SILONG Media
Published in

SILONG Media

SILONG Songs Issue 2: Oh, Flamingo!’s ‘Galit’

SILONG Songs is a series examining Original Pilipino Music (OPM) from a young, diasporic Pinoy perspective.

Oh, Flamingo!’s ‘Galit’ is bumping into your ex at the club. A night to uncage yourself from the week now becomes one “angry dancing” to resurfaced betrayal. The preppy instrumentation and silky vocal performances are a clenched smile hiding the bile in the lyrics. But the passive-combative encounter evolves into self-assurance, as the song speaks its truth and claims its closure. The irony of the piece grows from the veneer of sonic happiness to hollow words of anger now triumphantly liberated. Is the open-endedness of the song a microcosm of Pinoy? Or is an angry dance at the club simply an angry dance at the club?

Indie music is eternal. It’s my musical love that has burned the longest. The soundtrack to my commute on the E Train spanned from Lorde’s indie-pop to Beach House’s shoegaze in high school. I was at the altar of the Asian-American-indie Holy Trinity of Mitski, Japanese Breakfast, and Jay Som in college. And now, I could a lot easier call out what isn’t indie in my listening rotation.

Compared to its roots in the 70s, indie is no longer a distinct music category. Otherwise, we can’t make sense of genres like “Independent Popular” music. Instead, it’s become an ethos of boundary-pushing emotiveness, identity expression, and sonic expectation, whether an artist records in a major studio or their bedroom.

Indie is omnipresent, and the boundaries it crosses include borders. Concurrent with its well-documented rise in America and across the pond, indie is firmly rooted in today’s Original Pilipino Music (OPM). A retrospective by ABS-CBN documents similar reasons for its blooming in the Philippines: the rise of streaming services, the “democratization of technology” allowing more artists to claim autonomy in their production, and the music industry increasing “focus on booking and managing bands.”

Enter Oh, Flamingo!. Initially conceived in 2013 by combining two Arctic Monkeys cover bands, the group has blossomed as veterans of Manila’s gigging scene and a band at the forefront of OPM indie. Their latest LP, Volumes (2020), is a testament to their dedication, born out of digital collaboration within the indie space during Luzon’s “enhanced community quarantine.”

A key reason I wanted to highlight Oh, Flamingo!, and ‘Galit’ in particular, is already written-out well by Charisma Madarang in the Los Angeles Times.

“Bands like Oh, Flamingo!, Rivermaya and Up Dharma Down challenge what it means to be Filipino through the moving layers of music and lyrics unapologetically written in Tagalog — a testament to the perseverance of the Filipino spirit that continues to keep the youth of today connected to the past.”

Oh, Flamingo! has excellent songs written in English. The bright idiosyncrasy of ‘Sunsets’ reminds me of the indie that I fell in love with in high school. The power balladry of ‘Four Corners’ drives at the heart-string tugging of my college indie. But ‘Galit,’ Tagalog and all, is a “testament to the perseverance of the Filipino spirit” and a great starting point to demonstrate the brilliance of indie OPM.

The first electric, eccentric 15 seconds of ’ Galit’ makes you wonder if your audio player mislabelled the track. Upbeat and groovy, the tandem of zippy bassline and preppy, reverb-heavy guitar light up the track. It’s like a Friday night, and you’re on a dance floor. Life is good, and the DJ knows the vibe. How could this track be titled the Tagalog word for anger? And with the good times rolling, across the room, you see them.

Galit na lang ang nararamdaman
(Galit na lang)
Sasabog na, ‘di na mapigilan
(Sasabog na)

Just feeling angry
(Just angry)
Going to explode, can’t hold it back anymore
(Going to explode)

Anger washes over the song so fast that it does not seem to process it. Billie Dela Paz’s silky, too laidback vocalization is a clenched smile. The echoing backing vocals are serene, the superego validating feelings yet calling to stay calm. However, the staccato riffs betray a jumpiness, anxiety. As the beat drives, the bass pulses, the night booms, confrontation awaits in the chorus.

