In celebration of the recent Philippine Independence Day on June 12, we feature Filipino folk singer Bayang Barrios who, among others, rode the ripples of cultural music and influenced the tide. In a saturated modern Filipino pop music dominated by foreign music, Bayang stayed true to her roots. It was a tough ride, but eventually, ripples turned to waves.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hello musivv. I am Bayang Barrios, mang-aawit (singer). I began singing when I was about 4 years old. I spent my childhood singing for our community choir in Church in Bunawan town, in Agusan del Sur, Mindanao. My biggest influences would have to be Lolita Carbon of Asin, Nora Aunor, and Joey Ayala, who performed and recorded with for many years.
Why traditional/cultural music?
Why not? The music landscape in the Philippines is very rich now, but back in the early 90s, [Philippine radio] was predominantly foreign pop. [When the resurgence of OPM happened] with groups like the Eraserheads, Yano, and River Maya, [came along with it an] audience for the more indigenously percussive, predominantly Southeast-Asian music [of myself] Joey Ayala, Bagong Lumad and Grace Nono. I am very proud to represent our heritage as a people through music that uses instrumentation and sensibilities that are uniquely Filipino.
What were the challenges you faced pursuing a music career, let alone cultural music?
Music life is not easy. You never know when and where the next gig and meal [will] come from. So in that aspect, it can get worrisome.
Music life is not easy
How did you overcome these challenges?
By staying the course, and staying true to ourselves and our music. Pop music is saturated. I gained an audience that identify with my message and melody. I am blessed to have collaborated with musicians and composers. Musical geniuses like Gary Granada, Joey Ayala, and Bob Aves, to name a few, have helped me tremendously by believing in me.
What do you think is the correlation between culture and music?
Culture is everything that relates to a region's unique identity, whether dress, language, architecture and art. Music plays a huge part in that Art. The Filipino is a singing people, and our musicianship is recognized globally, far more readily than our amazing food, or our amazing literature. Music is readily consumed culture!
Do you think culture influences music or the other way around?
Culture is the big umbrella under which all art vies for our attention, including music, in my opinion. And in that light, music informs our literature the same way a novel or movie inspires a song.
What's the core message of your songs?
I have many songs and many different stories. But if I had to find some common threads, it is "Please care for the environment", "Love and enjoy life", and "There is always hope."
Most memorable performance?
That would have to be my gig at a music festival in Malaysia back in 2018 I believe. Because traditional orchestra was used, only Southeast Asian instruments were used. What a wonderful night!
Any significant award received? How did it feel?
I have been lucky enough to be recognized for my music over the years, but some stand out: The Lorenzo Ruiz Trophy given by the Catholic Mass Media Awards, the Metropop grand championship in 2003, and the 2007 Bay-i award that recognized my contribution to Music.
Biggest dream as an artist?
I would love for indigenous music to be more readily accepted by the general listening public.
Sana tuloy-tuloy na!
Biggest dream for folk music in the Philippines?
I would love for indigenous folk music to be more readily accepted by the general listening public. Ethnic-tinged pop has gone a long way in the Philippines, and groups like Ben and Ben are also very popular. Sana tuloy-tuloy na! (Hopefully it will continue to do so)
What message would you want to say to aspiring folk musicians?
Please continue to believe in yourself. Music life is tough. But you owe it to yourselves to try. Also, make sure you understand Publishing and Copyright, and never give up your Intellectual Property knowingly.
For the love of her country. For the love of music. For the love of folk. Bayang Barrios will continue to ride the rising waves of culture and art.Follow Bayang Barrios: