Originally posted on "Circus: The Eraserheads Mailing List" at Yahoo! Groups by lister, Taj Mahal Ibrahim (,
on June 13, 1999 (Message # 9486)


Manila Bulletin / May 15, 1999 Saturday

Millenium Heads
by Susan Ayson De Guzman

"Maselang Bahaghari
Sa aking isipan
Hwag kang mabahala
Di kita malilimutan
Paglipas ng ulan ay
Mapapangiti ang araw
Hwag sanang mawala ang
Maselang Bahaghari"

It's the sort of ditty only the Eraserheads can come up with -- quirky unconventional, so "Eheads". Literally, "Maselang Bahaghari" translates to "fragile rainbow." But what the heck does it mean? What is Ely Buendia and company trying to say now? Is it supposed to be an X-rated love song?

Parents who listen to it are likely to scratch their head and dismiss it as mindless crap. The self-proclaimed know-it-alls will analyze the song to death, attaching sociological significance to its every nuance. Meanwhile, the "conspiracy heorists" will conclude that there's a hidden message in it when played backwards.

Whatever "Maselang Bahaghari" refers to -- know this: Eraserheads fans will get it, the way they got the band's other nonsensical contributions ot the pop lexion: things like "cutterpillow" and "sticker happy." While others are going "Huh?", the group's loyalists will just be singing along content to be taken on another Eraserheads ride.

With its catchy refrain, "Maselang Bahaghari" looks all set to propel the latest Eraserheads album under BMG records, "Natin99", into platinum status. Just like its six forerunners -- "Ultraelectromagneticpop," "Circus," "Cutterpilow," "Fruitcake," "Sticker Happy" and the Asian release "Aloha MIlkyway."

The album's title, "Natin99", is another wink at their fans -- a pun on the pre-millenium year and perhaps a reference to being part of a group. "It was coined by Marcus (Adoro) and has become an all-purpose term among the members. It's a private joke. Mahirap i-explain," Raymund Marasigan chuckled at a press conference last Tuesday.

The new all-Tagalog record boasts the kind of songs diehards have come to expect from their idols: musing about something as mundane as a major thoroughfare ("South Superhiway" by Marcus), a commentary on today's culture of gameshows and showbiz gossip ("Pop Machine") and lead singer Ely's staple trip down memory lane. This time, it's "68 Dr. Sixto Antonio Avenue," the exact address of his childhood home. Raymund also contributed the warning-intro "Sinturong Pangkaligtasan."

"Everybody had a hand in the arrangements," said Raimund. "Ely gave us a tape of the raw guitar vocals, then we plugged in our own inputs-- drums, etc. -- tapos the input of producers were added. Most of the songs are by Ely because he's really the composer in the group. He's also written for other artists, 'yung tunog Eraserheads. Pag may ginagawa siyang masyadong hip-hop or too heavy or mushy, we know we can't give justice to it, kaya sa iba na lang binibigay."

"Natin99" is only a departure from the group's previous albums in the way it was put together. "We're not limited by technical capabilities anymore," said Raimund, whom Ely described as the most techno-savvy in the group. With digital technology, Raimund claimed, the recording did not have to follow the usual linear process. Songs were recorded at home, but additional instrumentations were added in the studio. "It's like cut-and-paste. You could 'manipulate' certain elements to put it all together."

Their music might be making use of technology innovations now, but the members themselves seem frozen in time. Ten years after they formed what would become local entertainment's top pop band, the foursome don't seem that different form their old UP Masscomm days. (Not that they've graduated; the "super seniors" say their studies remain on hold.)

"Bad boy" Marcus -- he with the stringy hair, and signature shades and earring -- was still keeping his answers to a minimum. BUddy Zabala, from a distance, seemed to be his usual articulate self. Smiling-face Raimund, clad in navy blue, sporting matching navy blue nail polish already chipping at the edges. (The shocking blond hairdo is gone for now.) Ely was in his "uniform" denims and T-shirt; ironically enough, his shirt bore the name of a rival local band.

At a glance, they may have appeared and acted the same. But there were signs here and there that the 'Heads -- the '90s icons of juvenile irreverence -- are growing up. This new maturity is best exemplified by Ely who was quite surprised by comments that he somehow looked less troubled.

"Napansin n'yo?" he asked.

