One of the joys I get from being in the media is meeting amazing and talented people with inspiring life stories. The meeting is not necessarily in person but virtually and through their work. At times their life stories make an impact on how I look at life.
This was the case when Butch Monserrat, well known for composing multi-awarded song Umagang Kay Ganda among many others, sent me an update on his recent collaboration with an artist based in the Philippines. Butch over the years has also been involved in arranging and mixing/mastering and producing songs by artists from around the globe.
He sent the video of the Tagalog song "Kimoterapi" which was composed and performed by JyEl Tagbo who is based in Pampanga, Philippines. I was transfixed watching JyEl sing the the raw and authentic lyrics expressing the sufferings he has while undergoing chemotherapy. The images of JyEl singing from his sick bed with the tubes on his chest and on his arm, as well as doing a mean guitar playing while hooked up to an oxygen supply are haunting. In stark contrast was the music Butch composed for it - boppy and had a Santana tone to it.
Not only did we feature JyEl's song in Radio Tagumpay but we also got to interview him. I was humbled by what he had gone through. I am grateful that he also agreed for me to share with The Australian Filipina readers his story as part of his healing and the first step to come out of a black hole and reconnect with his fans.
* JyEl, you mentioned that you "took leave" or gone "MIA" (missing in action) from the music world and social interaction with the public, and the mediai;. when did this happen and what was the reason behind it?
I was too sick. I became too sick, that I lost my mind. For you information, I also have a battery-operated-heart. I have SADS, Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome that has been coupled with testicular cancer. This marriage of two illnesses never happens as science says. But it happened. 2 major illnesses in one body, plus their complications. I was so sick. As a matter of fact, there is a 2-year gap in my life that I don’t remember to this day.
Luckily, my mom has all the documents and recordings of what transpired of that said year gap. And when I saw it, I never saw myself, it was a different being, I saw a dysfunctional and deranged being. My pain relievers, medications, coupled with a chemo brain and regular electrocution to keep my heart alive along with sleep deprivation took a toll on my mind… my rationale… my sanity. I have developed split personalities. My head was shattered. As per learning this, I lost my trust and belief in myself.
Even up to this day I am slowly, inch by inch trying to get back to who I am. I decided to isolate myself from everybody and the world so I can focus and emphasize only on myself. Selfish as it sounds but it’s not. I was doing it for me to stay alive. It is my responsibility to stay alive and sane for my children. There are times that I almost failed, that I almost surrendered… I attempted suicide. I was too weary; I was too ashamed. My face was different, I did not look decent anymore. I bloated due to steroids and pain management. My nails bled, my nose too. I piss blood and it hurts. I was dirty, unkempt, I reek of bad smell, my mouth had sores,I can’t even wash myself. I was too sick. I shout and scream in discomfort every day. I cry each day.
I was a burden to everyone around me. I lost everything in the process. It’s hard to solicit and ask for help. Shame and disgrace plagued me and swallowed me whole, I grew exhausted. That is why I hid myself to everyone. Isolated myself from the world. I drowned myself to pain management which alleviated my mind, not knowing that ultimately, it already overtook my mind, my sanity, my life. I will admit for the first time… I have abused my medication. I needed to restore myself… I needed more time being absent and silent before I could enlighten everyone. I needed time to be gone to fix and better myself. To this day, I am still fixing myself… gradually but confidently.
*What made you write your song "Kimoterapi" and what did you wish to accomplish by it?
Like with any other songs I did in the past, I write not to impress and entertain. I simply write because I have something to share. In writing Kimoterapi, I really had no plans in writing it as of yet but something happened; A great producer, an icon in the music industry got in touch with me, telling me that he wanted to do a new collaboration track with a painful and dark theme. “It’s right up my alley” I said to myself. I am not an alien to pain, for pain was and still is my best friend.
I also felt that the song Kimoterapi was meant to be because like I’ve said “I have no plans yet of explaining to people and answering every one of them”, well music arose. I used music, this song (Kimoterapi) to slowly but deliberately tell my story. By way of this song, I can show people glimpses of what have transpired and what I have felt in my disappearance.
The lyrics is my message, and the way I attack the words coming out of my mouth is the intention of that message. I’ve always been saying… “I am not really a singer, I am just a storyteller; it just so happened that story has a tune”. Correspondingly, about the Kimoterapi song, even though I have not personally posted and promoted it (I am still hesitant in going out in social media), I am pleased that it has good feedback from listeners. As per my life story, the song Kimoterapi is an ice breaker of my silence.
* "Kimoterapi" is a collaboration with veteran composer,musician; music arranger and recorder, Butch Monserrat. How did this collaboration start and what role did Butch play in the song "Kimoterapi"?
