Once upon a time, on Valentine's Day, then-rookie P-Pop group Alamat surprised the status quo of the Filipino pop music landscape with their debut single kbye. Incorporating multiple vernaculars, the song was a magnificent linguistic celebration despite its lyrics characterizing a challenging breakup. A few months later, the multilingual group released their second single kasmala — a play on the word ‘malakas.’ Although Alamat described it as upbeat, its accompanying music video told a darker narrative of anti-Asian hate and the slowly forgotten history of Filipino discrimination by the Americans when they first arrived in the Philippines.
Keeping tabs on Alamat's journey in the P-Pop scene, it might be unknown to others that they first started as a nine-piece ensemble. But that fact doesn’t really matter now. They stand tall as a sextet, as seen in their recent big gigs — performing at the 2023 FIBA World Cup and opening the 48th season of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
Alamat's musical prowess and the coherence of their rich Filipino-made branding give them the appearance of established artists in the music scene. Since the arrival of Pasulong — their first-ever EP released in 2022 — they’ve garnered a growing fanbase, affectionately referred to as 'Magiliws' by the band.
Great storytelling of an epic adventure
IsaPuso, Alamat’s first LP, functions like a musical tale of the beloved in its abstract forms: love and freedom. Despite the album being short, it felt like a sweet treat of Filipino culture and history.
(Screenshot from ALAMAT/Youtube)
Kicking off with the opener Dagundong, Alamat welcomes you to what they’re capable of, as always. While its bass could have been powerful enough to imitate a war drum, it was, regardless, a rap feast, an assertion of dominance to claim what’s rightfully theirs. Just imagine the jeepney drivers of Montalban-Cubao route blasting this from their subwoofers.
A sequel to Maharani, Dayang (which means ‘princess’ in Tausug) is a declaration of finding safe and uncomplicated love after enduring numerous heartbreaks. Truth be told, everything about the second track exudes grace, like an elegant dance between two lovers. Furthermore, Mo, Tomas, and R-Ji’s melismatic vocals during the chorus artistically complement the background beats.
Taking us back to the Spanish era, Noli draws inspiration from the themes of Jose Rizal's novel, Noli Me Tangere. It revolves around the story of forbidden love between Maria Clara and Crisostomo Ibarra, the main characters in Rizal’s work. The song’s laidback tempo and guitar riffs at the outset and finale bring a captivating atmosphere that pulls you into the narrative.
Retro and disco, the sound of bustling Manila at night, Manila Dreams is a song for the promdi dreamers. From its programmed drums to the breezy harmonies that carry the chorus, this delightful nostalgia trip goes down effortlessly. Perhaps it's a letter to the selves of the Alamat members who decided to make Manila their new home to chase their dreams.
(Screenshot from ALAMAT/Youtube)
Day and Night, which was released ahead of the album, is both pop and poetic. It's a dazzling summer banger, a tale of enchantment and infatuation with someone you only encountered once. In the jungle of tunes, where the catchy lyrics swing from vine to vine with the lively melody, this is Alamat's way of declaring, "We can own summers too!"
Multo happens when you fall in love with a ghoster, a must-listen for Thomasians. Shrouded in mystery, not to mention the violin strings sneaking around in mischievous patterns, the macabre bass, and back-up vocals adding a dose of drama, this track is the rebellious sister of Aswang and Gayuma. It’s a highly recommended song for Thomasians.
Their second pre-release single, Walang Hanggan, has the vibe of an old, formulaic tune pulled from the archives. Unlike their 2022 single Sa Panaginip Na Lang, the song as a whole falls short of delivering the emotional depth it has the potential for. The song seamlessly blends into the entire album thanks to Alamat's knack for infusing emotion into their music.
A love letter to the Filipino youth, Alamat finds a wonderful way to close the album with their rendition of the Kalinga folk song Dong-Dong-Ay. Much like witnessing a sunset after an epic adventure, its acoustic melody offers a tranquil and nostalgic finale to the journey. However, the lyrics don't dive into complexity. But that's the beauty of it; the song's simplicity holds a charm of its own.
Agimat of P-Pop
Magiliws, Alamat’s fandom, should be proud of them. The album's profound reverence for Filipino history is unparalleled. In terms of arrangement, all tracks flow logically. Even in its moments of vulnerability, IsaPuso still echoes the marvelous musicality of Alamat.
Love and freedom take center stage in Alamat's discography, not only in IsaPuso but also in their earlier releases. Even more, it's not just confined to the romantic kind. In lyrical verses, they articulate themes of patriotism and self-love, unraveling our past and urging us to waltz forward with purpose.
(Photo from @Official_ALAMAT/Twitter)
Like Alamat themselves, IsaPuso is a musical melting pot of diversity yet maintains a captivating unity, a feat that, frankly, has been a stumbling block for other P-pop groups. In a landscape where P-pop groups are often branded as mere K-pop copycats, the group takes a detour from the mainstream, positioning themselves as torchbearers dedicated to showcasing the unexplored richness of Filipino roots.
It wouldn’t hurt to say that they’re next in line to join SB19’s success. After more than two years in the industry, Alamat has demonstrated that, like their seniors, they also deserve airtime on the radio, during weekday commutes, and on laid-back nights. They are the lakans of P-pop, after all.
IsaPuso is available for streaming via Spotify.