BAMBOO : Biography

The return of Bamboo Manalac as the front man of a new band was definitely one of the most awaited comebacks in Philippine music. Bamboo first broke into the scene in 1994 as the enigmatic front man of rock band Rivermaya. Nathan Azarcon, a childhood friend of Bamboo’s, was also in the band. In 1998, after 3 successful albums with Rivermaya, Bamboo chose to leave the band and the Philippines to continue his studies in the U.S.

After the departure of Bamboo, Nathan also left Rivermaya and joined the band Kapatid. It was there that Nathan worked with Ira Cruz, a veteran guitarist who had played with several local bands.

It was while Bamboo was still in the U.S. that he began to talk to Nathan about the possibility of forming a new band. Nathan immediately discussed the plan with Ira. Ira then called Vic Mercado, a drummer he had played with in the band, Passage. Bamboo returned from the U.S. with little fanfare and jammed with his new bandmates. On their first session together, they knew without a doubt that this was it.

Deciding on a name took longer a little longer. Bamboo Manalac was initially hesitant to use his name as the moniker of the band. But the other members prevailed eventually. “We explained to him that Bamboo connoted strength and durability. Also, we wanted a name that had a Filipino feel to it, “ relates Ira.

Bamboo, the band, debuted in late 2002 during a magazine launch, and continued to perform in a steady stream of gigs. The buzz around the band was the local music industry’s worst kept secret, with insiders talking up the band’s all-star, high caliber line up. In October 2003, Bamboo signed with EMI Music Philippines.

Bamboo’s debut album “As the Music Plays” was released in February 2004. Led by the anthemic single, “Noypi” (a slang term meaning “Filipino”), the album immediately soared to the top of local sales charts. The album held its lofty position for all of 2004 as subsequent singles “Mr Clay”, “Masaya” and “These Days” all topped radio playlists around the country. “As the Music Plays” was certified double platinum and became the biggest selling album by a group in the Philippines for 2004.

Not content with commercial success, Bamboo was also a critical favorite, topping many year end reviews and surveys. Among their 2004 accolades were: MTV Pilipinas 2004 Best New Artist, Best Group, Favorite Song, NU107 Artist of the Year, Song of the Year and 89.9TM and 93.1RX’s local artist of the year.

With such a successful debut album, the pressure for an equally massive sophomore album began to build. “There was definitely pressure for a big follow-up, but at the end, the only way to do it was to write songs that we felt needed to be heard,” explains Vic. The second album, “Light Peace Love”, was recorded over a span of 3 months from March to May 2005. “We even toyed with the idea of naming the album ‘March to May 2005 Sessions’, but I think the record company might freak,” laughs Nathan.

Bamboo’s second album, “Light Peace Love” was released in June 2005 and immediately attained gold status. The album boasts ten songs of differing moods and subjects. From the nationalistic “Hallelujah” to the soulful “Much Has Been Said”, all the way to the social commentary of ‘Alpha Beta Omega’, Bamboo has certainly taken a huge step forward.

“We are extremely proud of ‘Light Peace Love’,” says Bamboo, “I think that we really get to express a lot of our feelings about love, politics and life in general.” Although at first listen, the album seems to be ‘mellower’ than its predecessor, a second listen will reveal its depth. “Listen to the lyrics, man, you’ll agree it’s much heavier this time around, “explains Ira.

With the success of Bamboo in the Philippines, EMI Music Southeast Asia has decided to release a regional version of the album in early 2006. “This is exactly the kind of thing we want to do as a company,” says Hans Ebert, Executive Director, EMI SEA, “Identify great local talent and give it a platform regionally.” The regional version will be an all-English album taking songs from Bamboo’s first 2 albums. “We are really honored and excited to have been given this chance, “says Bamboo, “We really think that we write music that not only touches Filipinos, but people from everywhere.”

Collecting six awards at the 19th Awit Awards, including Album of the year for LightPeaceLove and Song of the Year for Hallelujah, Bamboo again have proven that the winning streak is truly for them.