Yes, the icon, maestro Butch Monserrat. I have known Sir Butch for quite some time now. Even before I got in hiatus, we already knew each other but we have never worked on a track together. As a matter of fact, I still can’t believe that I have made a piece of music with him. Seems too good to be true if I may say. Sir Butch’s music is spotless, tasteful, sophisticated, and polished. And if you get to hear my own music, it is a raw, disorienting, rock, tense, full of screams and blast.
Me and Sir Butch working together? I was picturing what our output would be. The “Kimoterapi” collaboration started when I joined Sir Butch’s Facebook Group; (IMCG) Independent Music Collaboration Group. I joined IMCG with no intention of collaborating. I simply wanted to hear new music. But as fate goes, Sir Butch got in touch with me if I was open for undertaking a song with him, I was still a bit hesitant but we are talking about a respected composer/producer here.
To make the story short we started to do music together. Kimoterapi is actually our second serving. The first one we did, “WYSIWYG” (What You See Is What You Get) was a success so we tried to do another one; that is Kimoterapi. But for our second serving, he wanted to do something in Tagalog and with “dark” and “painful” theme. I am not unfamiliar to pain so I’m confident I can lay words to his track with such pure intention. Sir Butch is the main man in our collaborations, He did the arrangement and melody of this song. I simply executed his instructions in riding with his melody using my words, voice, style of attack, and guitar. All in all, I think the song came out as intended.
* You have received numerous awards and recognitions; which of these do you hold fondly in your heart and what does receiving these awards mean to you?
I don’t have a specific award that I am fond of; each award has been a blessing for me. Having an award, for me, simply means that I did good. One decent thing about awards is I can always ask for a higher talent fee. :) But on a serious note, me, being an independent artist, being nominated along-side well-known artists and famed colleagues, yet still bagging the award is a pleasing feeling; not just for myself but the entirety of the indie music community here in Philippines. My awards meant that being an underground musician, or an “indie” musician, can be at-par with mainstream and commercial acts. Sometimes even better. :)
These awards helped me to start the “Indie is the New Mainstream” revolution. Before, Indie is minority; unknown and underground; unappreciated. While mainstream is majority, your typical popular commercial music. These two systems of music industry are of diverse worlds. But currently… My revolution materialized, my vision is realized since most of the mainstream artists now have gone independent or “indie”. Gone is the time where major label companies hold artists and their music in their necks. It happened, “indie is the new mainstream”; therefore, these awards are forms of validation that unknown artists’ and talents (just like me) are at-par with the mainstream and commercial ones. These awards inspire other indie acts to further excel in their musicianship. The power to inspire… that is the real achievement that I fondly hold in my heart.
* What challenges in the music world did you face and overcome? and if there is anything you did or experience in the past that you could change, what would they be?
There are numerous challenges a musician has to face in the music world, but for me, personally, one is I do not make much money from doing this. ??. Also, the late-night sleeps. Always catching your sleep in the morning. Likewise, the vices and temptations are quite widespread in my days. Also, the burnout, playing, gigging promoting music all over the country, doing a similar repertoire over and over again. But it’s part of the job. So, we keep on doing it.
There are also the issues of drunkards and bullies in gigs. Let me share, there is this one time that a gun was pointed at me by a drunk council man in one province I performed at, saying I was singing the wrong way of the song. I could’ve fought back. I am a big guy but no one can talk peace with a gun. I walked out and did not finish that gig. I was still paid though. ??One issue also in the industry is “trust”. I had a manager before who took our advance talent fee from the sponsors; it was a huge sum of money since it was 3-day festival event. I trusted my manager to just pick me up in the airport where I’m supposed to have a concert. My manager never showed up. But being a professional that I am, I continued to play for the event despite the fact that I won’t be paid right anymore. That manager has a case now and still in hiding. Anyway, as I matured, I’m inclined to focus more on the music and not the just the image and aesthetics of it.
Well, I’m getting a lot of sleep now, and also quit on all vices and temptations I’ve fallen into in the past, I am wiser now in dealing with financial matters, I handle them on my own now. If there is something I would change in the past, I would’ve altered my lifestyle. I really have lived my rock and roll life hard and in the edge. I wish I have trodden my career in a much “smarter” and “healthier” way. But looking back as I reply to this, I don’t regret it really… If not for every hassle that happened to me, if not for every challenge I’ve faced, I would have not been the person I am today. I am a culmination of my past, both good and bad.
*from what age did you realise that you have the passion for music as a singer, composer and musician playing the guitar and other instruments? anyone in the family also in the music area? what and when was your first public performance?
