x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pop thrillers from Manila

q&a Jett Pangan, lead singer of The Dawn - one of the Philippines' leading new-wave bands - spoke to us about Manila's rock scene prior to his gig at Dubai's Rakrakan Fest.

Jett Pangan, front right, with his band, The Dawn.
Jett Pangan, front right, with his band, The Dawn.

Since the mid-1980s, Jett Pangan has been the lead singer of The Dawn, one of the Philippines' leading new-wave bands. He spoke to us about Manila's rock scene, and musical theatre prior to his gig at Dubai's Rakrakan Fest tomorrow.

I have a term for that. I call it six degrees of everybody. Everybody knows everybody else. It's a tight community because the music scene in Manila is very united. It's not easy to pursue music in the Philippines. It's only now that the doors of commercialism are opening for bands like us. Bands right now get endorsements, commercials, telenovelas or whatever you call them. But when we started in 1986 that was unthinkable, because original music by bands was mainly underground. As a by-product, everybody knows everybody else. In the end, when somebody needs a member, they just basically ask the guy: are you doing anything? Are you in a band now? Want to play for us? It works out beautifully.

You know a lot about me, huh? I've done quite a lot of musical-theatre stints. Because I'm not afraid, basically. And there are people who aren't afraid to try me out, you know? Musical theatre in the Philippines has expanded, and these people aren't afraid to hire people outside of their realm to see what other colours they can bring to the stage. That is one thing I really took advantage of. And it's worked well. It's helped me as a musician, because of the discipline that musical theatre teaches.

Right now we are busy promoting our new album [the Dawn's 11th studio album, The Later Half of Day]. It's yet another unprecedented turn for the band in the sense that we went for a jazzier, chill-out kind of music. A lot of people were surprised - and pleasantly so - because The Dawn is known for arena-sized, anthemic rock. This time we went to the extreme. We went into sort of a loungier style, just for a break. So we're going to come up with a much noisier album in March.

I didn't know that! I don't really dig on awards and stuff like that, but thanks for letting me know. But it's an honour for WXB 102 to actually induct the song, because WXB 102 was the underground radio station during the 1980s and that's where Enveloped Ideas was first heard.

Oh yeah, it's a song that we can't not play. If the Rolling Stones have Satisfaction, we have this.

Absolutely not. It's easy for a musician to say, I'm sick of playing this night in, night out. But if you look at it from another perspective, people aren't sick of it, they love to hear it. If you can bring smiles and joy to people, why not? And the song is integral to the band. It's like wearing a shirt that defines you.

Oh, you bet. Tomorrow, The Dawn join fellow Filipino bands Bamboo, Kamikazee and Pupil to play Rakrakan Fest 2008 at Dubai Festival City. Call 04 3979058 for information.
elake@thenational.ae