Electric Minstrel Bird

Freshly uploaded today at my website is the Menestral Catalog. This particular body of digital-art works brings me back to the mid 80s ― or even some years before that, when cassette tapes were precious to a teen-ager. As one, I remember saving money to buy myself blank TDKs, and to trade my low-fidelity cassette recorder for wearable Walkman music. But the real-deal then was getting myself a tape deck with double (or multiple) heads; a music component with flanger, discotheque vibe (and others) to satisfy my “Dolby-sound” standard of entertainment. It was a race to get quality sound stuck to my ears (when not booming 24/7 around the house).


I remember downtown Escolta, and its neighboring Raon district in Manila in the 70s, which was then regarded as the heyday-shopping mecca of music lovers and LP/vinyl addicts. Trips to Manila have become a pilgrim’s journey for me for it meant scoring piano books and hours of sitting inside booths, listening to records with my mother. We bought piles of them, and never to be forgotten was Asia’s Queen of Song, Pilita Corales. It was a luxury for us to have her albums, thus, proud to have her in our collection. With no MTVs back then, I became preoccupied with Pilita’s album jacket and somehow “heard” her sing and ride the carabao at the rice paddy ― in her terno, no less! I found the whole concept bizarre, yet unique, and very Pilipino. It was my first surreal OPM experience! As usual, Pilita was adorable. Her voice accompanied us on nights during the Martial Law years ― nights that appeared still, hushed and eerie for the child that I was.

Recently, I heard guest performing artists, Anthony Castelo and Heber Bartolome sing on DZMM tele-radio in celebration of Original Pilipino Music (OPM) week. Folk music and some songs which were popularly coined as “Manila Sound” of the 70s got me into a nostalgic trip. And here I am, I told myself: way much older, with my MP3s and a carry-all smartphone.

Presidents have come and gone, but music never left me. Music and play never stopped; and anywhere and everywhere in the ether, coming to Earth downloadable, the minstrel bird swoops and electrifies forever.

I am here seeing how years have passed, but it still holds true: from analog recording to all things digital, the love of music endures.

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