Legendary: How Alamat is Making P-Pop History One Song at a Time
September 22, 2023
On Aug. 25, a staggering 38,115 spectators flocked to the Philippine Arena for the opening ceremonies of the FIBA World Cup 2023 and Gilas Pilipinas' inaugural game. As the lights dimmed, the massive venue resonated with a melodious rhythm reminiscent of Philippine folk music. Dressed in ANTONINA's reworked suits featuring Pinilian weaves, P-Pop group Alamat took the stage, captivating the crowd with a mesmerizing live performance of their hit song, “Maharani.”
With lyrics embracing our local languages and a choreography inspired by native Filipino dances, “Maharani” proved to be the perfect song for this historic moment. As the Philippines shattered the live attendance record for a FIBA game, Alamat etched their mark in history. Performing on such a grand scale not only held monumental significance but also solidified their distinct brand of P-Pop — one that deeply resonates with Filipinos and proudly celebrates our rich and diverse culture.
Legend in the Making
Right from the beginning, Alamat emerged as a unique form of P-Pop that proudly celebrates Filipino culture. In the 2020s, a new wave of artists burst onto the music scene, influenced by K-pop and J-Pop.
We witnessed the rise of idol groups, each boasting impressive vocal talents and captivating dance routines. Alamat, right from its inception, was envisioned to break free from conventions and celebrate the rich tapestry of Filipino culture.
In 2020, Viva Artists Agency (VAA), in collaboration with Ninuno Media, headed by the multi-awarded director Jason Paul Laxamana, launched a nationwide talent search called “PWEDE: The National Boyband Search.” The concept has always been to form a multilingual group that seamlessly blends pop music with Filipino heritage.
Auditionees came from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, and the shortlisted hopefuls underwent training to become part of what would eventually become Alamat. Although the group that debuted on Feb. 14, 2021, consisted of nine members, only six remained to make up the Alamat we know today: Tomas from Albay, R-Ji from Eastern Samar, Taneo from Kalinga, Mo from Zambales, Jao from Pampanga, and Alas from Davao.
Laxamana, who also serves as the group’s creative director, was the one who coined the name “Alamat,” which translates to “legend” in English. The meaning behind their name serves as a guiding compass for the group, reflecting their aspirations and the cultural heritage they aim to preserve.
In an interview with The Beat Asia, they explained that “legends are stories passed down to the youth, sparking their imagination and preserving our cultural heritage.”
“We aim to do the same in everything we do. Legends are also figures we look up to, and we aspire to be one of them someday,” they added.
If the past two years are any indication of what Alamat has in store, they are certainly on track to achieve this goal and much more.
Loving and Promoting Our Own
Some might wonder: Wouldn't it be challenging to maintain a multilingual, multiethnic branding for the group? According to Alamat, the Philippines is rich in cultural and linguistic diversity. “We want to keep this diversity alive and showcase the beauty of our Filipino heritage. It may be a risky and difficult path, but we are continuously training ourselves and learning from our experiences to make the best of what we do,” they shared.
Alamat sings in seven Philippine languages: Tagalog, Ilocano, Kapampangan, Bicolano, Waray-Waray, Hiligaynon, and Bisaya. Each member contributes lyrics in their own languages, with Mo, Taneo, and Alas often taking the lead in songwriting.
Their debut single, “kbye,” which currently has 1.8 million views on YouTube, was a collaboration between the members and Laxamana. For an opening salvo, it left a mark on many and even placed number two on Billboard's Next Big Sound chart in 2021.
In addition to writing their songs, the group collaborates with different producers and writers, including Thyro Alfaro, who also has a string of hits under his belt. Alfaro wrote and produced “Maharani,” Alamat’s most-streamed song on Spotify. For those unfamiliar with Alamat, “Maharani” serves as a gateway to the group. From the lyrics to the music video, it encapsulates what Alamat is all about.
The track highlights southern Philippine and Southeast Asian maritime music with a touch of neo-soul while also incorporating instruments like kanun, gamelan, and gangsa. To tie everything together, the song’s music video features the Philippine folk dance singkil, while the choreography by Jim Amen draws inspiration from three native Pinoy dances related to courtship: takik, pangalay, and beneracion. The enchanting moves of the choreography even spawned a challenge on TikTok, with the members posting their clips.
“Maharani” is included in the group’s extended play titled “Pasulong,” launched in 2022, which also features songs like “Gayuma,” “Aswang,” and “ILY ILY” featuring Lyca Gairanod.
The dedicated fandom of the group, known as the Magiliws, would certainly agree that there's nothing quite like eagerly awaiting the comeback of your favorites. Alamat delighted their fans with “Day and Night” on June 14, an upbeat song that captures the enchantment of wanting to be with someone you love, making it a perfect bop for the summer season.
In signature Alamat fashion, the music video, featuring actress Jane de Leon, drew inspiration from Bicolano mythology, with de Leon taking on the role of “Magindara,” a mythological sea creature or mermaid. The song undeniably became one of the standout hits of the summer, amassing over 451,000 views on YouTube and nearly 800,000 streams on Spotify.
A month after the release of “Day and Night,” during the 2023 PPOPCON, the group announced that their second album, titled “IsaPuso,” would be arriving within the year. To further stoke the excitement of fans, the second pre-release single from the new album, “Walang Hanggan,” dropped on Aug. 11 following a series of online teasers.
While “Walang Hanggan” carries a mellower tone compared to Alamat's previous releases, it vividly showcases the group's versatility and ability to offer diverse music styles beyond those characterized by heavy choreography.
What Does It Take to Become a Legend?
When faced with this question, the members of Alamat offered a diverse range of perspectives.
Taneo believes that knowledge is power, while Jao emphasizes the significance of confidence. Mo's focus is on making them masters of their craft, while Tomas places a high value on relatability. Meanwhile, R-Ji places great importance on passion, while Alas values leaving a legacy.
Their individual beliefs might vary, but upon closer look, it becomes evident that each one's convictions contribute to the overall success of the group.
This became palpable on the night they conquered the FIBA stage. Thousands were in attendance, with possibly hundreds of thousands more tuning in from around the world. Despite having only four days to rehearse, the members were determined to deliver their best performance.
“We felt that we've come a long way. Our dreams are gradually coming true,” the group shared. “Our mission as Alamat is to showcase what being Pinoy is about, and it's coming to life. There's still a long way to go, but we will keep pushing forward to experience more of these moments.”
The group is also garnering recognition, with Alamat receiving multiple nominations for the 2023 Awit Awards. “Pasulong” is nominated for Album of the Year, “Sa Panaginip Lang” is in the running for Best Pop Recording, “Maharani” is vying for the Best Performance by a Group Award, plus six more nominations. Alamat shows no signs of slowing down, as they remain committed to pushing forward and realizing their dreams.
Their first concert, aptly titled “Dagundong,” is scheduled for Dec. 1 at the New Frontier Theater. Magiliws were quick to secure tickets as early as September, eagerly anticipating another milestone for the group.
In the ever-evolving landscape of music, where new groups emerge and trends shift, Alamat remains committed to embracing what the Philippines has to offer and bringing it to light. With songs that celebrate diversity and the Filipino spirit, the group continues to offer music that resonates with the heart and speaks to the soul.
As they continue to push boundaries, deliver memorable performances, and share their love for the Philippines with the world, Alamat is a legend in the making, etching their name into Philippine music history one song at a time.
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