The New Manila Sound: Music and Mass Culture, 1990s and Beyond

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Gabrillo, James 

This dissertation provides the first detailed account of the mass musical culture of the Philippines that originated in the 1990s and continues to be the most popular style of musical entertainment in the country — a scene I dub the New Manila Sound. Through a combination of archival research, musical analysis, and ethnographic fieldwork, my examination focuses on its two major pioneers: the musical television programme Eat Bulaga! (Lunchtime Surprise) and the pop-rock band Aegis. I document the scene’s rise and development as it attracted mostly consumers from the lower classes and influenced other programmes and musicians to adapt its content and aesthetics. The scene’s trademark kitsch qualities of parody, humour, and exaggeration served as forms of diversion to au- diences recovering from the turbulent dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos from 1965 to 1986, when musical works primarily comprised of state-commissioned nationalist anthems, Western art music, and protest songs. In the second part of the study, I trace the New Manila Sound’s contemporary revival in popularity through the aid of digital technology, resulting in an expansion of the modes of content-creation, dissemination, and audience participation in the country’s entertainment industry. Eat Bulaga! and Aegis hold a significant place in Philippine culture: not only have they influenced the tastes and identities of their audience, their brand of entertainment has also trickled down to the musicality of everyday social contexts in the country. As the first study of contemporary Philippine musical traditions that combines historical documentation and the ethnographic study of performers and audiences, my research expands our understanding of the country’s popular music industry as an influential force that has bestowed on its mass audience assurances of cultural and social authority.

Trippett, David
Philippines, ethnomusicology, music
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge