SAN FRANCISCO – New music and live performances from Manila-based artists at the cutting edge of contemporary Filipino culture will be featured at the launch of a groundbreaking EP record, Manila Rising, from the new music label, Barkada Worldwide, on Saturday, September 15 at Undiscovered SF, a Filipino night market in the heart of SOMA Pilipinas, the Filipino Cultural and Heritage district.
Barkada Worldwide is a music label that is the brainchild of its founder, Mark Herlihy, a veteran producer and curator in the San Francisco Bay Area and founder of the legendary Future Primitive Sound, a highly influential San Francisco event production company, record label, and art gallery that had its heyday in the ‘90s to early 2000s.
A native of Batangas, Philippines, Herlihy emigrated to the United States when he was seven years old. Twelve years ago, his ailing grandparents and duties with the family business brought him back to the motherland for the first time in years. He took the opportunity to rediscover his roots. “I started looking for what was cool. Looking for cutting edge art, cutting edge music… the culture that I like to sniff out for, emerging artists and things like that.”
This inquiry was done under a fog of preconceived notions about contemporary Philippine culture.
“I was going under the misconception that I think a lot of Filipino Americans have, that all there is [in the Philippines] is karaoke and variety shows, and that the culture is derivative of western tastes.”
This cultural prejudice quickly dissipated and vanished upon finding the unexpected.
“I found these cool underground clubs and bars. I was blown away. I realized that it was more cutting edge than what I was seeing in the States or at least every bit as modern.”
As a producer and curator, Herlihy recognized the uniqueness of the scene through the varied influences that informs it.
“It’s not limited to just strictly western influences. They don’t have mass media piped down their throats, so everybody finds things online and through people who travel back home and give information.”
He also became aware of people’s varying perspectives brought about by the harsh reality of the wide and distinct economic divide in Philippine society that differs, if it’s not less pronounced, from Filipino American life.
“The economic range is so varied. You have artists who come from real hardship and poverty and you have artists who come from a different economic reality and have access to a broader spectrum.”
The variety of cultural influences and information plus the socio-economic disparity and its challenges coupled with the impulse to make sense of it all are vital ingredients that fuel creative output—these are the circumstances that bring about amazing art. Herlihy realized that the Philippines is fertile ground for contemporary art and culture, and it reignited his passion.
“I had kind of lost a little bit of that passion when San Francisco started changing. With my old label, we were doing really cool things in the late ‘90s to early 2000s, and it was a much different place. It was a fertile ground for music and art. And I found the same fertile ground [in Manila] in a heavy way and a very unique way.”
Out of this reignited passion and inspiration came Barkada Worldwide, a music label that was created as “a platform for underserved cutting edge musicians out there who don’t have a voice in the west.”
It will also serve as a bridge between cutting edge contemporary Filipino artists and Filipino Americans as well as provide the opportunity for artists in the Philippines.
“I think it will be empowering for both in a sense that Filipino Americans unlearn the notion that Manila art and music is behind, and for artists in the Philippines to have access to dollars and euros.”
Herlihy also envisions his music label as a platform for cultural exchange and collaboration between Filipinos and Filipino Americans artists.
“I plan on doing a balikbayanthing, remixes of Filipino artists by Fil-Ams and Filipinos remixing American tracks. What we want to do is to create the equivalent of Afrobeat or baile funk but with a Filipino twist.”
The initial release of this fresh music label is Manila Rising,an EP collection of singles by cutting edge and emerging future soul artists from the Manila underground music scene.
“I’m starting with future soul because I personally feel like that is the most cutting edge in the world right now. There’s a lot of cool stuff coming from that genre.”
Four of the future soul artists featured in the EP are coming to hit the stage for the very first time in San Francisco: Singer-songwriter and producer, BP Valenzuela; musician and producer, RH XANDERS aka Richard Alexander; producer, songwriter, and beatmaker, King Puentespina aka CRWN; and Lustbass, the project of artist and producer Allan Malabanan.
Manila Risingis slated to be a series of EPs that feature a variety of Filipino artists across different genres that is schedule to be released throughout the year.
“At first it was gonna be a full album, and I’ve got enough for a full album, but the way people go buy records now, they want a little bit, they want to keep it going. I just want to show that contemporary side first [with future soul], but there’s amazing indie rock, amazing jazz… I want to cover it all.”
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