In “Flipino,” there is a newfound grace and subtlety in Dong Abay’s songwriting. Not a mellowing but an incipient lightness of spirit. The songs still hit you hard, but it’s like being hit by a velvet-covered hammer.
By Joey Salgado
First released in 2006 after a five-year hiatus, “Flipino” is Dong Abay finding his voice as a singular artist. He is no longer the former vocalist of Yano, or Pan, or the other half of a defunct rock group. He is Dong Abay, solo singer and songwriter.
Abay has always deployed his observant eye to craft satirical, often caustic two-minute send-ups to authority figures. This was Yano’s ticket to rock stardom in the 90s.
But in “Flipino,” there is a newfound grace and subtlety in Abay’s songwriting. Not a mellowing but an incipient lightness of spirit and sensitivity. The songs still hit you hard, but it’s like being hit by a velvet-covered hammer.
Perhaps it’s the break from the whirlwind of bar gigs and tours, and the solace offered by the fresh air and intellectual stimulation of the University of the Philippines (UP) campus, where Abay returned to complete his schooling in 2003. Most of the songs on the album were written during this period.
The album also gave Abay his first certified solo hit, “Perpekto.” The sparse lyricism and arrangement draws the listener into a state of introspection. It is a song about staring down one’s inner demons, of replacing self-doubt with a soothing mantra that it’s alright not to be perfect, to embrace your imperfections.
“Mateo Singko,” on the other hand, is an elegy, a prayer-reflection drawing on the sermon on the Mount, but turns the invocation about the poor being blessed on its head. “Mahirap maging mahirap,” intones Abay.
The album’s vinyl release is yet another labor of love from indie label Backspacer Records, the same label that released Abay’s “Humanidad” on vinyl last year.
“Flipino” is pressed on limited edition gold disc (Backspacer’s Rob Tuazon says Abay once joked that he has never had a gold record), and uses the original concept design for the album cover: black with gold trimmings, with the album title, written in both Filipino and baybayin - or traditional script - printed on embossed gold. Album information written on the obi - a strip of paper loosely attached to the spine common among Japanese records - is also written in baybayin.
“I think music has time and timing yet essentially the only goal is to make it timeless,” Abay told Our Brew in a previous interview.
This album is an affirmation. “Flipino” is OPM Gold, in more ways than one.
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