Thursday, July 27, 2017
Listening to Indonesian ska band Alaska-Q’s debut album, Bertemankata”.
I listen to rock music and all its sub-genres but the styles I really love are punk, ska, shoegazer/dream pop, and rockabilly/jump swing.
Good friend Jon Fishbone of Bad Omen knows my love for ska that following a recent trip to Indonesia, he got me this CD of this band, Alaska-Q.
Titled “Bertemankata”, the eight-track album, is sung entirely in English and has elements of jazz and cha cha that were infused with ska.
I got in touch with Alaska-Q’s lead singer, Silvester Kia Rebong, who incidentally is only remaining member of the band when it was formed in Jakarta in 1999. What follows is our conversation about the band and the Indonesian ska scene.
The band was formed when the founding members were in high school in the late 1990s. “Ska was booming in Indonesia at that time,” recalled Silvester. “But it is bigger now than ever.”
How big? Well, they have the Jamaican Ska Festival where every band that performs has put out an album, EP, or single. That’s a pretty good achievement considering it isn’t easy to put out an album.
There’s the Jakarta Ska Foundation whose mission is to put out all the original music composed and recorded by all the outfits from their nation’s capital. They have workshops where they teach the history of ska and Jamaican music so people know the roots and they can get into the pioneers such as Desmond Dekker, the Skatalites, and Prince Buster to name a few. The foundation also organizes workshops, exhibitions, and radio shows. It’s both fascinating and incredible!
Alaska-Q takes their name from the word “alaskaki” which means “footwear”. Footwear from sandals, boots, loafers, and others as a general term. “We wanted to add the word ‘ska’ to our name, hence, ‘Alaska-Q’, explained Silvester. The band’s music also adds elements of rock steady, reggae, but all within the ska style.
The band has seen numerous line-up changes through the years. And in this time, they released their first single in 2001, their first EP (titled “Something’s Changed”) and album in 2014. The band hopes to release their second full-length album in time for their 20th anniversary (or even before that if possible).
Listening to “Bertemankata”, I really love it because it’s so very old school ska. It doesn’t sound like the Two-Tone movement or even Third Wave. As for the vocals, there are no faux British accents here. They sing as they are and who they are.
My beef with this is the track listing. The tracks listed on the album jacket are correct, but when you upload the songs, the titles do not match. So you have to re-name all of them in the order listed on the jacket.
It’s a minor quibble. It doesn’t detract from enjoying the album that starts off with the instrumental track, “Latinos Fabulous”.
Up next is the ode to climate change, “Love the Earth” that sounds like a love song but it’s actually a warning for all.
The weirdly-titled “I Shouldn’t to Know You” finds both vocalists, Silvester and Cika Landis, taking you back to the Terry Hall and Rhoda Dakar duet on “More Specials”.
“From the Bottom of My Heart’ is a slow love song.
“Our Land Not for Sale” has me thinking of “Ghost Town” with the keyboards taking the lead. This is a statement song with the band referring to something.
“Wind and Sky” is another slow song featuring both vocalists. It’s all right.
The next one, “12th Sound” is one of my fave tracks. A dub/reggae-type song. You feel the Jamaican vibe here. It had me thinking of my love for Burning Spear.
“Rocksteady Beat” closes out the album. Not bad.
It’s a pensive album. Not one that gets you racing to the dancefloor like Put3ska’s rollicking debut. But it’s not bad. I like the album a lot. In fact, it has me asking Silvester to point me to more of their releases as well as other Indonesian ska bands. And that is what music is supposed to do. Break down barriers and check out new frontiers.
Looking forward to the second full-length release.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
As much as the big corporate chain of record stores are fun to go to -- considering their stocks and wide-range of titles -- there was something about going to the small independent shops. I feel the ambiance of the scene. There is the atmosphere of counter-culture.
Growing up in the 1980s, I would go to Harrison Plaza to buy the Twisted Red Cross cassettes. I also went to this shop at Farmer's Plaza in Cubao that sold shirts of bands. You could also get cassettes and other underground paraphernalia. It is where I got that shirt of the Specials. That shop was the one that I knew where you could buy those spiked or studded leather bracelets that showed you were into punk.
Living in New York later on, Greenwich and the East Village had a lot of those shops that I loved. Many of them are now gone -- Kim's had that underground vibe that I absolutely loved. It is where I bumped into members of Zwan, Foo Fighters, and even at one point, Curt Smith of Tears For Fears. Kim's carried a lot of those DVDs of underground films that were so hard to find. Plus, they had a wide array of CDs and records too.
Now back in Manila, Recto used to be the hotbed for these counter-culture shops -- Cartimar in particular. There used to be Nizzle Dazzle that sold all these CDs of metal and hardcore bands that you wouldn't find at Tower Records and these other shops. No one else carried Mushroomhead, HedPE, Soulfly, Sepultura, and Puya to name a very few.
All that is left of those cool shops at Cartimar is Middle Finger/Nocturnal that still has great stuff. On another note, there are other distros although they have no physical shop. They do meet ups or send your stuff via courier.
However, there is another shop located in Metro Manila to satisfy your underground tastes. That is Mutilated Noise Records (look them up on Facebook). The shop owner, Noel Francia, not only distributes foreign records (punk, metal, and the occasional second hand New Wave LP) but he also carries a lot of local releases. He has loads of demos and self-produced albums. He has also helped put out vinyl releases such as the 7-inch records of Feud and Biofeedback as well as the Ex-Senadors (exclusively via his record label). From what Noel tells me, coming out very soon is a 7-inch record of Choke Cocoi and another from a band based in Hong Kong.
