They say you should never meet your heroes for fear of that “inevitable” let down that the experience usually has. But there are times that your heroes seek you out. Then really, who’s to say no?
I’ve been a fan of the Filipino band Up Dharma Down since I first saw them in quite possibly one of their first ever gigs in a bar in the Makati district in Manila. I met the band because I’m friends with their manager, Toti Dalmacion, who is himself, a legend in the music community. I met Armi, their piano playing, shy, well- but soft-spoken frontwoman. As time went on, I’d like to be able to call her my friend, through shared gigs and long nights.
I’ve watched from afar how this notoriously quiet and fiercely private woman bloom into the powerhouse she is today, and the band UDD has now become a force to be reckoned with, hits that have reached all 7,107 islands of the Philippines. They have played abroad and have now taken a break from relentless gigging to recharge their batteries.
And this is where the story really takes a turn.
D’Sound is known here in the Philippines as one of the standards that musicians listen to for technique and style. This Norwegian band is categorized under the genre of pop jazz, with smooth grooves and funky beats, and they have been an inspiration to many. Our story actually starts here, when the heroes call on one of their fans and made one a song together written in Tagalog. Here’s what went down.
Were you a fan of the D'Sound prior to this project?
I have always been a fan. Probably one of their biggest fans here?
How did you learn about them?
I first heard of them on the radio and it was a point in time I was really getting into music, it was all I had. I looked at the cover of their CD "Beauty is a Blessing" and I thought maybe I could do something like that, find a band, be in a band, write my own songs and from there, the search was on. I wanted to find good musicians I could be friends with or find good musicians in my friends.
How did they find out about you?
Toti (Dalmacion), our manager long before UDD got signed on to Terno Recordings brought them over to Manila. I saw that show. I still remember getting a part of the drumstick Kim had left behind. So a few more times they were in town we would get introduced, but that was it.
How did all this even happen and transpire?
Their song "Only One" had just come out and I was on tour with UDD in Canada at the time so I was experiencing new things as a musician which produced so many questions -- about the nature of the work I was doing, if I was going to do this for the rest of my life so I felt really inspired finding out that D'sound were still making music. I thanked them for being an inspiration after all these years and then Kim (D'sound's drummer) saw my post about it and we stayed in contact since that time.
What does the song title mean?
"Lykkelig" in Norsk means happy. Song titles are like a self-fulfilling prophecy so I'm glad it's really working out to the song's favour. People feel happy listening to it!
What made you guys decide to keep the lyrics in Tagalog and not translate it into English?
As Jonny put it, it would take away its charm to do any sort of translation. I personally think the spirit in which it was built is working the way it should which was openness and just feeling things out. I've encountered people who don't understand a word of Filipino that have shown love for the song. I think that's great, the way music brings people together.
What was it like to work with your idols?
You should've seen my face last year when I went in the studio with them! They work so differently from what I’m used to. So I was uncomfortable at first and felt like a complete embarrassment having come there with nothing good to offer but I realised soon enough that this was all about perspective. Taking it all as a challenge to grow and learn. Clearly, I just got lucky as there are so many talented people we know who could've done the same. When I stopped feeling that brand of intimidation and started looking at it as an opportunity to learn and enjoy the process, the music just flowed. It matters to me that they are as sweet and kind as I thought they would be.
So you came up with the lyrics and they came up with the music? But who came up with what first?
We were actually done trying to write something and this was playing in the background and Kim was on the board. I sang a few lines in gibberish-part English and then Kim said I could try to do this in Filipino and I was really glad to hear that. By doing this they are opening doors for people. I've always dreamed of being able to teach the world to sing in Filipino because it is a beautiful language.
What are your favourite songs of theirs?
I have to talk in terms of albums. Spice of Life and Beauty is a Blessing — I listened to those even in my sleep.
Talkin Talk and Doublehearted have some pop gems in there, too. Signs is a great album. It's understood "Tattooed on My Mind" is their most loved song, their gateway song if you will, like "Tadhana" has been for UDD, but there's a particular reason why I fell in love with them in the first place. I have made an intensive playlist of my favourites on my artist account on Spotify.
Do you think that had any impact on the lyrics that you wrote?
Absolutely. Plus, I was just really happy to be there.
What inspired you to write those lyrics?
I was at a point where I was making certain decisions for myself; It was mostly about that risk-taking set of decisions and just letting go, doing what you set out to do, because in the end its really all you-- only you can bring yourself down, so don't do it. Drop the baggage and fly.
Since this is most definitely bucket list-worthy, what would be your other dream collaborations and why?
I'mm going to try to do this the same way I did it for it to happen again. So I'm just ready to be surprised with similar instances. I just want to work with people who are in it for the music, like-minded people who are open to anything and who can see beyond limits and borders.
Will you be touring with them or just for the shows in Norway?
We really just had a lot of fun together, so I don't doubt seeing myself for another show or two if they call me and tell me that. Im really grateful they tried to figure out a schedule so I could fit into the show in Oslo. I guess we just need some help from time and circumstance to do the work-- the music is already there.