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November 13, 2009

Inquirer.net | Never too late to go mainstream

By:  Pocholo Concepcion

MANILA, Philippines – Why, Noel Cabangon asked himself, would a major record label be interested in signing him up now?

At 45 years old, Cabangon felt he was “chronologically a bit advanced” to go mainstream, even if the idea of being heard by more people doesn’t sound bad at all to him.

Yesterday, Universal Records hosted a media launch for Cabangon’s new album, “Byahe” – the first of a two-record deal.

It may be amusing to see how the bulk of Cabangon’s fans (he prefers to call them his “followers”) at ’70s Bistro – where he spent a long residency as the folk-rock club’s Wednesday attraction –would react to the new album. In an e-mail interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday, Cabangon described “Byahe” as “revisiting the OPM classics of the ’70s and ’80s,” with songs like “Kahit Maputi Na Ang Buhok Ko,” “Pinay” and “Kay Ganda Ng Ating Musika” in the lineup.

But before anyone of his followers shouts, “Whaaaat?” consider these facts:

Apparently Universal’s initial strategy is to introduce Cabangon to the widest possible market with some of the most familiar hits that would suit his music. As Cabangon puts it, he was “given the freedom to work on the songs” as befits his acoustic sound. He likes the songs, in the first place. “‘Kahit Maputi’ is very appropriate for my age. I grew up singing ‘Pinay’ and it even became part of my repertoire as a folk singer. “‘Kay Ganda’ encapsulates the whole album,” he said.

And that’s just icing on the cake. There’s also a remake of “Tao,” arguably the greatest Pinoy rock ballad of all time, which Cabangon decided to cover because “I haven’t heard of a male version of the song.”

Now, this is where his followers would rejoice: Imagine a new version of “Kanlungan,” one of the loveliest odes to the environment (written by Cabangon’s former band mate in Buklod, Rom Dongeto, later given new life in a McDonald’s TV commercial), as a duet with Imago’s Aia de Leon; and still another interpretation of “Dito Sa Kanto” with Parokya ni Edgar’s Chito Miranda joining in on vocals.

Cabangon noted that a new composition, “Ang Buhay Nga Naman” (theme song of the Oscar-bound indie film “Ded Na Si Lolo”), is likewise in the new album.

Back to his own question on why the majors would want him now in his middle age, the logical answer could only be: Why not, because even the top Pinoy rock band Bamboo knows how good Cabangon’s past work is when it covered Buklod’s “Tatsulok.”

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