Listening to the music of Filipino-American singer Bamboo can be a cathartic experience, even if you don’t understand his language, Tagalog. So many of his songs, such as ‘Kailan’, ‘Hudas’ and ‘Probinsyana’, are larger-than-life rock anthems that are sung with so much feeling that it transcends any barriers.
Once thing’s for sure, his tracks deserve a big stage production with people in the audience chanting the lyrics. After the quiet few years performers have had thanks to the pandemic, Bamboo is finally back at it — and extremely happy about returning to the stage.
The 45-year-old musician, who kicked off his career in 1994 as the vocalist and frontman of the rock band Rivermaya, has been touring in the US and is returning to Dubai to showcase his talents once again. Bamboo, also known as Bamboo Manalac, will go all out at the 1MX Dubai concert on December 3, alongside other Filipino artists Moira Dela Torre, Gigi De Lana, EZ Mil, BINI and BGYO.
Ahead of his performance, the Pinoy icon spoke to Gulf News about his journey through the pandemic and his former band Rivermaya.
How does it feel to be back in Dubai?
It feels good to be back in Dubai ... especially during this time. It’s a crazy time in the world right now. But to be back in Dubai, to play live music in front of a live audience, nothing better.
You said he just came back from San Francisco and that you’ve been touring. How has touring been?
I guess the word is ... I don’t know if this will fit it but [it feels] sort of surreal. It was eight shows in the US and I never thought that day would come after [the pandemic]. Initially when I when I got on stage, I was a bit emotional, to be honest. Because I couldn’t believe I was finally doing this again.
Did you shed any tears?
I think during rehearsals, to be honest. During rehearsals it was like, ‘man, I’m back.’
During the pandemic, when you couldn’t tour, what was going through your mind? Was it like ‘I just want to get back on stage again’? Was that something you were thinking about a lot?
It was! I was frustrated as well. Initially when this all happened, I was saying ‘I will be back in like three months and I’ll be back on tour’, and then three months becomes six, a year. So it’s been tough.
You’ve been to Dubai quite a bit to perform. What was the vibe like before and are you expecting the same?
I’m expecting a crazier vibe if [there are any] indications from the US tour [because of] how people are starved for this. Considering it’s the holiday season coming up and people want to celebrate. I think it’s time we reclaim that sort of spirit.
Do you remember the first time you performed in Dubai?
I do, I think. It was awesome because there was a lot of people. That was one good thing ... An image that stayed with me when I left the venue — the exodus of people leaving ... droves of people. It was an amazing thing to see.
During the pandemic, were you creating music and trying to stay active or were you taking it easy?
Initially, I was active. Initially, we were all very supportive of each other given the times, especially the first responders. We were supporting them in Manila. And then at some point that got quiet and then I got quiet as well. You come to a point that this is way past music, way past what I’m doing, and I’m starting to worry about family ... So music was on the back burner.
Do you feel like in the future, your music might be informed by what happened during the pandemic? Has it already impacted your music or your creativity?
I think it will impact it … This is a time of reflection. So I asked myself all these questions like, ‘what does this is all mean for me?’ ‘What’s really happening with me?’ ‘What’s happening to the world?’ ‘What’s happening with everybody?’ So I’m 100 per cent sure it’s gonna inform the writing. Right before the pandemic hit I was supposed to release an album. And then this happens. That album doesn’t work in this world now. So [we] scrapped that and we’re moving forward.
So people would never see that album?
You never know. Nothing is ever [fully] scrapped. You can always build up on it ... A few years down the line, you change the production, change a few lines, and you just rewrite. We’ll see.
There’s a very strong rock element that runs through your music. That’s what you’re kind of known for. Is it important for you to be a genre artist? Or do you feel like you want to play around with your style?
I have a lot of albums and I’ve lived a lot of lives. I’ve always been someone who’s grown up in two worlds — in Manila and in San Francisco in the US. I’m a child of that. So there’s a large influence of hip hop, R’n’B music ... So I never considered myself a rock artist. That’s a label somebody gave me ... but myself I’m just an artist. I’m just a musician. I play what I want to play. I think you limit yourself when you peg yourself into one thing.
I wanted to touch upon your former band Rivermaya. What was that time like? Do you think about it?
I don’t think about it a lot. Because I’m always the guy who thinks about [pushing] forward; you go where you can grow. That’s one of my mottos ... that time was a magical time and we played great music together. It was nuts. That’s all I gotta say. It was nuts. It’s a rock and roll band. So yeah [laughs].
What can fans expect in the future from you in terms of music?
Don’t expect anything. Don’t expect it to be the next [big thing] ... because that’s never been the goal. I’d rather create something different for myself and for my audience and let them grow with me. The thing is I don’t want to get stuck. So if I end up writing the same thing over again I’m gonna disappoint myself.
Do you feel any pressure to create?
At this point, no, I feel no pressure now. When it comes to writing and stuff, no I don’t. It’s just something I do. It’s just finding the moments, finding the experience. That’s the fun part. Going outside, writing in the park ... I’m trying to discover these nooks and crannies of the world and find myself.
Do you have any advice for someone who’s starting out in the music world?
I’m the wrong guy to ask ... [but] I just say focus on the music. There’s so many things people sort of focus on ... But I myself, I always say just focus on the music and let that speak for itself.
Don’t miss it!
1MX Dubai 2021 will take place on December 3 at the Trade Centre Arena in Dubai World Trade Centre. Gates open at 4.30pm and the show will be staged from 5.30pm until 9pm. Tickets are available online and start from Dh99.