Wala na akong
Tiwala sa’yo
(Wala, wala)
Ako pa talaga’ng
Niloko mo

I don’t
Trust you
(None, none)
You really
Betrayed me

The chorus is a packed club of call-and-response: space and sound, vocal and instrumentation, bass and guitar, guitar and guitar. Face-to-face, the lyrics tease the reasons behind this anger. Yet, everything somehow seems unbothered. The beat comes around, and the facade continues.

But the second verse is more than it appears at the surface. It’s not a simple retelling, a mere going through the motions. Dela Paz’s words are more resolute: “Galit na lang ang tangi kong,” “Angry with what I now know.” The instrumentation follows suit. The once hesitantly, even emptily combative riffs find their footing. The guitar only grows more atmospheric in the returning chorus, asserting space. That momentum extends into the instrumental break. Protagonist electric riffs are antagonized by acoustic strums, the two guitars engaging in a tango of strings.

At the climactic bridge, baby is put in a corner. What’s been simmering this whole song boils over. The instrumentation recedes to the background and builds the moment as the lyrics deliver blow-by-blow.

Pinapaikot mo na lang ako
Binabago mo bawat kwento mo
Walang preno ang panloloko
Basta’t nakabubuti sa iyo
Kay tagal kong kinimkim

You’re just spinning me around
You’re spinning my story
There are no brakes to the deceit
Anything for your benefit
Oh how long I’ve been bottled up

The confrontation isn’t chaotic because it does not have to be. The monologue confidently claims closure, not allowing room for half-hearted excuses, gaslighting rebuttals. The clenched smile loosens and becomes a genuine one. The backing track and vocals are in harmony, the resolution dropping the mic in the verse’s final lyrics.

Hindi na ako pasisii
Hindi na ako magpipigil
(Ha ha ha ha)

I’ll no longer be oppressed
I’m no longer held back
(Ha ha ha ha)

When we reach the end, the song is still ironic but productively different. Whereas the sunny instrumentation did not reflect the singer’s true feelings, the lyrics are now a hollow echo. The anger behind the words no longer eats away at the singer but acts as a core reminder of where we used to be and should never return. The instrumentation reflects that resolution, folding in the grace of harp strings, the sly triumph of violin synths reminiscent of Acid Jazz. There are layers to liberation, and Galit goes through the desperately bitter to unyieldingly sweet.

Conclusion

‘Galit’ seems as if it’s being sung by a spurned lover, but the song might be more ambiguous than it appears.

“Ako pa talaga’ng niloko mo” could mean multiple things. Lean heavily into the ex-romantic aspect, we could take it as “You really cheated on me.” A lighter take on it could also be, “You really fooled me.” “Betrayed” is a translational compromise that retains ambiguity without sacrificing gravity.

But then there’s the penultimate line in the bridge: “Hindi na ako pasisiil, ” “I won’t be oppressed.” According to TagalogLang.com, the root word “siil,” “oppression,” is not commonly used. But it is highly connotated, as used in the Philippine National Anthem: “Di ka pasisiil,” “You won’t be oppressed.”

This brings us back to Madarang’s excellent piece on OPM Rock and Indie.

“In ‘Problematizing the Popular,’ an article in the journal Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Filipino studies scholar Teresita Gimenez Maceda wrote, ‘During the rise of the nationalist movement in the 1960s and throughout the period of the Marcos dictatorship, [rock] was the only kundiman [traditional Filipino love songs] sung with clenched fists that had the affective power to consolidate protest marchers, and make them hold their lines in the face of the water cannons, tear gas and truncheons used for violent dispersals.’”

‘Galit’ has lyrical double-meanings. ‘Galit’ has a disko quality that, in the Philippines, is oxymoronically inseparable from the age of Martial Law that profoundly shaped my parent’s generation in ways I still have yet to understand.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say ‘Galit’ speaks to the unrest in the world, the Philippines today, COVID and otherwise. For the past six years, the country has had the most abrasively authoritarian Filipino leader since Marcos, President Rodrigo Duterte. The next Presidential election might see Filipinos replace Duterte with none other than Marcos’ son, Bongbong Marcos.

In the movie Hustlers (2019), J-Lo made light of the state of America by calling it a strip club. In “Galit,” Oh, Flamingo! might just be calling the Philippines a discotheque, and an angry, intoxicating one at that.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store