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Monday, January 30, 2006

Rainy Tuesday morning under Armor's Psychedelic Sun

Rainy Tuesday Morn under
Armor’s Psychedelic Sun

by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
Photos by Chendrina Villarino Rosaroso

Blurb: “I become a scientist when my fingers move the different knobs and faders of the mixing console. I become a poet when I scribble the rhymes and metaphors. I become a rebel when I take off my shirt and plug the guitar in front of the microphone. And when I sing, I become a rock star!"

It was no Tuesday dawn at all when electronic folk artist Armor dropped by at my workstation fresh from his gig at Café Shang in Mactan island. But the dawn seemed to have smelled of the Tuesday scent of a woman picking on the stink of muck the rain had stirred in the song Armor had created.

There was a downpour though, but pelted not on the pavement, nor the roof. The rain surprisingly came soft and soothing like the sound of his harmonica. “Rainy Tuesday Morning” is one of his musical compositions, an execution of the fusion of musical influences as vast as Asin, Joey Ayala, Beck and The Blue Man group, U2 and Bob Dylan, and various avant-garde and tribal musicians he mentioned.

And of course, the sun was still in its slumber beyond the languid shoulders of some celestial horizons when we streamed from the Internet his other work, “Psychedelic Sun”, side by side our discussions on the inspiration behind the words, the emotions, and the cords he so handsomely crafted as he venerated the sun that shines on sinners and saints alike.

Armor, of Ilonggo descent, played for my photographer and me his harmonica and his guitar that so blended well as if I was listening to The Corrs’ “Paddy McCarthy”. I hope the comparison is not an insult to the genius of more talented local musicians, but to find Armor play live at my workstation provided me this "MTV Unplugged" atmosphere.

Armor is currently doing solo performances with his guitar, harmonica and the drum machine.

“Sometimes with the sequencer, tribal instruments and toys I circuit bended. But live performance is just an extension of my music," Armor explained.

His real gigs are those times he spent planning, performing, recording and mixing different musical elements. In so doing, Armor described he is transformed into someone he wants to be.

“I become a scientist when my fingers move the different knobs and faders of the mixing console. I become a poet when I scribble the rhymes and metaphors. I become a rebel when I take off my shirt and plug the guitar in front of the microphone. And when I sing, I become a rock star!,” an emphatic Armor enumerated.

Nineteen of his 40 creations, errr…chorus lines, are posted at www.fiestamundo.com/armor. Full rendition of the songs is available at www.songplanet.com/armor. Most notable of these songs are "Rainy Tuesday Morning" and "Psychedelic Sun".

Music compels Armor to travel

Ang pagkadi ni Armor sang banwa sa Sugbo indi lang gid para sang iya mga kabiyanan kag mga kautoran na adi di. Armor makes this side-trip because he heard so much of the Cebuanos' deep love of music.

"I am amazed at the Cebuanos’ love of music that nestles deep down in your culture," he said.

More than anywhere else he had been, he loves the reception here when it comes to independent musicmakers like him.

Born January 6 in Jaro, Iloilo City, Armor later on found himself getting into hobbies and interests in songwriting, and song and jingle production and later on got a knack for creative writing having been equipped with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications major in Journalism degree from the West Visayas State University.

In 1991, he became a recording artist of Hiligaynon Records, and became a basic guitar instructor at the Yamaha School of Music, still in Iloilo in 1993. His creative writing led him to The Mediator, a college publication, as literary writer in 1995. In 1997, he was news writer for The Visayan Tribune; and a contributing writer for The Daily Informer in 1998.

Then he left the country for Oman where he worked as musician in Sur Beach Hotel in 1999; at the Hilton Hotel in Manama, Bahrain in 2000; and New Peninsula Hotel in Dubai in 2001. But he got tired of singing covers. He said doing such is an insult to the gift that he has as a musician. Had it not only been for monetary compensation, of course, he would have left outright when he was requested that very first night of work to sing songs that are readily available over FM stations, and Internet music chart Top 40s or at LaunchCast.

Indeed, fiestamundo very well described such situation - that for most artists, expressing their craft is sacrifice. They have odd jobs to feed their families and work nightly gigs to express their musical gifts. Others abandon any dreams of creativity to earn a stable living singing an endless repetition of Top 40 covers in the hotel lounges, bars and cruise ships of the world. Only a rare few achieve superstar status that will enable them to live comfortably in their chosen profession.

