of fun “sa buhay musikero.”
“Today mas nagging malinaw yung kaya mo as a musician,” he pointed out. “Economically, the source of money is performing and not album sales. It’s from compositions or scoring commissioned work. So I focus a lot of my energies on performing.”
And that September performance will find Ayala sharing the same stage with former Bagong Lumad member Bayang Barrios for the first time since she went solo.
“Yung aming landas nagkakasalubong kami but with not opportunity to perform so this is a good -- how do you say this – homecoming.”
Other guests for the show include Bullet Dumas and Dong Abay to name a couple who have confirmed for the show.
“When you perform with other talented and respected musicians, the creative sparks fly; the show takes a certain life of its own,” gushed Ayala. “I am excited for this.”
As much as Ayala is looking forward to the show and the potential synergies with other performers, there is one collaboration that he hopes will see the light of day. “One of those major things on my personal bucket list is to make an album with my sister, Cynthia Alexander. Nag-kwentuhan na kami. Nagkakatamaran kami. Although nasa States na siya (Alexander lives in Seattle), we can do file sharing for the songs. But it will happen in its time.”
Aside from the possible collaboration with Alexander, in the pipeline is the possibility of re-recording his old songs for a new generation. “I don’t really calibrate my songs for my younger audiences, but since I own the publishing rights and my former recording company has not re-released any of my old albums, I am contemplating on re-arranging and re-releasing them. My ambition is to record them at home. I have spent a lot of time studying today’s technology that will allow me to record at home. As I said earlier, my voice and way of performing is different so the arrangements will reflect that.”
“You mentioned the word ‘homecoming’?”
“You know homecomings always bring smiles, good memories. I guess you can call the show something like that. With an eye for the future though.”