When you enter Mutilated Noise, be prepared to gawk for a while -- and you will -- because it's got a lot of those punk concert posters plastered on the wall, there are rows of vinyl records, there are stacks of 7-inch records from bands you didn't even know existed. It isn't Generation Records in New York but this isn't so bad. It's pretty good, in fact. There are also quite a few Japanese punk and ska records as well. So you'll spend a bit of time just digging. Also ask Noel about the underground releases that come in cassettes and CD-Rs. There are a few that have proper pressed CDs.
Ask for the releases of Throw, the Go-Signals, the Sensitives, Isidro Project, and Omnipotent to name a very few. Personally, I like the Go-Signals, Isidro Project, and Omnipotent.
And Mutilated Noise also carries that great fanzine, Maximum RockNRoll. That's another reason to drop by.
The clientele isn't only local but also foreign. Noel also gets his share of foreigners who heard of the shop and look to pick up stuff.
My advice? Spend some time digging. And Noel doesn't mind you testing some of the records (that are open and not sealed). He has a couple of turntables inside the shop. Ask questions too. Ask for his recommendations. He'll offer some good stuff you never thought of getting. But it's all worth it.
Indonesian artist makes name designing Filipino indie records
by rick olivares
Bambam Sickos’ art has adorned many a Filipino independent album release. His highly-detailed, visceral, and provocative style is distinctive and has caught on with many local bands.
Yet incredibly, Bambam isn’t Filipino but Indonesian. “Sickos” is his nom de guerre. Like English graffiti artist Banksy. And this artist has made the Philippines his second home. “I worked in a call center for about five years before I quit because of health issues,” said Bambam. “But I have been living in Manila for the past seven years. I practically live in two countries – Indonesia and the Philippines.”
He has since moved on to another line of work but one thing that has kept him busy is something close to his heart – music and album art.
The Indonesian has drawn artwork for several Filipino independent bands (Eyes of Fire, Istukas Over Disneyland, Malicious Existence, and Gangrene to name a few) and labels who have released their music on vinyl, compact disc, or cassette. “I also do designs for their merchandise,” he added.
“My biggest influences are Pushead (aka Brian Schroeder who is not only an artist but also performs in a band, is a record label owner, and a writer) and Sugi (the legendary Japanese artist),” recounted Bambam. “I draw inspiration from their style to create something that is my own. I also draw inspirations from bands that I work with. I have made provided artwork a lot of Filipino bands.”
Among the independent labels whose logos he has designed are Mutilated Noise Records (Biofeedback and Ex-Senadors as well as Feud jointly with Still Ill Records to name a few) and the Pampanga-based Love from Hate Records (collaborative releases for Monthly Red, Value Lasts, and Random Violence among others).
“He’s got a style that you will really look at,” said Mutilated Noise’s Noel Francia. “And sometimes, that is what you want – for the art to grab you so it will entice you to try out the music.”
Bambam also does a lot of the poster art and merchandise for the events of the Manila-based Delusion of Terror Records (joint releases by Veils and Random Violence among others).
Said Delusion of Terror’s Emmanuel Jasmin, “The art of H.R. Giger is something that Filipinos are attracted to for its frightening beauty. I think that Bambam is in that vein.”
“I don’t have favorite,” admitted Bambam of his work with Filipino bands. “I like all of them. My very first art for a local band was a t-shirt for VEX, so that one is quite special for me.”
However, the Indonesian’s art isn’t only in demand locally and in Indonesia but also Stateside as well. “Yes, I did create some cover arts for bands from the other part of the globe. My favorite is for ROÄC, a metallic crust band from Denver, CO. That one is quite special because it is my first vinyl cover art and released by Profane Existence. I will also release an album by Tree of Woe that is also out of Colorado Springs.
As mentioned earlier, the artist has also become heavily involved as a record label. Running his label, Sickos Records, out of Facebook, Bambam releases albums from not only Filipino bands but also Southeast Asian outfits. “I have a distro (distribution) label that makes music available and affordable to music fans who dig punk, hardcore, and metal music. Doing the distro also allows me to collect music without spending too much money. And through my distro, I have met and made many friends especially around the Philippines.”
Summed up the artist, “Through my love for art and music, I get to be involved in related activities -- organizing gigs and tours, listening and collecting music, hanging out with friends, and traveling with my small family. This makes me happy and they keep my sanity intact.”
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
It’s time for Maximum Rocknroll #411, the August 2017 issue — our first-ever Pinoy Punk Special! This issue is absolutely packed with bands, activists, history, scene reports, and everything in between covering punk in the Philippines and beyond. Check out interviews with the organizers of Aklasan Fest — a Bay Area-based punk festival featuring all Pinoy bands, Manila infoshop Etniko Bandido, DIY organizers in the Flowergrave Collective, Quezon City environmental activist Chuck Baclagon, NYC migrant worker organizer Gary Kadena, and an extensive history of autonomous spaces and infoshops in the Philippines going back to the early ’90s. Zine coverage includes a conversation between femme zinesters elena corinne of Brown Recluse Zine Distro and Honey Andres, an interview with Bamboo Girl zine, and a rundown of some of the Philippines’ most interesting DIY zines and resources. On top of that we have interviews with bands including NYC’s MATERIAL SUPPORT and NAMATAY SA INGAY, Manila’s VEILS, THROW, the Bay Area’s HAFNER, and an update on grindcore across the Philippines. Oh, and did we mention a massive scene report covering a dozen different cities?