DK Tijam From The Pen Of A Music Lover

There are artists you like, whose songs you decide to put in a playlist you listen to every day.

And then there are artists whose music speaks to you and becomes a part of your life. DK Tijam is one such artist for me.

I have been listening to his music for more than a third of my life. When he joined Star in a Million in 2003, I was instantly hooked. R&B was only starting to creep into the mainstream back then. His R&B styling to his renditions resonated with me. When he sings another artist’s songs, he more than just covers it, he makes his own version just like what he did with Whitney Houston’s “Run to You.” I told myself: this was an artist I will be following since he and I probably shared the same musical interests.

A few years after, and my friends introduced me to Acoustic Strings, a bar in Timog where I first laid witness to the talented band Soulground. DK was one of the vocalists of the band. And his rendition of Charlie Wilson’s “Without You” is the best rendition my ears have ever heard. And that is saying a lot since my favorite female artist Kyla has a version of the same song.

I’ve been a frequent visitor of the bar ever since just to watch the music come alive. Despite his move to Canada years ago, I have signed up on Soundcloud to follow DK’s music. He has become the most influential male vocalist to my tastes. Maybe it’s because we incidentally share the same tastes in music. Or maybe it’s because he is the kind of artist who relies less on belting high notes, and more on storytelling by squeezing emotions out of the song.

DK Tijam has returned from Canada and will be having his homecoming show on January 27 at the Teatrino, Promenade in Greenhills. He will be joined by friends like one of his favorite female vocalists Kyla, his co-Star in a Million alumni Erik Santos, his former bandmate Froi Canlas, Star for a Night alumna Musica Cristobal, The Voice alumni Timmy Pavino, Elements, and friends from Soundcloud PH.

Kithara: One Hugot Can Go a Long Way

Kithara’s music resonates with the deep aches of their listeners. And this special connection between the OPM foursome and their supporters eventually gave birth to the Kitharistas, a group of listeners turned fans turned friends. So why do Kitharistas love the band so much? Well, let us count the ways.

  1. Dex is the group’s default heartthrob. Yes, he catches the fancy of most girls with his boy-next-door appeal. But besides that, he is actually a good singer. His husky voice seems to increase his pogi points, as some girls would even want to have a duet with him. Next time you visit their gig, ask him to sing James Ingram’s “There’s No Easy Way” and swoon.
  2. Jun, the band’s bassist, would at first seems like the silent serious ‘suplado’ type but he’s really very friendly and hasreally good memory. “Every time na magkikita kami, never niyang nakalimutan yung last ninyong napag-uspan tapos saka ka niya kakamustahin,” says Nedgee Hernandez.
  3. Pato, the group’s frontman, the bands hugot king. He makes the usually figurative “hugot” become literal as well. He will sit with the audience before and in between sets. This is really one of his ways to ask you to sing with the band. He holds a charm that will make you say yes to his request. Even if you’re not the best singer in the world, you’ll enjoy singing onstage with them because they can turn your anxious energy and hurt into something you and the rest of the audience can enjoy.
  4. Poli is the group’s de facto mysterious shy guy. Among the foursome, Poli is probably the “good boy.” Between sets, you will see him fiddling with his phone. I have watched him do this a lot of times. He is a guy that likes to keep busy, making sure that his time isn’t wasted. He could either be playing a game or using a guitar-related app. Nedgee Hernandez testifies, “Kung di mo kukulitin, di ka iimikin. Pero kalog din yan… Mabait din yan si Poli… Never ko din nakita yan si Poli na uminom. Palagi na lang water o juice.
  5. The people behind the group’s music videos, both on-cam and off-cam, are friends and fan-turned-friends. “Yung halos ubusin mo personal budget mo para sa music video production nung mga panahon na di pa nararating ng Kithara ang narating na nila ngayon,” says Ree Dunton. Mede Ozirab Releirol shares, “Yung tipong nakilala mo sila tapos ininvite ka sa mga gig, super enjoy, tapos ininvite ka para makasama ka sa music video, pinagpalit mo yun kahit mawalan ka ng trabaho, umabsent pa sa work para don lang kahit alam mong di mo sigurado if may work ka pang babalikan.
  6. Dex is a gaming addict. He likes to play mobile games when not playing his kahon. “Every after set nila eh direcho tutok sa phone niya kasi andami niyang nilalaro dun. Iba iba. Bawat kita ata namin may panibago na naman siyang naka-install.” – Nedgee Hernandez
  7. Their first single “To Move On” is a very personal song written and inspired by Pato’s then-broken heart. The song has reached another milestone when it was played on Gandang Gabi Vice. “Mapapaiyak ka sa mga hugot songs nila na tipong ubos na yung tissue di pa din tumitigil luha mo Kithara yung pag alam nilang may pinagdadaanan ka at broken hearted ka e sasadyain pa kumanta ng nakakaiyak. Pero pagkatapos nun, they will make you smile,” says friend and fellow vocalist Maria Maree.