Though outwardly, he may have been the picture of self-confidence before, Ely confessed that it was all part of an act. "I was super insecure and I suffered from severe inferiority complex. There were times when I would even ask myself, 'Bakit ba naging frontman pa ako sa banda. Hindi ko kaya 'to.'"

His worst moment of uncertainty was in 1997. It got so bad that he reportedly had no doubt he was near a nervous breakdown then. "I realized too late that maybe i wasn't ready for it. I felt the pressure as lead singer and songwriter. Parang nasa akin yung lahat ng burden. I was always stressed. Even my musicality went down. I would look at the others and feel na napag-iwanan na nila ako sa pagtugtog. Lahat sila nag-develop, pero ako parang nandoon pa rin." Eventually, Ely realized that the way to overcome this funk was to change his attitude and to rely on the support of Buddy, Marcus and Raimund. Primarily, he put into his mind that he was not solely responsible for the Eraserheads. "If i used to give the groups 150 percent, ngayon 100 na lang. Pinantayan ko na sila. That's why i'm glad that in the new album, they have more active participation especially in songwriting."

Ely noted that he has beome more accepting of criticisms and mindful of maintaining the Ehead's premier status in themusic scene. "I used to say wala akong pakialam kung no.1 kami o hindi, but i was just lying to myself. I also minded it a lot when critics would say we're not technically proficient -- na madumi kaming tumugtog. But i realized there's really room for improvement. I'd like to believe we've done something to make ourselves better. Meron ka naman pala kasing magagawa eh."

The high-brow would term this attitudinal change as a "paradigm shift". Ely prefers to call his transformation as a "renovation." "I'm renovating my life," he said in all earnestness. "I would say I'm more optimistic now."

Ely is now trying to find meaning in what he does. "Pala-isip ka ba?" we asked the surprisingly forthright Ely. "Oo nga. Bakit ganon?" he replied. Even an increased spirituality, he said is part of the ongoing self-reconstruction. So is a newfound romance, following a six-year relationship that fuelled several compositions but ultimately went kaput.

But music, of course, remains hte central part of Ely's life -- with its attendant ups and downs. "Yung album nga ang naging therapy ko," he admitted. "The greatest thing about the Eraserheads is being able to do what you want. We also get to meet a lot of people and visit so many places. I mean, if not for Eraserheads, maybe we wouldn't have reached places like New York, Japan and Australia. Earning money? That goes with it.

The worst part, he said, was waiting -- waiting to record a song, waiting for an album to come out. Even touring and promotion can be a drag, although Ely said he knows it's all part of the gig. "Siyempre, u always say u want more time for yourself, epro kasama talaga yuhn eh, kaya okey lang."

At some point, the Eraserheads might go their own separate ways. Althoug they don't talk about it, the possibility of each pursuing individual careers is there. but that would only happen, said Ely, if they don't enjoy what they are doing anymore. As it is, even now that bands seem to be on the way out, the group is not worried. "May ginagawa pa kami eh," the lead singer shrugged, showing a glimmer of his old smug self.

"Natin 99" is the latest proof that they're far from running out of steam. In fact, said Raimund, they already have enough material for several other albums that would keep them busy post-1999. After all, spinning musical yarns from the most ordinary tasks (say, going to Aling Nena's sari-sari store) and the most whimsical childhood recollections (like dancing the el bimbo) is already an Eraserheads forte.

Then there's also their own fanzine to work on away form the studio. "Pillbox" is the Eraserheads' other creative outlet. The published-whenever magazine is especially made for diehards who want to know what the group has been up to lately. The two issues that have come out so far have chronicled their MTV experiance in New York (where they recived the 1997 Asian Viewers Choice trophy), their cincerts abroad and their recording work. All the Eheads get to tell their own wacky stories, with even wackier photos. Raimund does artwork. Ely and BUddy contribute fiction.

When asked about the eheads publication, an excited Raimund suddenly called to Ely across the long table and said, "Ely, gawa na ulit tayo ng Pillbox." "Sige!" came the quick reply. "Okey 'yun -- Pillbox 2000!" Raimund grinned.

"We're still having fun," Ely acknowledged later on. And it shows. Only a group with sense of humor can make a tongue-in-check serious song called "Maselang bahaghari" and hope to make it a hit.

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