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Manila madness

October 6, 2011

I’m lucky enough to be making my way back from a fun-filled couple of days in Manila, mostly involving gossiping and wine drinking, chez my buddy Jo. Aside from the lavish buffet at the Peninsula Hotel and luxury manicure, one thing about The Philippines’ capital quite literally struck a chord with me – the whole Filipino take on music.

Now the question I had for Jo, who has lived in Manila for four years, was why do they take decent, billion-selling songs, by international artists, only to strip them bare and replace the vocals with their own high-pitched singers?

To me, their falsetto cover versions all sound the same.  The funny thing about it is that this isn’t genre specific and kept to the sentimental Celine Dion ballads…the Titanic theme being an overplayed favourite. Jo informs me that sometimes songs as edgy as Radiohead’s Creep can be given the whiney Filipino arrangement. Add to this a glockenspiel backing track and you are rocking Philippines style.

Headphones aren’t compulsory around Manila. It’s perfectly acceptable to stroll along the street, with your MP3 or phone blaring out the latest hits for all to share. I was a little taken aback on my outgoing flight, when the young chap next to me, pulled down his tray table and brazenly set up his laptop playlist of ‘mellow’ melodies to play out loud on the plane. I wasn’t sure about the Mariah renditions at first, but as the plane hit choppy post-typhoon clouds it was strangely comforting.  Imagine the frowns he’d get on the London Underground. He didn’t get any on Philippine Airways.

To experience Filipino music noise pollution levels to their full extreme, a visit to the colossal, five-level mall MARKET MARKET is a must. The name can only be spelt out in capital letters as the whole place shouts. It’s bold, brash and busy and is already adorned in Christmas decorations.

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