Filipino Friday, November 3, 2023 – “IsaPuso” by ALAMAT

It feels like just yesterday that ALAMAT released their last EP Pasulong. I’ve definitely still had tracks like “Aswang” and “Gayuma” and “Say U Love Me” on repeat in the year since the album was first released.

So it is exciting to have the group back with a brand new album in IsaPuso. Knowing what the group can offer, especially with their attention to Filipino culture and heritage in their music, this new album is of course a must-listen. And they very much deliver once again.

Title track/carrier single “Dagundong” was teased in the recent trailer for the film Penduko, raising anticipation even more. And now listening to the full song, that anticipation was definitely satisfied. It is a rousing, empowering track. And its accompanying music video vividly depicts that courage and determination as it refers to Philippine history as well as even in more simple and relatable situations. It’s hard not to get caught up in the song’s message.

The other tracks of IsaPuso compliment the title track very well, especially when you listen to the tracks in the order they appear on the album. “Dayang” has ALAMAT expressing their feelings to the titular princess and is a groovy and poppy heir to Pasulong‘s “Marahani.” “Noli,” written and produced by the members, continues the vibes and takes it into the later, sultrier hours of the evening.

The aptly-titled “Manila Dreams” blends some Manila Sound into a modern pop track for a funky, dreamy and hopeful glide through the city. And those retro vibes continue into “Multo (feat. Cursebox)” which is definitely a spiritual successor to “Aswang” as well.

The album also includes the previously released bright summer track “Day and Night” and emotional “Walang Hanggan,” which is still a candidate for my favorite song of the year.

But when the tracklist for IsaPuso was first released, the title that immediately caught my eye was the album closer “Dong-Dong-Ay”. Being half-yKalinga myself, I grew up hearing my dad singing those familiar words all the time. And was pleasantly surprised to see ALAMAT would potentially be infusing one of their tracks with this traditional Kalinga folk song.

I’ll admit, one of the reasons ALAMAT quickly became my favorite P-pop group is because of their infusion of different Filipino languages and cultures into their music. And even more so after learning member Taneo was Kalingan himself. Hearing Ilocano lyrics in a mainstream pop song like “kybe” or “kasmala” was amazing!

To be honest though, I’ve been kinda sad at the lack of Ilocano in the group’s more recent releases. That doesn’t take away from how great the group’s latest music has been. But it’s certainly something I look forward to hopefully hear whenever ALAMAT comes out with fresh music. (Yay for the line of Ilocano in “Manila Dreams”! hehe)

So when “Dong-Dong-Ay” popped up, I was so excited. And now finally hearing the track, it’s really so wonderful to have the group being able to share this humble folk song to the world even if just a few lines. ALAMAT’s track is able to seamlessly blend together the traditional melody with an equally humble acoustic guitar and drums for what is a hopeful and uplifting song. The group’s harmonies are also amazing.

It’s interesting because the lines “Dong dong ay sidong ilay. Insalisalidummay.” technically have no direct translation. Even though they very much express a positive feeling whenever you hear them.

From my experience, the words are used more as a sort of chant or harmony that usually begins songs that express a wide range of emotions such as celebration and thanksgiving. But also more emotional and sentimental feelings as well.

Though I know there is a sort of “standard” set of lyrics after those introductory lines, I’ve always grown up hearing my dad and others often proceed with their own lyrics. Sometimes they come up with lyrics on the spot, basically expressing their feelings through song rather than a spoken speech or something like that. Usually at family gatherings, parties or even official meetings between tribes.

So ALAMAT’s version, I think, follows that tradition very well. They use the comforting words to lead into a song with a hopeful message for the future. And that makes the song a perfect closer to the album. (A couple of gangsas/gongs playing in the background would’ve elevated the track even more too! Hehe)

The album IsaPuso is another strong showcase for what ALAMAT can offer as artists and performers. And it is songs like “Dong-Dong-Ay” which remind me what made me really get into ALAMAT last year. The way they are able to infuse Filipino culture and heritage into mainstream pop music is refreshing and something that can fill you with such pride. Especially when seeing non-Filipino fans loving and enjoying their music. Will always look forward to what ALAMAT can offer in the future.

2 thoughts on “Filipino Friday, November 3, 2023 – “IsaPuso” by ALAMAT

  1. Thank you for sharing your personal connection to Dong Dong Ay! That’s one thing I love about ALAMAT. Nakaka-relate talaga, especially sa cultural feelings.

  2. Salamat sa context na binigay mo re: Dong-Dong-Ay. I’m not familiar with the folk song and the comments on Twitter and elsewhere were not too helpful. Your context and what I’ve found on Google help a lot and mas nakaka-appreciate yung kanta.

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