“A lot of people think I’m dead, lalo mga bata. Because the teachers refer to me as Joey Ayala, the legend. So akala, patay na.”
This is what folk music artist and songwriter Joey Ayala said when asked for his thoughts on people referring to him as one of local music’s legends.
Well, obviously, Joey is very much alive and still active in the music scene. His songs as “Karaniwang Tao,” “Agila” and “Tabi Po” are classics that even people from the young generation know. In fact, Joey will perform before millennials at Chada: CDO Millennials Music and Arts Festival 2018 at Cagayan de Oro City next month, Jan. 27.
“Good stuff is good stuff. People know good stuff when they hear it, regardless of age. Taste iyan eh. Siguro nagkaiba lang ’yung technological level na nakasanayan ng mga tao. Skill level, like a hit from a young artist is a hit primarily because it’s accessible,” Joey said in an interview.
At 61, and being in the industry for 35 years now, Joey is learning to cope with the changing times, which includes the advent of technology, social media, and younger music “Like”-ers.
“It took awhile for me to accept that. The computer or Internet inverted the distribution system of the world. Before one single product is designed to bring a single product to everybody. Now it’s designed everything to the single person. So bumaliktad ’yung triangle,” he said.
The music icon who plays ethnic musical instruments, such as kubing and kulintang, now uses video streaming to spread his music. Joey is preparing a recording studio where he can also record himself for the YouTube channel he is setting up.
While Joey is a music legend, there’s no stopping him from improving and learning new things. He has a fresher approach when it comes to music.
“You’ve gotten so used to approaching work in a certain way. Pudpod na ’yung frequency na iyon. Metaphorically, karamihan ng musician nabibingi sa sariling intrumento. It works even in the writing style,” he said.
Joey, who is known for songs about nature and society, even enrolled himself in an online writing workshop to try something unconventional.
“I’m trying to improve. Isa sa ginagawa kong exercise is how to write something that is not relevant. Na-realize ko na pampatay din pala iyon; na sticking to your philosophical guns can be a really confining thing for an artist. So, nag-enroll ako sa isang online writing course kasi sawa na ako sa sarili ko. I’ve been myself for how long, 61 years.
“So, sinunod ko ’yung instructions. Ang first, let’s write a stupid song. So ginawa ko, ‘Short shorts,’ without thinking of logic. So, iyong lyrics na lumabas, ‘Ito ineng, bibili ka na lang ng bago, ito pang luma ang binili mo.’ Hindi ko magagawa ang kalokohang iyon kung seseryosohin ko ang sarili ko,” he said.
He may be known for folk music, but his versatility and musicality extend to people from different generations. Joey knows how to adapt to the audiences’ musical preference and background.
“Binabagay ko sa mix ng crowd. Depende din kung sino nauna, I try to fit in. Kapag pagod na ang mga tao, banatan ko ng mellow. Kapag sawa na sa mellow, lagyan ko ng rock and roll iyan. So binibigay ko. Kapag mga bata, doon tayo sa simple. Tapos pasiklaban mo na lang ng mga guitar effects. Iyon kasi ang mga gusto nila,” he said.
Being a legend, Joey is aware the label confines him to an image and genre.
“Kapag legend, parang unchangeable. So that’s also confinement. Kung gagawa ako na hindi nagma-match doon sa ‘legend,’ baka ma-shock ang mga tao. Pero sa arts, iyon nga ang dapat mong gawin eh, ’yung unexpected,” he said.
Joey added, “May mga kanta ako na bago but that’s not what people pay to hear. People pay to hear the old stuff. And that happens to everybody. It’s difficult to reinvent yourself especially if you’re a niche product. Parang Coca-Cola ka, Madonna, every year ka magpalit ng production design mo, okay lang. Sa akin, it’s so hard to accept somebody like me. Once you’re accepted, people don’t want you to change.”
Enjoying longevity in the local music business is something Joey is truly grateful for. He recalled the time the late Pancho Magalona advised him about longevity when he (Joey) was just starting more than 30 years ago.
“Sabi ni Francis (Magalona, late iconic rapper) sa papa niya, ‘Pa, Joey Ayala, bagong salta.’ Pancho said, ‘Alam mo, Kiko, ang showbiz, patagalan, hindi pabilisan.’ Hindi talaga mawala sa isip ko iyan. Matagal akong nag-commit. Ang dami ko na na nagawa. Pero hindi ko siya naintindihan as occupation. Sulat lang ako ng sulat, reporter ako noon eh,” Joey said, almost as if to himself.
Joey hopes to contribute to society by sending positive vibes through music.
“’Yung mga ginagawa ko, as much as possible, (sana) makagaan sa tao. Iyon ang mako-contribute ko. Masyadong mabigat (ang sitwasyon) eh. Pero mahirap mag-sustain ng galit, it will burn you out,” he said.
Joey will also perform with the band Ang Bagong Lumad, Hale, Silent Sanctuary, Dong Abay, and Jireh Lim at Chada.