The Sound of Cebu: Exploring the local music scene

Nestled in the heart of the Queen City of the South, lies a hidden gem that pulsates with rhythm, creativity and passion. This gem can’t be seen in a grand hall or a prestigious recording studio; but rather, in mostly modest spaces filled with the soulful melodies of a small but tightly knit community of musicians

Here you will find musicians of all ages and backgrounds, divided by the genres they pursue, but united by their love of music. From veterans who have been in the industry for decades to wide-eyed newcomers looking to make a name for themselves, each member of this community brings a unique voice to this symphony of sounds.

Let’s dive into the vibrant tapestry of this closely-knit community, exploring some of its members, the spaces they inhabit, and the struggles they share as fellow artists in Cebu. As we step into this diverse world, we encounter the life-force of the scene: the artists that call this place home.

Starting things off, we have the band known as Awkward Dancer, an up and coming band consisting of 4 members that range from established veterans to fresh on the scene rookie.

Starting their journey in December of 2023 as a 1-time cover band for a gig at the time, Jb, Jeremy, Joshua, and Crisniño felt something click in that moment and decided to pursue music together.

Initially aiming to be a doom metal project, they would find that the alternative rock genres of grunge and shoegaze better fit how they wanted to express themselves. “There’s a lot of like elements there that we think are appropriate to how we feel at this current time”, Crisniño Aleman, their guitarist, said.

Venturing further into the local music landscape, we find ourselves face-to-face with a Kubra. Taking inspiration for the name from the 80s G.I. Joe animated series, Bobbi Olvido started Kubra Commander in his friend’s garage back in 2016.

Bobbi aimed to create a band with a flexible, revolving door of band members whose line-up for recordings and performances would depend on the availability of its members and he would be in-charge of the group’s creative direction. As of the moment, the main band lineup is composed of: Bobbi Olvido, Jah Acab, Mich Pacalioga, JB Villagonzalo, JJ Dayak, and Tim Williams.

The band draws from acts like Coldplay, the Cure, and Tame Impala putting them into the genre of Indie-Rock.

Rounding off our exploration of Cebuano music is Hollywood Folk Hogan, a band whose melodic roots are in Folk and American Country music.

The band started off as a solo act by one of its founding members, Ricky Coyoca, their guitarist and lead vocalists, did a solo acoustic act while performing with his former band in Pampanga.

When asked for the reason behind such unique choice of music genre, Ricky stated, “highly saturated ang Cebu band scene as Indie, ug Hardcore [metal]…so we’re doing off-beat genre that would somehow resonate sa ear sa listeners.”

Diversity and Unity in Music
Reflecting on the diverse genres and styles showcased by these bands, it’s clear that Cebu’s local music scene has become a melting pot of creativity and expression.

From alternative rock to indie, to folk and american country music, each of these bands brings with them a unique perspective that enriches the local community with their distinct sounds.

Despite their differences, these bands are united by their love for music and their passion for creating meaningful music together.

Challenges in the local scene
However, it’s not all sunshine and roses for local bands as they face a myriad of challenges, many of the local gigs are done in a ‘Do It Yourself’ effort. “The people who are organizing the productions, organizing the show are actually the bands themselves, the artists themselves,” explained Bobbi.

They not only have to spend for the purchase and maintenance of their equipment, they also often have to shoulder the expenses of hosting shows. “Ang banda kay bisyo jud siya, kay mas mu gasto ka kaysas maka earn ka,” said Llywi Ripper, of Hollywood Folk Hogan

Not only that, they also have difficulties when it comes to getting venues for their gigs. “We don’t have a lot of venues that cater to local original music”, Bobbi noted.

Add in the difficulty of maintaining their day jobs while simultaneously trying to find a time when all members of the band are free for practices and performances, then it’s clear to see just how much of a struggle it can be for local musicians.

Accomplishments and looking ahead
Thankfully, things are taking a turn for the better as local bands have pushed to bring back door fees/entrance fees for events. A practice that sadly died down sometime in the 2000s.

With its return plus the added revenue from selling band merchandise, though it might not be much, some bands are starting to earn back some of the money they invested into their passion project.

There’s also hope for further growth among local audiences as all the bands have taken notice of the growing attendance of the youth at local gigs. Local artists are also starting to resonate with national audiences as bands like Kubra Commander have started to get booked for gigs in Manila.

And although breaking into the national stage is a goal for many of the bands, they’re all still very grateful to be playing at the local stage. “As nice as it would be to play in Manila, it’s actually also just as gratifying to play just in Cebu because of how the people are receptive to different styles of music,” remarked Crisniño.

In conclusion, our trip into Cebu’s music scene has shown us a story of creativity, resilience, and determination forged by a community of dedicated musicians who take it upon themselves to keep local original music alive.

Whether playing on a big stage or in a small time bar, these musicians remind us of the power of music to unite, inspire, and uplift us all. As we look to the future of local music, let us remember that supporting local music doesn’t imply that you do it no matter what. As Bobbi from Kubra Commander put it, “It’s easy to say support local, but chances are you won’t like everything you hear diba? Because you have your preferences. So I think the right way to approach it is to support your local music preferences.”

Raphael Jon Chavez | Cebu Daily News