By YANNI ROXAS
Very few artists in mainstream OPM have used their music to advance social causes yet still remain popular and respected in the industry. Moreover, their creations may also be masterpieces, become timeless and resonate with audiences across genders and generations.
Just recently folk-pop band Ben&Ben dropped their all Filipino 13-track album entitled Pebble House Vol 1: Kuwaderno that showcased collaboration with incredible artists such as Moira de la Torre, KZ Tandingan, Chito Miranda, Zild, Juan Karlos, Munimuni and P-pop sensation SB19.
The music in the album is as diverse as the feelings and memories of the nine-member band who also went through what Philippine society was experiencing during this pandemic – from longing, to depression to disgust, yet still hopeful of human comfort, rainbows and empowerment. The band dived into the realm of personal and social consciousness and left indelible marks in the minds of their listeners.
By its sheer title alone, the track “Kapangyarihan” stands out as the boldest and most powerful track in the album. This Ben&Ben composition which was originally released months ago was enhanced, and displayed even more grit, by introducing into the new version SB19’s own rap parts, with bars that simply spit fire. Ben&Ben deftly held the new version all together in denouncing the abuse of power.
Fresh from their successful collaboration in a band version of the SB19 original song “Mapa”, Ben&Ben and SB19 again collaborated, this time witn Ben&Ben’s “Kapangyarihan”. The two groups bravely took a stand and delved into the issue of power and governance that other celebrated artists` may find alarming or fretful. The original song was apprarently a take on the Gregorio (mother and son) killings by a Nueva Ecija cop (later sentenced to life imprisonment) but the new version expounded more on state power itself and what must be done.
“Kapangyarihan” does not only ignite one’s brain cells but also heralds the truth about what’s happening in the country today such as extrajudicial killings, a fact known to every activist in town. What “Kapangyarihan” did was to bring the issue to a much broader audience, rousing the people’s consciousness, and affirming the truth that power comes from the people.
No name was ever mentioned but it is probably on everyone’s thought that the allusion to abuse strongly refers to the country’s sitting dictator whose relation to grandeur is his lies and pretensions. “Kapangyarihan” took one step further and laid down the real nature of state power that weaponizes the laws, courts and prisons to subdue the people that it purportedly serves. Hence the lines: “Nagsisilbi ka dapat. Nagsisilbi ka dapat”.
But the song does not leave one hopeless. A cardinal truth is unveiled: “Kayong mga hari-harian, Pagkalaki na ng mga ulo, Wag nyong kalilimutan, Hawak namin ang inyong trono.” And as if by saying enough –“Di ka naming isusuka, Kung hindi ka pa sukdulan” – the song serves notice that the powerful can be unseated.
The best parts have turned to defiance: “Di na magpapaalipin pa, Sa mga rehas mo, Di mabubuwag ng kahit anumang sindak, ang katotohanang ‘to”. Until, finally, the die is cast: “Akala niyo ba ang kapangyarihan, Ay nasa inyo? Sino ba kayo? Magwawagi ang katotohanan, Ang kadiliman ay ibabagsak.”
Such compelling and meaningful lyrics have made “Kapangyarihan” much more relevant in this time of impunity, corruption, treachery, and unbridled use of power. Ben&Ben’s and SB19’s progression manifest their continuing growth as artists of top calibre, infusing their musicality and creativity with the condition, hopes and aspirations of the common people.
Apart from the anthemic “Bayan Ko”, “Kapangyarihan”follows the tradition of popular classics such as “Tatsulok” by Buklod and popularized by Bamboo, “Rage” by The Jerks, ”Mga Kababayan Ko” by the late-Francis Magalona, “Upuan” by Gloc 9, and “Wala ng Tao sa Sta. Filomena” by Joey Ayala –songs in varying degrees that depict social injustice and class contradiction yet never losing sight of uplifting the human spirit, upholding human rights, urging unity in diversity, and conveying the people’s struggles and resistance. New generations of woke artists face enormous challenges but they will be rewarded with the support of the people.