Even in his earlier works as a member of the Makiling Ensemble â€“ that later became simply Makiling â€“ in the latter days of its existence, Diwa de Leon has always shown a beguiling quality in his musicality that has made his approach to music seem very unconventional and against the grain for those who are not used to the whole â€śworld musicâ€ť scene. In the two albums that Makiling as set forth, de Leon has explored various musical styles and influences as he and the rest of his band straddled and blurred the line between the sound that sounds indigenous and ethnic and the modern and electronic. The result is always novel â€“ an experience that may seem strange at first but is something that would eventually feel very workable and innately appealing to the inner recesses of your musical soul.
Diwa de Leon steps out of Makiling for his solo album â€“ the Emergence EP. The release itself is a five-track compilation that carries the disclaimer that it is not a full album. The image that serves as the cover for the album features a curious-looking instrument called the hegalong. The liner notes continue to reveal that the hegalong is a two-string guitar from Southern Philippines. Iâ€™ve had the privilege of asking de Leon regarding his curious choice of a featured instrument and it seems like he has a strong bond with the not-so-well-known musical implement. Even a freshman from the Philippine High School for the Arts, de Leon has tinkered with the hegalong and the span of time that has elapsed has seen the great bond between artist and instrument flourish.
The first track is also the title track and even if you donâ€™t read the track title, you sort of feel that there is a strong sense of awakening or rebirth in the melody and general feel of the song. The strings lend a very organic and almost oriental feel to the entire composition but the old school feel is contrasted with the electronic synthesizer sounds that just gently join in the background.
Songs that donâ€™t have lyrics often makes one feel emotions at greater depths since the music can evoke certain feelings that words simply cannot. For the track â€śEmergenceâ€ť the very ethereal beginning of the song feels like a very artistic sound track to one waking up. Personally, I imagined seeing myself stretching after a good nightâ€™s rest and just opening the door to my balcony to just appreciate the morning breeze and the first rays of the sun.Â It picks up a great deal to mirror the mad dash that people would have to get into after going about their daily rituals. Itâ€™s an absolute gorgeous track that has great development in terms of mood and pace and itâ€™s impossible to not react to it.
The second track â€śJapanese Gardenâ€ť is a perfect track to follow the opener as it really revels heavily on a very archetypal Japanese sound. While I canâ€™t put into words why it feels Japanese, the music just has that effect. The track has elements of traditional Japanese folk music and even some hints of video game music. The result is an expertly crafted set of sounds that feature the drone-like bass tones of the hegalong amidst all the high pitches.
â€śUrban Legendâ€ť starts out unabashedly as a very electronic synths-laden track and this makes it a perfect counter point to the other two tracks that come before it. While it sure still has a fairly laid back approach, the listen would definitely sense more movement in the general feel of the song. The strumming of the hegalong is clearly being done on a faster rate.
The concept of contrast with the initial tracks is also evident in the fourth track â€śHigh Riseâ€ť which also has a rich backing of electronic synths that just reverberates in the background. Again, itâ€™s very dynamic with a fairly flashier showcasing of the strings. Itâ€™s definitely something that could be consider very dynamic â€“ perhaps mirroring the very busy environs of a high rise. Despite the richness of the sound and the many layers that have been beautifully collaged into song, the addition and execution of the composition seems purposeful and very well calculated.
The final track â€śTranquilâ€ť puts the listener back to the starting point â€“ a moment of calm and a feeling that is captured in the moment. It feels like a perfect segway from the very dynamic direction of the two tracks that preceded it. If you donâ€™t realize that a hegalong was used for this track, you would probably think that a classical guitar was used for the recording. De Leon just has an amazing deftness and mastery of the instrument that he seems capable of making the hegalongâ€™s sound work for just about any style that he wants to explore.
De Leon has said that his immense respect and admiration for the hegalong is one of the reasons why he decided to showcase the instrument in this album. He has even uploaded actual footage of him playing the songs off the album on Youtube so that other people can see how he has masterfully created various and seemingly modern sounds out an instrument that has probably been used by indigenous people for many generations.
The music may not be everybodyâ€™s cup of tea but listening to it might just be the epiphany that one needs to understand that thereâ€™s a world of music waiting to be discovered outside of the mainstream and our individual comfort zones.
To find know more about Diwa de Leon and his music, you may check out his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.