After sometime though, Armor returned to the country and did musical scoring for “Hablon”, an Ilonggo film, in 2002; for a stageplay “Wala Makakita Sang Pamanag-banag” also on same year. Today his works are featured at www.fiestamundo.com, a site dedicated to artists like him who at some point, began to get dissatisfied with copying songs that did not reflect Pinoy soul and who we are as a people.

Like that philosophy that fiestamundo is incorporating in its mission, Armor felt that artists have not been given an opportunity to lead the way into creating music that reflect our distinct identity and the vote of confidence to express originality and creativity, the reason why Filipino popular taste has remain stuck with, American cover songs for example.

Armor travels to promote his music

"It is a fact that we existed in a world where the advancement of audio technology results in a reinvention of presenting the beauty and science of poetry and sound," Armor wrote at his site at songplanet dot com.

"My songs are the result of this evolution. I mix electronically generated drumbeats and bass lines with live guitars and keyboards. I also use toys, tribal instruments and real life audio recordings.

"I wrote the poetry. And when I sing, I tell stories of stars and satellites, of the colors of the oceans like the eyes of a girl, of temples, mountains and skyscrapers that stand high like our hopes and aspirations as a human race. Thus my songs are crafted almost electronically. Yet it has a soul.

”I have several past recordings which includes “Sa Gihapon (As Always )” in 1991, my first single; “Ice Cream, Cakes and Chocolates (1995)”, my first album; and "Sunshine Satellite (2002)."””””

Armor first made his local chart debut in 1991, when he was still with his former band, "Balangaw". The single “Sa Gahipon” stayed at number 1 for four consecutive months. Deciding to go solo in 1995, his debut album “Ice Cream, Cakes and Chocolates” includes ten original tracks that fused acoustic guitar with ethnic and techno rhythm. The lead single “Bola” received a fair amount of radio play. He then released his second album in 2002. The twelve-track CD was entitled "Sunshine Satellite" which he collaborated with a certain songwriter/keyboardist Kristin Perez.

The following year he released his third album, "Walking on a Third World Street", which now fuses elements of new wave and electronica with poetic lyrics.

Two singles "I Wanna Be a Belly Dancer" and "We Are All Atoms" managed to top Internet music charts. Then in 2004, Armor released his fourth album "Primitive Device", which now fuses tribal sounds with electronic backbeats. Aside from recording and live performance, Armor has also worked as a musical scorer for various Ilonggo films and musical plays. He has also hosted songwriting seminars and helped other indie bands record their song in his home studio. He is currently working on his fifth album.

Armor said he is planning to release a CD, which will include live acoustic performances of his gigs here in Cebu, his tribute to the Cebuanos for upholding independent music. Among his accomplishments are staying as Top 100 artists at songplanet.com since July 2004, the only Filipino indie artist to be included on the charts. He is on # 59 with 128 airplays of his songs on Internet radio as of January 2006. "We Are All Atoms" is currently playing on Cebu City's 93.1 Smash FM.

Armor will be interviewed live via mobile phone by 90.1 FM Pinoy Rock Radio in America by Filipino DJ Kokoy sometime in February. Last year, he was interviewed by American DJ Jill No Jack for the "Lucky Fokker Show, by Francis Brew for NU 107’s "In-D-Raw" program and VJ John Doe for MTV Siesta.

Before Armor heads on to bring his music to Davao, catch him play live at Windsor Castle (Ninoy’s Payag) along Escario street Wednesdays at 9 pm. And other days at Café Shang in Mactan island. Such is also opportune time for one to get a copy of his album as he plays ten of his original compositions live in each of these venues.

After Armor would have finished touring the Visayas region and part of Mindanao early this year, he will return to Iloilo and live, in what he calls primitive style, in his native beach house for months to start working on his next CD before he comes back here. Kabay pa nga updan naton si Armor sang iya panakayong musika!


For your comments, reactions, suggestions, and contributions, crank up my email addy: pinay_mangatkatay@yahoo.com. For band/indie artists feature requests, text me at 09215323616. For previous articles, visit www.pinaymangatkatay.blogspot.com. Thanks!


Armor playing the guitar and harmonica simultaneously to accompany his original composition "Love". Photos by Chendrina Villarino Rosaroso