If you really look into it, Kithara has earned the ears and hearts of many. Their down-to-earth nature makes it hard not to become friends with them even after just one drink. “Yung trato mo sa pamilya nila at mahal nila sa buhay ay parang pamilya na rin,” says Ree Dunton.

Indeed with Kithara and the Kitharistas, one hugot can go a long way.


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SONG REVIEW: Aba Bakit Hindi? – Nadine Lustre

Aba Bakit Hindi?” by Nadine Lustre shrugs off the need for a reason to fall in love with someone, even if that someone seems unacceptable to family and friends. The verses identify the guy as arrogant, grumpy, and crazy. These negative traits of the male love interest is too similar to the one described in the album’s third track “Mr. Antipatiko,” that the succeeding track “Aba Bakit Hindi?” becomes a musical and thematic sequel to the former.

Andami nilang hindi makaintindi / At ang tanong nila ay bakit / Aba’y bakit hindi?” While the last lines of the chorus would seem romantic, saying that other people does not understand her love for the guy, the same lines also expose that the girl does not understand it as well. Her only explanation is summed up by the song title, which is a Filipino expression people often use as a carefree excuse for doing something they can’t explain.

Ironically, near the two-minute mark, the song declares “Kahit ba gan’to / di naman kasi / pabasta-basta na lang kung umiibig.” These lines feel out of place as the words imply that love is not something simplistic in nature, that there is a significant reason to fall in love, while the rest of the song dismisses the attempt to find reason for falling in love, perhaps with a thought that the reason is unimportant.

The track employs a lot of repeated syllables, resulting in assonance, that make the song stick better to memory and sound as youthful as Nadine Lustre. The refreshing and bouncy R&B-laced pop beat is sure to worm its way into the ears of a willing music listener. This would seem to be the trademark of the songwriting duo Thyro Alfaro and Yumi Lacsamana, who were also responsible for most of the hits released by Viva artists like Sarah Geronimo’s “Ikot” and “Kilometro.”

Aba Bakit Hindi?” comes from Nadine Lustre’s 2014 self-titled five-track EP released by Viva Records.

Album review: Journey – Kyla

After taking a break from recording to focus on being a wife to basketball cager Rich Alvarez and mother to their first-born, Kyla is back with a new album. Journey is also her first-ever EP in her career spanning fourteen years marked by awards, both local and international.

The album starts off breezy with the jazzy track “Kunwa-Kunwari Lang,” the first single released in April 2014. The song is a proper introduction to the quirkiness and the wide range of sounds that Kyla has managed to meld together in the EP. Kyla plays with the vocals as easy as the wind lightly caresses a lace curtain.

The title track brings the listeners back to the warmth of her 2006 hit “Beautiful Days.” Although not a love song like the latter, “Journey” induces a smile with its positive theme, backed by vocal arrangement from Kyla’s good friends JayR, Billy Crawford, Kris Lawrence and Marcus Davis.

Probably the strongest from the six-track EP, “Dito na Lang” bleeds with emotion with every sound that comes out of Kyla’s mouth. This is a prime example of how Kyla is masterful at using her singing skills to tell a story. With beautiful phrasing and powerful dynamics, “Dito Na Lang” is definitely the album’s diva number.

A midtempo jam in the form of “I Got This” follows. This brings back Kyla in her quirky combination of pop, r&b and jazz sensibilities. Along with “Kunwa-Kunwari Lang,” this fourth track from the EP is reminiscent of Filipino jazz trio Baihana.

