The legendary Filipino band Rivermaya reconnects with their former frontman Bamboo for a Dubai double-header.
Same venue, different paths
Although it is completely way-out to think of it as a reunion affair, the forthcoming Dubai double-header gig featuring the Filipino music legends Rivermaya and Francisco “Bamboo” Mañalac provokes interest, especially to those who are well aware of the history surrounding the two acts.
As one of the biggest Filipino bands during the 1990s, Rivermaya stormed into mainstream success through a succession of hit singles such as 214, Ulan, Kisapmata, Himala and Hinahanap-hanap Kita, among others.
Serving as the band’s frontman then was a young and charismatic singer nicknamed Bamboo. Eventually, Bamboo left the band to live quietly in the US before staging a comeback in 2002 with a new group and then embarking on a solo career.
Rivermaya, for their part, soldiered on after Bamboo’s departure and continued to release memorable tunes amid constant line-up changes and shifting trends.
Currently, Rivermaya are bannered by the founding member Mark Escueta (vocals, guitars and drums) along with Mike Elgar (guitars, vocals), Ryan Peralta (drums and percussions) and Norby David (bass and vocals).
We caught up with the band, who shared some of their thoughts days before their scheduled Dubai performance on Friday at the World Trade Centre.
Is this your first time to perform in the UAE?
Norby David: Yes, and we’re excited about it.
Being a seasoned band, how would you describe the Filipino audience abroad with the audience back home?
Mark Escueta: Filipinos who work abroad are our modern-day heroes. Most of them have to endure long periods of time away from their loved ones so every opportunity that we get to give them a little piece of home is really priceless. The audience become part of the show and we’re watching them as much as they’re watching us. Because they miss the Philippines and their families so much, they tend to know the lyrics better than the people back home and they’re not ashamed to sing as loud as they can.
Mike Elgar: I think it’s pretty much the same except that we feel that Filipinos abroad really miss going home. But doing shows back home feels somewhat the same because there are always a lot of first-timers in the audience.
What keeps Rivermaya going?
Escueta: Passion and love for making and playing music, and it’s a really, really fun occupation. Of course, the support of Rivermaya music fans has been unparalleled throughout our 19-year career.
Elgar: We’re very happy with what we do, and the bonus part is we get to make people happy.
David: Passion. We love what we do, and we appreciate the people who accept what we do.
After going through various member changes, had you ever thought of disbanding?
Escueta: No, it never crossed our minds.
Elgar: Never. People change, priorities change. We just had to accept that and move on. We still believe in this band and we will always believe.
Looking back, what makes Rivermaya songs endure the test of time?
Escueta: Once a song is released and someone appreciates it, to a certain degree, it becomes his or her song. We have no idea or no control over why they end up loving our music. Their reasons are entirely their own, completely personal, but this creates a timeless connection between us and that person.
Elgar: I guess a lot of people can relate with our songs. It also helped that most of them are easy to sing along with.
How does it feel sharing the bill with the band’s former vocalist, Bamboo?
Escueta: Though this isn’t the first time, it’s always great being in the same show with Bamboo. We both have new music to share, apart from the old hits.
Elgar: It’s always fun when we get together for a show or some private thing that we usually have. This is the second time that we’re doing a show together since he went solo.
David: We did a few shows in New Zealand with him and his band last year. It was a lot of fun then, so we’re looking forward to a fun show this time around as well.
Will you join Bamboo onstage?
Escueta: Nothing is planned. We’ll see when we get there.
Is the Dubai show an indication of more shared gigs between Bamboo and Rivermaya?
Escueta: Could be. Let’s see.
David: Well, it has caused quite a buzz in Manila and there they’ve been asking if it will ever happen back home. We don’t want to assume anything. Let’s just see how this show goes.
Most 1990s bands are doing reunion shows both in the Philippines and abroad. Is there a chance for a Rivermaya reunion concert?
Escueta: Everyone is busy promoting new stuff at this point. Maybe someday there will be time to reminisce.
Elgar: There are no plans yet. Maybe it will happen in the future, who knows? But as of now, I cannot say there will be a reunion.
David: We always just say: “Why do a reunion concert if Rivermaya never disbanded?”
What can we expect for the show?
Escueta: A night of fun, laughter, music and fun.
Elgar: We will give you an amazing show. Bamboo will give you an amazing show. Definitely a fun night for everyone.
David: Be ready to sing along!
• Rivermaya and Bamboo perform at Dubai World Trade Centre on Friday. Gates open at 5pm. Tickets, priced Dh145 (general admission) and Dh245 (grandstand), are available at Ticketmaster