Posts tagged music
Dakila: A Journey to Greatness

“Looking back, it was a very bold move and I think it was ahead of its time to name our band Dakila, a Filipino name. And we kept some of our lyrics in Filipino. To do something like that in 1972 was unheard of.”

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David Bustamante is an original member of Dakila – the five-piece San Francisco-based band whose boutique multilingual recordings have become staples in the rotations of DJs, producers, sound designers, and OPM enthusiasts alike. Still, David clearly remembers the San Francisco scene in the ‘70s as being anything but hospitable to Filipino people.


“In order to survive here, you had to speak Filipino at home and not out in public, right? You had to sort of act and think that way so you could get ahead. So Filipino life was only at home. So if you’re out there in the public, you had to assimilate yourself, because a lot of people didn’t know what Filipinos were. And it wasn’t supposed to be a big deal, because you weren’t important enough to say anything.”

But for David and the rest of Dakila – whose lineup to this day includes his brother Rome Bustamante and cousin Francisco Magtoto – saying nothing was out. They were witnessing the social justice movements of the era. They had seen projects like Santana emerge from the local Latin Rock scene into the national consciousness. They knew their sound attracted listeners, and they knew they wanted to use music to explore Filipino and Filipino-American life, without compromise.

Dakila performing at Pistahan

Dakila performing at Pistahan

“Dakila is a Filipino word. It means greatness. It means nobility. Being that a majority of the musicians in Dakila were Filipino, we wanted to keep our identity within the music and with the band itself – because at that time there were dozens of Latin Rock bands coming out of the Bay Area, and we didn’t want to be like them. We wanted to be who we were. And I think looking back, it’s really something to be proud of. It would have been easier to try to blend in with the Latino scene – or with anybody else, really – and to [change] our identity. So when we came out in the ‘70s, we made a lot of people proud.”

Local popularity led to sustained bouts of out-of-town gigs, but life outside of music – family, school, work – separated Dakila, and relegated their music to relative obscurity, where it waited to be rediscovered by another generation of creatives, including the next wave of Filipino-Americans.

“We got to tour up and down California and Hawaii, played places like the Fillmore, and Winterland, the Greek, all these places in LA. To this day, one of the dreams is to get this band to the Philippines; we were supposed to go in 1972, but Martial Law stopped it from happening. So we made two albums, and only one was released. The record was pretty popular in Europe and Asia, but the band never really made money off of it. And now here we are, almost 40 years later, and I find out the album is considered a classic, people are collecting it. DJs are using samples from the music. It is being used in movies, commercials. And over the span of those 40 years, the culture has changed, and Filipinos are everywhere. We are in media, in music, in politics, in the film industry, in literature. We’re everywhere.”

Tracing the growth and influence of Filipino-American people and understanding Dakila’s unique and ongoing positionality in that history, David notes the final series of events that reunited the band around one of its original values: speaking for yourself, in your own way, and not letting others do it for you.

“This book was written about the music that came out of San Francisco in the early ‘70s, and it was called ‘Voices of Latin Rock,’ and we were mentioned a lot in this book. But it was funny, because they never actually interviewed any of the original members of Dakila – it was all told in the third person! But it did put us back into the limelight again and caused a lot of interest in the band. So I got my brother, Rome Bustamante, who’s an original band member, and my cousin Francisco Magtoto, who’s the original drummer, and we put some songs back together, just out of curiosity, and also to see if we could put a tribute performance back together. And we actually sounded pretty good!”

With their UNDSCVRD SF performance at Victoria Manalo Draves Park – the veritable heart of the SOMA Pilipinas Cultural District – Dakila reinforces the story they have been working on for almost five decades, told through their music as much as the journeys and lives they’ve lived. And they reflect back the stories and journeys of every successive generation of Filipino and Filipino-American people who come through the City and make the Bay their home.

“What we did back then was to try to make a statement about who we are, and that is real now. [There’s] another generation that’s just learning about Dakila, who may have heard their uncles listening to this music. Learning about your heritage and the struggle for our families that come here from the Philippines and try to make a better life for their family, that will always be of big significance for this band.”

