Growing up stateside, the only music from the Philippines I knew was my Grandmother’s lullabies. But digging through my Dad’s records one summer I came across a gem: The Soul Jugglers. Made up of local musicians and African-American US troops stationed in Subic, these dudes had so much swag. An undeniably smooth Pinoy funk band, if it wasn’t for their Tagalog lyrics, The Soul Jugglers could pass for Motown proper. They strung together the kind of sound only Shaft could walk out to if he was a perm-haired manong in 1970s Metro Manila.
That record helped crack a history and heritage that wasn’t really talked about at home. The Soul Jugglers were among other Philippine bands that found creating music as respite during Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law. They defined the music eras through experimentation and surged into new sonic territories. There was joy to be found on those stages and studios, even when the world outside was deprived of it.
On new compilation Tropical Diskoral, this spirit lives on. Against a current Duterte political climate, it is this generation’s outcry in the form of dance music. “This compilation comes at a time of paradoxes in the music scene in the Philippines,” writes creator and producer/DJ UNOS, a Filipina based in Belgium. “Creative voices are somewhat stifled,” she continues. Tropical Diskoral lifts that silence through artists like Ube Jam, LUSTBASS, Like Animals and Paola Mauricio.
Notably, Ube Jam’s “Public Service Announcement,” is a mid-tempo house track that hints at political pushback. Every mention of drugs, signals the trade-off from a sparse and steady bass line to intricate and vibrant, substance-friendly synths, prime for undergrounds from Makati to Brussels. In any other era, “PSA” could just be another dance floor hit. And whether intentional or not, there’s some irony in how this song hits harder and with more intention at each muttering of Duterte’s sworn enemy— “drugs” — with sounds that are a much needed chill pill.
Listen to “Public Service Announcement below” and peep all of Tropical Diskoral Vol. 1 here.