“How can anyone play around with something sacred,” Raye Lucero of Mabuhay Singers once told Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview. What makes her statement soar and punch hole in our hearts is not exactly the serious tone surrounding it, but the eagerness of these vocal pop group to preserve the pureness of songs that define a certain era and feel. And whether you take it as a form of sneer or arrogance, these patrons of kundiman will probably just die one day, smiling in their barongs and sayas holding what’s sacred and dear to them.
That’s Mabuhay Singers for you—a gleeful bunch of torch singers never afraid to relive the past. It’s their chief selling point, anchored with a kind of singing that’s filtered through a vessel of honest hurt and euphoric liveliness. Even renowned experimental ethnographer and filmmaker, Vincent Moon took notice of their talent, eventually featuring them in Collection Petites Planètes, a nomadic label that features a treasure-throve of recordings around the world. Their latest international record under Moon’s label, conveys more than enough raw emotions that take an old song to an imperfect but utterly captivating piece. Backed by just a guitar and random noises in the background, The Last Legends of Kundiman from the Philippines shows the vocal group performing well-loved and lost Filipino classics live and stripped bare to a new audience, with vocal harmonies soaring amidst layers upon layers of emotional captivity. The album is out now here. Download it for a complete nostalgia trip!