The Desert Island Playlist

a selection by Monika Schoop, requested by Mica Cabildo

01: Outerhope / An Unusual Line of Sight
02: And Bandang Shirley / Nakauwi Na
03: Wilderness / Helen Zaas
04: Tarsius / Deathless Gods
05: Eraserheads / Cutterpillow
06: Slow Hello / Cold Turkey
07: Fresh Filter Volume 1 / Various Artists
08: Ourselves the Elves / Uncertainly

Monika Schoop is an ethnomusicologist at the University of Cologne. She did research and wrote her PhD thesis on Manila's indie music scene. Manila Field Notes

This selection is for research and educational purposes only.
Tracks, videos, and their copyright belong to the original artists.

Artist: Outerhope
Title: An Unusual Line of Sight
Album: A Day for the Absent
Label: Number Line Records
Year: 2009

It's sort of a coincidence that I ended up in the Philippines and not in South Africa or Indonesia. It had to do a lot with Number Line Records, because I messaged some of the labels, and they were the ones that got back in touch with me. Bobby at that time was like, »That's a coincidence, I'm about to move to Berlin!«

When they started the website, they had this special focus on giving away music for free. In general, they didn't want to make any physical copies. For many people in the music scene in Manila, it's pretty similar I guess to music scenes here in Germany. It's not really about the money. People have other reasons why they want to play music, play shows, and it's not really about the money because there's really not much money to be made.

Artist: And Bandang Shirley
Title: Nakauwi Na
Album: Tama Na Ang Drama
Label: Wide-Eyed Records
Year: 2013

I met this band when I was already in the Philippines. I joined some of the recording sessions for this album, and this is my favorite song of the album. It was also interesting in terms of me being an ethnomusicologist in conducting participant observation. This band really got me to participate, I played a gig with them also.

That song is about leaving and coming back, and I'm also the person who always left and always came back, because I travel back and forth. I didn't really stick to this paradigm that used to be popular in anthropology where you live somewhere for a year, and then you never come back. I stayed for two months and I left, and I came back, and I left again, and came back again. It also gave me the time to reflect on the findings and also to observe the changes.

Artist: Wilderness
Title: Helen Zaas
Album: Pyesta
Label: (self-released)
Year: 2011

That was one of the first gigs I went to and I was totally blown away because of all the energy. It was like seeing this really weird, energetic, insane version of At The Drive-In, with all the different percussion instruments. Whenever people ask me to play some music from the Philippines I make sure to include Wilderness.

There are quite some parallels to the situation of artists in Germany and in the Philippines. It's really hard to make a living as an independent artist and it's really hard to sell music because of the internet.

In the Philippines, piracy obviously also played a huge role, but it's completely different from the situation that I know. When I hear piracy, I immediately think of file sharing, but there's a lot of physical copies in the Philippines.

The music scene in Manila is more musically diverse. I was really struggling to find out why people still considered it a scene even though it doesn't have a common genre or sound, and it turned out that it was really about the networks and the personal connections that formed the scene. People tend to be very active and tend to be part of different bands. They collaborate with other people and these networks keep the scene together.

Artist: Tarsius
Title: Deathless Gods
Album: Primate
Label: Number Line Records
Year: 2012

If you had asked me to pick music from all over the world, not just from the Philippines, this song would very likely be in the list also. What I especially like about it is the combination of the electronica parts with live drumming. It's so well-done, and also live it's really good.

The album was originally released as a free download, but later on it was also released as a vinyl record.

Sometimes you have this assumption that non-physical formats are taking over, and people are no longer interested in physical formats, and this is a very good example that they're not really mutually exclusive, but that they can sell also as a complement to each other.

Full Album
Artist: Eraserheads
Album: Cutterpillow
Label: Sony BMG
Year: 1995

I had never heard of the Eraserheads before I came to the Philippines. People always say »They're the Philippine Beatles, and we can't believe you don't know the band!« I guess it shows, when you grow up in Germany or Europe, you're not really exposed to music from the Philippines.

They also represent the type of band and the type of success that doesn't really exist for this kind of music anymore in the Philippines. They were really big in the 90's and had a lot of support from the recording industry, but at the same time they needed the support of a major label to be able to record the music. This kind of support doesn't exist anymore for bands today. These labels, it's not just they cut costs, but they actually shut down local offices. They really left the country.

Artist: Slow Hello
Title: Cold Turkey
Album: Minty Fresh EP, Audio Baby
Label: Number Line Records
Year: 2011, 2013

Slow Hello is one of the first bands I encountered when I was still based in Germany. The first recording of this song is very DIY, with a lo-fi sound. I saw Slow Hello moving from this bedroom project to a real band. They ended up re-recording the song for the album, but still very much in the context of independent practices.

Various Artists
Album: Fresh Filter Volume 1
Label: Fresh Filter and Satchmi
Year: 2015

It's a compilation issued by the radio station Jam 88.3, which has a show that focuses on local independent music. They decided to release a vinyl record featuring a range of local independent artists. The special value of the format is used to promote local music. This vinyl distributor in the Philippines, Satchmi, is one of the sponsors.

With the record, they also address a barrier to this little vinyl revival, which is the fact that people don't have record players. They're also not easily accessible. In the Philippines they're really rare, and it's really hard to find one. This really seems to be an issue.

They came up with his mobile player that they're selling, and they're advertising it together with the compilation. So, the remote island would have to be equipped with a record player.

Artist: Ourselves the Elves
Title: Uncertainly
Album: Geography Lessons
Label: (self-released)
Year: 2015

I came across them when I was no longer in Manila. This band represents to me the quick changes of the music scene. I also really like the songwriting. They really have the potential to turn this into something bigger. This release also shows how the internet can enable researchers like me to stay in touch with people.

If you grow up here in Germany or in another part of Europe, you're not really exposed to music from the Philippines even if it's the most popular or best-selling band ever. You just don't get to hear them.

This also shows how record labels are targeting certain releases for a global audience, others towards local audiences. And I guess this is why people here don't; really know about the Philippines.

The question is whether this has actually changed with the internet, because now you have access to pretty much any kind of music.

But at the same time you have to know what you're looking for, you have to actively look for the music. And if you don't look for it, you're not likely to find it.