Written by Paul Barrera.

MusicCat Jimenezmusic
Q-Bert & Shortkut: Pioneers of Turntablism Keeping DJ Culture Alive
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Undiscovered SF opens for its 2018 season featuring two of Filipino America’s most enduring and well-known acts: DJ QBert and DJ Shortkut. Alone, QBert and Shortkut’s appearances would certainly qualify as headline-worthy. But in the context of the SOMA Pilipinas Cultural Heritage District, these performances by Bay Area heroes mark a reinforcement of the considerable momentum that’s seeing Filipino projects and Filipino culture gain real visibility and recognition in the current zeitgeist.

 

“Growing up around here, every time I went to Natoma Street there would just be hella Filipinos there. And my great-grandfather, he owned a record company in The Philippines, and sometimes I feel like I’m his reincarnation. So in that way, I feel blessed to be a part of something like this that’s in the SOMA and that’s so focused on our people,” QBert says.

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DJ culture is certainly one of the most recent examples of Filipinos making their mark in American society, and both QBert and Shortkut are established veterans of the game. In many ways, the early days of Hip-Hop in the Bay Area — and the influence that Filipinos enjoyed in that burgeoning scene — mirror what’s happening with Filipino and Filipino-American cultural output in the present day, especially with food.

 

“I grew up in the DJ culture, the mobile sound system era. And it being predominantly Filipino, I just thought it was a Filipino thing to become a DJ. I never thought it would become my job. So I think it’s beautiful that Filipinos are getting a lot of notoriety in lots of different industries, doing what they love — the arts scene, the food scene, cats are just taking it upon themselves to open their own spots. And we know that it’s nothing new, that our people have been doing it for years, but it’s good that we’re finally getting that recognition. That’s why someone like Q is so important — he’s like that big brother that helps people along, and it’s good to see that community building happening in other areas too,” Shortkut says.

 

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QBert is especially excited about Undiscovered SF’s gathering of wholesome, consciously-minded Filipino eateries that emphasize quality ingredients. In this way, Undiscovered SF isn’t just another festival gig for QBert, but a space for generational learning and healing about who Filipinos are as a people — a space where diverse communities can unite around music, food, and a spirit of togetherness that aims to help everyone feel healthier and happier with who they are.

 

“The food situation is getting more advanced, getting more futuristic. People are becoming more conscious of organic food and free-range meats, and sustainable food, and all the bad oils and processed foods that our people have been using for years. But now our people are waking up and we’re re-learning that our coconut oil that we have in The Philippines are healthy for us. And all these new folks opening Filipino spots can say ‘Yes, we’re doing things all natural, we’re using good ingredients,’ so it’s really exciting to see,” QBert says.

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In the same way, Shortkut — so named for not being tall enough to operate the decks when he first started DJing — appreciates the significance of an event like Undiscovered SF within the special boundaries of the SOMA PIlipinas Cultural Heritage District. A regular visitor to The Philippines, he’s experiencing firsthand the truly global movement that’s seeing Filipinx people engage in creative output across all forms of expression.

 

“I’m honored to do this, being from the Bay and being Filipino. For people to be able see other Filipinos, people who look like them, it’s huge inspiration. So I’m proud to be a part of that. And I go to The Philippines almost every other month, and seeing how that scene growing in parallel with how we’re growing in the states, it’s refreshing to see that entrepreneurship is becoming almost a norm now, for our people. Really dope,” Shortkut says.

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It might be easy to get caught in the hype of household names like QBert and Shortcut — and no doubt that’s part of the appeal for Undiscovered SF’s bill of performers for its August debut. But to do that would be to miss the point entirely of the Undiscovered SF Night Market: it’s certainly a party, but it’s a party that celebrates a people who are growing together into their full power as a community. And as a community that’s diverse in countless ways, sharing gifts of music, food, and culture with one another are the surest ways to strengthen the bonds of family and friendship that will sustain long-term growth and security as Filipinos in America.

Musicmarky enriquezmusic