This week we interview critically acclaimed Philippines’ reggae artist Jeck Pilpil. Born February 14, 1977 in Manila, Philippines the singer/songwriter/musician started playing reggae with the band Peacepipe in 2002. He has released 3 reggae albums with all original songs. He considers himself a reggae “ambassador” in the Philippines’ spreading the message of One Love. Here is our “uncut” conversation with Jeck Pilpil.
Question: Can you tell us about the first time you heard reggae. What was that experience like?
I first heard Reggae when I was in high school, I was not even aware that I’m dancing to those tunes at that time, but the roots feel blasted me with the thundering voice and lyrics of Robert Nesta Marley with the songs “Get Up Stand Up” “No Woman No Cry” “Craven Choke Puppy” “Thank You Lord”. Way back in my early college days I bought a 4 tapes box set of “Songs of Freedom”. Listening to it made me feel so good within, the sweet island vibe, the conscious lyrical form and the One Love movement is pure skankin and pure niceness. Reggae music you listen with your mind which is food to everyone’s heart and soul.
Question: Was it then that you decided to be a reggae artist?
No, I decided to be a Reggae artist when I was in college, my early musical days are more on classic rock, dancehall, funk and some blues. I was looking for a music that I can be with for the rest of my life and so I began flourishing my future with Roots, Rock, Reggae.
Question: What is life like for a reggae artist in your country? Do you do a lot of concerts?
It’s not that easy to be a Reggae artist or musician in Philippines specially if you are not into mainstream and more on it’s conscious vibe, the radio air waves here is more into rock and pop but I know we have to live with it and find our ways not to indulge with popularity babylon contest. Based on my experience, it’s better to have a decent job to sustain your music and for me not to bend my musicality for a money making system.
We have a weekly gigs in Bars and play once or twice a month for a major concert or events which is good enough to sustain a long term conscious Reggae vibe.
Question: Have you performed outside your country?
Yes. Singapore Jamdown 2009, Taiwan Reggae Beach Festival 2010, 1st Reggae Selectaz Mash up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 2010, April 2011 USA California Tour.
Question: Tell us about the first reggae album you did?
The first album in general is more on the island vibe and the beauty of Philippines that is being established in some of the songs from the album, some tracks are on the militant side of Reggae music, with all the political and third world country problems, some of the songs are driven on the social and political side. Mixed the two flavors is equal to Roots, Island, Reggae music.
Question: Was it in your native language?
Two songs are in my native language but majority of the tracks are in English. English or Tagalog (our native language) all of the tracks are inspired and based on our mother land, 7,107 Islands Philippines.
Question: How many albums have you released? When were they released?
The first self-titled debut album was released 2006 under Galaxy Records Philippines. Second album entitled “Mabuhay Revolution” released in 2009 under Mabuhay Riddims distributed by Galaxy Records Phil. Third album “Rasta Salute” was released March 2011 under Manila Irie distributed by Galaxy Records Phil.
Question: What first drew your attention to Reggae?
The Island vibe and feel of Reggae Music, because our country is composed of thousands of Islands, Reggae really fits the settings in Philippines. Followed by it’s conscious lyrical form.
Question: What was the first Reggae song you ever heard?
“No Woman No Cry” by Bob Marley & The Wailers
Question: Who and what are your influences?
My main influence as a musician is my father Pepito Pilpil, he used to play in a classic rock band 1960’s-1970’s, and my Grandmother who taught my father how to play guitar and managed them at the same time. My Mother is a folk singer, My Sister is Pianist, my brother Jason is Bassist, and my younger Brother Jon is a Keyboardist and a Reggae Artist, music runs in our family and they are my main influences that keeps me playing and sharing my God given talent to everyone. I grew up searching for a better way and rational things to do in life, music became my home, my life and my passion. Now my biggest motivation came when my Son Jacob Zion Pilpil came into my life, the first time I saw him I promised myself that I will do everything to keep him safe & loved, let’s just say that I just want him to have a bright future. And so my music is motivated with life and love. With our country’s corrupt political system, third world country problems, I was driven by the militant stand of conscious Reggae music. God above all, my family is my life, music is my home is my golden rule and path. Music is a way for me to say things that I know will bring forth God’s wisdom, Peace & freedom that starts from within, and it’s the only magical way you can transcend messages and at the same time to entertain.