A duet with international singer-songwriter Brian McKnight follows. Beautifully written, “My Heart” is McKnight’s early wedding gift to Kyla. Their mutual admiration is evident in how they feed off each others’ vocals in this piano ballad. Both singers let loose with runs that the track could have used less of, but the beautiful dynamics makes this track sound like an impromptu and therefore all the more realistic performance.

“Atin ang Walang Hanggan” then reminds listeners that Kyla is still the country’s reigning R&B Princess. With instrumentation just as compelling, Kyla enriches the melody with swooning vocals that proves her skill as one of the pioneers of Philippine R&B.

Not as big as Kyla’s past full-length albums, the Journey EP will still undeniably impress fans and non-fans alike. The main strength of the EP is its versatility while remaining focused on Kyla’s mastery of her instrument that has won her the most number of wins by a female act in the Awit Awards.

Sebastian Castro Holds a Concert Unlike Any Other in Manila this August

Sebastian Castro will be performing in Manila’s F Club Philippines on August 15. After a successful show in London’s Two Brewers, Sebastian Castro brings his fun, sexy, and controversial gay-themed Bubble concert to Manila for the very first time.

The show is marked by colorful stage sets, sexy production numbers, quirky acting skits, endless costume changes, and in Sebastian Castro’s own words “the lip-synching voice every singer wishes he had.”

Philippine news organizations first began criticizing Sebastian Castro for his lip-synching back in April 2013 after his viral music video “Bubble.” Sebastian Castro responded to this via his social media accounts with a self-deprecating and witty remark: “But the worst singers make the best performers. Haven’t you ever seen a drag queen?”

Sebastian Castro has long made fun of his lip synching. Pretending to belt a high note to a pre-recording, he’ll pause to swig a beer half-sentence to crowds of laughter. With concert shows packing anywhere from 500 to 2,000 across international venues in Bangkok, Singapore, London, and now Manila, it would seem his fans would not have it any other way.

Still, the most surprising element of Sebastian Castro would have to be his lack of mainstream backing. Philippine showbiz is basically composed of three networks. While just about all major artists are contractually tied to either ABS-CBN, GMA, or TV5, Castro has created a sizable international online following (100,000+ Facebook fans, 70,000+ Twitter followers, 45,000+ Instagram followers). It would appear that this do-it-yourself approach may just be Sebastian Castro’s appeal.

Castro writes his own music, conceptualizes his own music videos, and even funds them himself. Recently, his fans have helped unburden him by funding his last music video through Kickstarter. Altogether, his fans have raised US$6,000 on their own so that Sebastian Castro could create his latest music video “You’re Gay.”

Sebastian Castro will be performing LIVE in Manila’s F Club Philippines on August 15. For tickets and reservations, please contact +639275516553. F Club Phillipines is located at E. Rodriguez Sr. corner Hemady Street, New Manila, 1204, Quezon City (In front of Hemady Square Mall).

KITHARA: Making Music for the Love of Music

Kithara is composed of Pato San Juan(lead vocals/percussion), Poli Policarpio (guitars), and Dex Galsim (cajon). Some listeners of today would be hard-pressed to identify the genre that Kithara plays. One of the things that make them distinct from other pop bands is that they make use of harmonies on top of acoustic music. This is very reminiscent of APO Hiking Society. In fact, their gig set list usually contain an APO medley. The audience just can’t help but take a leisurely break from their talking and drinking to listen and sing along with Kithara.

Kithara started as a trio in 2007, until suddenly Pato and Poli found themselves as a duo when their bandmate left them. They tried continue on as a duo, but realized that it just doesn’t work. This could have marked the end of Kithara. However, the love of making music prevailed, and it wouldn’t be a far cry to say that fate brings luck to those who work with love. Pato and Poli met Dex through the friendships they have maintained in their choir. They have come across a few bumps in the road when they seemingly restarted as a trio, with Poli describing a few initial gigs as disasters. The group remains standing until today with Pato maintaining a day job and Poli and Dex working as full-time musicians.

Pato’s voice is distinct in itself. The rasp in his voice gives a different flavor to the smokiness and soulfulness of his vocal style. Poli and Dex had to learn how to sync with their main vocalist. Although not formally trained as vocalists, the two were able to harmonize well with Pato. The three of them generate ideas individually regarding which songs to cover. Poli, with help from his two bandmates, attacks the instrumentation to give it an edge that would make it distinct from the original version.

