- Special Pages
By Raynald C Rivera
It took a while for the applause to die down after the Asiano Band was declared winner of the ‘Battle of the Bands: Bring Your Own Band’, held recently at the Philippine International School Qatar.
The band was on a high after bagging the first place, which gives it the opportunity to play in an upcoming concert here by well-known bands from the Philippines.
Having been together for just three weeks, the winning Filipino sextet said they did not expect to win, though they had been playing with other bands before.
The Doha-based band comprises JP de Leon (lead vocals), Jhomark Enriquez (bass), Jonathan Keith Gutierrez (drums), Jayson Gatpandan (backup vocals), and guitarists Robinson Curan and Jasper Radin. They work for various companies but were brought together by their love for making music.
But for every member of the crowd and the judges they were undoubtedly the winners as they took the audience on a musical journey spanning decades of rock music, from the 70s to the 80s to the present, with their rendition of classic songs by rock icons.
Live bands playing is a common sight in every part of the Philippines, a country of music lovers, and Filipinos take their proclivity for music with them when they go to work overseas.
In Qatar, Filipino celebrations, big or small, always include music, and live bands are a must in community shows. As in other countries, some big hotels here have Filipino in-house bands to entertain customers.
Asiano Band is just one of the numerous Filipino bands here whose members take to jam sessions as an integral part of their lives to shoo away boredom and homesickness.
“Music has a big influence in the Philippines. Filipinos love celebrations, for they are a fun-loving people and music is a good and creative way to have fun, gathering and singing together,” JP De Leon told The Peninsula.
Love for music is ingrained in the Filipino ethos. Every town, province and region in the country celebrates festivals which involve music.
“It is in our culture. Even our ancestors found music a chief way of expression,” he added.
With its flourishing music scene, the Philippines is a major source of performing artistes. Every year, thousands of them are deployed to entertain people at venues ranging from cruise ships to hotels and shopping centres around the world.
But what makes Filipino musicians unique?
“We have passion. When we perform, we play music from the heart. Music dictates the performance,” said Jonathan Keith Gutierrez.
For Asiano Band, the audience dictates the choice of songs to perform.
“We select the piece based on what they would love to listen to, not what we love to play. We don’t choose a song because of its level of difficulty, aiming to impress. The audience is our prime consideration in performance because they are the reason why we are onstage,” added Gutierrez.
And it worked for them, as they played familiar hits that the audience could easily relate to, which contributed in a big way to their winning the competition.
“Win or lose, what is important is we made people happy through our performance, and that’s what makes us feel satisfied as a band,” said Robinson Curan.
The presence of Filipino bands in Qatar will continue to get strong, said Jasper Radin, as the 200,000-strong overseas Filipino workers’ love for music and performance gives birth to more bands to quench their thirst for live entertainment and music from their home country.
“As of now there are many bands here, they just lack venues to play. Everywhere that there are Filipinos, there are bands,” said Radin, adding there were many more with talent who lacked the opportunity to express it.
Speaking at the event, Violeta D Illescas, Assistant Labour Attaché at the Philippine embassy, expressed the hope that there would be more bands and competitions to enhance the musical talent of Filipinos in Qatar and promote camaraderie in the community. Many such contests are organised in other countries, including neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
The Battle of the Bands was just one of a series of competitions held by the community every year, and the organisers are keen to host more contests in future.
“Definitely, we are organising more events like this because we don’t just provide entertainment through these but also help charities,” said Jenny Lynne Pacleb, managing director of Doha Eventology, which organised the contest along with Bin Darwish.
The competition benefited distressed Filipino workers in Doha and Bantay Bata 163. The Hello Moira and Come What May bands were the first and second runners-up, respectively.
Pacleb said aside from competitions, there were community events where bands played.
“All Filipinos love music, and through these bands we can express our feelings, being far from our country,” she added.
Asiano Band is now busy preparing for a bigger performance during the concert of Pupil and General Luna – two well-known bands in the Philippines.
Dubbed ‘Valentine’s Sweet Rock 2013’, the show will be held at Al Ahli Stadium on February 8.