Question: What style of reggae is played often in your country?
Mostly crucial conscious Reggae vibe is being played here in Philippines right now specially in the Visayas region, specifically Cebu which is the Reggae capital of our country many are now into the real vibe and with the collective effort of the Reggae musicians and artists, Reggae is one of the promising and one of the arising genre of music in Philippines.
Question: Was the fact that Reggae is English and Patois a barrier?
In Philippines, there are between 120 to 175 depending on the method of classification, surprisingly we have Reggae in different languages from different provinces, from different artists in our country. There’s no any form of barrier in dialect in our country for as long as it is Reggae.
Question: Is Reggae mainstream and is it played on the radio there?
Reggae is not in a state of mainstream in Philippines but as of today it gets a good recognition with the start of Reggae radio slots, with shows in 2 or 3 major radio stations it’s now on the move to help it recognize more on the masses’ appeal.
Question: How is Reggae influencing your culture?
Philippines is composed of 7,107 Islands, being an archipelago it has different languages, beliefs and religions. I think Reggae will bring a good impact and will help our culture or any culture in the world, Reggae music will bring forth a solid foundation of the roots in humanity, the state of Oneness and togetherness regardless of color, religion, race or tradition as I myself have witnessed it’s glory on the reggae festivals that I’ve attended.
Question: If someone traveled to visit your home and wanted to hear reggae music what would they have to do?
The best way is to know the places that you are visiting, your destination is the best way to look for a Reggae artist or scenes, chances are there’s a reggae band or artists in the place you’re going that you can watch or be seen live. Social networks and youtube is also a big help to look for some good artists and their origin. Just make sure you have a map or some local inputs that will make your trip a memorable one.
Question: How would you describe your country’s reggae sound and development?
Roots, Island, Reggae music is the sound of our country’s Reggae scene. Most of the groups are into the roots band style, dub, dancehall, ska, reggae is mostly done with a live band, we are more on the live act type of reggae. DJ’s and MC’s are now coming in to give a new flavor on the dancehall arena and how it is done in different countries, which is a good signal on the future development of Reggae music in our country.
Question: Who is your favorite Reggae Artist?
Robert Nesta Marley, Majek Fashek, Lucky Dube, Burning Spear, Black Uhuru, Dennis Brown, Augustus Pablo, Ras Michael & The Sons of Negus, Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown, Sizzla, Capleton, Barrington Levy.
Question: Where do you think Reggae will be in 10 years time in your country?
Ten years from now Reggae music will be a major musical success in Philippines, as early as of today you can see and hear different Reggae bands in different provinces playing and recording their materials, it’s getting bigger and bigger through the reggae festivals from different cities and with the collaborations from artists from different countries like Jamaica, Africa and London. Philippines will soon be at that time one of the best Reggae contributors in the world. Yes indeed, i’m positive about it.
Question: Do you think there is anything preventing Reggae from flourishing for you and your fellow artists in your country?
Reggae artists and musicians here in Philippines still needs to double the effort to be seen and be heard more on TV and Radio, but I don’t see any problem regarding producing the materials as most of the bands and artists here are independent. Hopefully ten albums or more from different artists in one year is a good sign, I’m hoping that my comrades and fellow Reggae artists will continue on writing and producing their on songs.
Question: In some countries you might see people wearing a Jamaican-style hat wIth fake dreadlocks attached when they attend reggae concerts and other events. Do you see anything that you see in your country?
No, I don’t see any of that kind of hats in gigs or events here in Philippines, ‘come as you are’ for the majority of the people watching the Reggae events here.
Question: Have you ever been to Jamaica?
I haven’t been to Jamaica but I would love to in the future.
Question: Do you have many/any Jamaican people living in your country?
I don’t know any Jamaicans that live in our country.
Question: Do you eat Jamaican food? Can you get it in your country?
Yes I eat Jamaican food, one of my favorites is Jerk Chicken and beef patties. Beef patties can easily be bought in Philippines, it is available in malls and food stalls named “Jamaican Patties” and “Royale Caribbean”. You can buy it in different flavors and the amount of spice on it, good stuff indeed.
Question: Thanks for the interview. Do you have any final words?
One blessed Love to all, greetings & salutations from 7,107 islands Philippines. Jah love and light shine upon you and your loved ones. Rasta Salute!