Not limited to performing covers, Kithara also has six original songs under their name. Although unsigned and working without a band manager, the Filipino acoustic band had met moderate success in the past appearing in radio shows besides their bar and event gigs. Their original composition “To Move On” topped the charts of Love Radio Isabela for four months in 2012. Their music video for their song “Should I Leave You Now” entered the Pinoy Myx Countdown. These are but affirmations of Kithara’s ability as songwriters and hitmakers.

Fans of the band will be excited to know that the group’s latest original composition “My World is Your Love” will be released before the end of August 2014.

Kithara can be found playing their regular gigs at the following venues:

  • Forest Grill along Timog Avenue in Quezon City (Mondays)
  • InTune Restobar along Boni Avenue in Mandaluyong City (Fridays)
  • Ang Pulo inside Autocamp along Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City (Saturdays)

Tokyo EDM Invasion Gets Electric in Manila this August

For the first time in Manila, Red Alert Live and Love & House World bring you TOKYO EDM INVASION on August 2, 2014 (Saturday) 9pm at the SMX Convention Center. The most celebrated dance event from Tokyo’s number 1 club, Womb, is set to rock the stage with internationally-acclaimed resident DJs with headliners Dantz, Ayumi, Tsubee and Daijiro, performing in a one-night show.

DANTZ is one of most influential DJs and producers of EDM in Japan, and is the main act of the EDM event with Love & House World now on its 10th anniversary. He has toured in Macau, Philippines, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands in the summer of 2013 and has succeeded with his own Japanese technical style. He will be collaborating and will release tracks with the Top DJs in 2014.

Expect a spectacular and high-powered electronic dance music event that will transport EDM fans to the Land of the Rising Sun featuring the Kai-Zen Dance Crew and Philippine All-Stars, Taiko Drum Master Makoto Yamamoto, Visual Jocks Nijiiro and Dynamo, Ninjutsu exhibitionists, MC Sam Rhansum, BYS Philippines’ geisha girls, Ninja Academy’s parkour ninjas, VIP service, Japanese Cuisine and superb entertainment. VIP and SVIP guests can complete the authentic Japanese clubbing experience at the Geisha House and Shibuya-inspired Neon Strip Lounge.

Joining the show are some of the best local DJs to represent the Philippines—award-winning top DJ, Ace Ramos; the first female DJ duo, Deuce Manila; and EDM Philippines DJ duo, Curse & Bless, merging beautifully traditional Filipino instruments with modern electronic dance music.

Ticket prices: GA: P950; VIP: P3,200; SVIP: P5,300. For tickets, table reservation & inquiries, contact (+63916) 7777229, (+632) 6310771, or

Song Review: This Love Is Like – Toni Gonzaga

This Love Is Like,” a synth-heavy dance-ready track, is a refreshing release from Toni’s usual repertoire of romantic (to the point of sappiness) love songs from her movies. While “This Love is on Air” can work well as a club banger, the song is more of a song of worship. Toni, a member of the Methodist Church, co-wrote the song with seasoned composer and music producer Jonathan Manalo.

DJ and music producer KidWolf did well in delivering a steady stream of energy via the track’s storm of electronic beats. In fact, if a listener did not know who Toni Gonzaga was, they would have thought this to be an international release as the sound can be compared to Katy Perry’s employment of pop and EDM sensibilities.

The lyrics, while generally well-written, have a few spots that felt unclear. “I feel your supernatural,” the hook proclaims only to leave what seems to be an adjective hanging. Your supernatural what? It would be pushing the envelope to say that this is an example of artistic license, just so it could rhyme with the next line which ends with another word that does not provide a clearer message to the former. It is a good thing that Toni as a vocalist is able to convey the emotion that the lyrics of that section lacks. A less capable vocalist wouldn’t have been able to do the same. The verses actually are better written than the hook: “I am mortal, you’re eternal. I am bound to limitations. But there is something in between us that is giving me the freedom.

This may be Toni Gonzaga’s most sophisticated single to date. It is more or less certain that she will continue to spew out tired old ballads revived from decades past as the mainstream industry may probably have her do as a TV personality-slash-actress-slash-recording-artist. However, there will always be fans of the singer in Toni Gonzaga who can only hope that she continues down the solid road of genuine artistry that “This Love is on Air” is taking her.