Honestly, a “Realization” or a “Eureka” moment never came. I ponder that I am a natural musician. It is just what is. I don’t recall a time wherein I started to fall in love in music, I just love it as it is. Sometimes I think I was born out of music. Even the sound of the church bell, the siren of an ambulance, buzzing of the bee, snores of a heavy sleeper, I hear music ubiquitously, I sometimes even tune them and sample those sounds for my music projects.??
It is like this; I was born and raised from a musically-inclined family. My Grandfather from my father side is an Orchestra Conductor in the 50’s. My Dad was a clarinet hobbyist. My mom is a piano teacher, and at the same time also is a folk singer when she was young. My uncles and aunts from my mother side also play music and all have their own guitars and other instruments. Our wall in our ancestral house before was all hooked with guitars and other instruments. Even as a baby to a toddler, I would always hear and see jamming sessions from my family.
As for my first public performance that I can remember, it is from a toothpaste TV commercial. I was 7, I was with a massive bear mascot, we were dancing, I was carrying a big-huge-red toothbrush singing “Taas-baba, kumukutitap, taas-baba, taas baba”. This was in the mid 80’s. I also did a song for a lollipop TV commercial, also in the same period. I was exposed early and young to public performances. Even as a young kid, I was enrolled to personality development classes. As a kid, I was also part of a noontime TV show in Davao City in the mid 80’s. I don’t know which is first among these, but they are the first that I remember as per public performance.
*What is your message to your fans and those who missed you?
To one and all who has been a part of my journey in life and in music, I am sorry for not getting back to you all. I am sorry for not replying on all your messages and calls. I am sorry that you never heard a word from me.
I used to do music for you guys, but now I am asking you all, let the story of my life be the music I can offer. I also want to thank you all for not giving up on me. To this day, as you may notice, I’m still not posting anything on social media, but don’t worry guys, I’m ok. I hope to see you all soon. Pagpapala sa lahat.
*What advice would you give aspiring artists who may be hesitating to pursue their passion?
My advice, just keep on doing it! Keep working on your craft. Practice and study your skills. Also, stay HUMBLE, that is important. One more thing, Let the world hear your music. Artists today are fortunate because they have the internet, coz in our time, we had to personally, and literally bring our demo cassette and CDs to label companies and radio stations. Even the recording today is very easy, before we need to go on a studio and it’s quite expensive to record a decent demo. Nowadays, you can do music in your bedroom with just your phone or laptop, even without any knowledge of playing an instrument. Grab this chance, use this power of the internet to your music’s advantage. Use the internet and showcase your music. Also, surround yourself with supportive people, there are many groups now in social media that you can learn from and experiment with to hone your craft.
Equally, Compete ONLY with yourself. Nothing will occur if you keep on comparing yourself to what others have accomplished and what they can do. You will never be satisfied, coz there is always this someone who is going to be better than you. Just compete with yourself.How can you win others if you are not competent that you’ve won yourself? Right? And lastly Create a solid foundation, if there is 5, or 4, or 3 or even just one person who likes, loves and supports your music genuinely, treasure them. Keep them in the loop of updates in your music. Be friends with your listeners, don’t treat them as fans or followers. You owe them for listening and supporting you. Take care of that one, and that ones’ s network will create new networks, your listenership will grow.
*Do you have projects have in the pipeline? If yes, what are they?
As a matter of fact, I do. I am in the process of creating a 5-song “comeback” EP Record. This already acquired years in the making since I got sick and indisposed. Since I was in hiatus. I previously have finished recording the instrumentations for all of the five songs except recording the vocals. I am still in the process of catching my breath, I am still waiting for the perfect time to execute my vocals for those tracks.
“Art” how matter how long, should not be rushed. For me, songs are not a commercial product, but it’s like children; you take care of them, groom them, teach them, before you put them out to the world. For some, songs are purely for entertainment. But in my case, my songs are my story; My recorded spirit and experiences; it could even be my eulogy someday when I’m gone. ??
Hopefully, early next year I can put the Comeback EP out and you guys would support it too. ??Also, for sure, from now on, you might hear and see me in more collaborations with others artists and producers as well. And I will also be producing for other artists too. I am taking it slow… My body is not like what it is before.
*Lastly, what is your definition of success?
For most people, success is an accomplishment of aim or purpose. But for me, it purely means CONTENTMENT. A state of satisfaction and happiness. Success cannot be measured with the size of a house, number of cars, amount of money, level of skill, and even awards. Sure, all these riches and skills can give you happiness, but for how long? And to what expense? There will always be this void in your heart and life that can’t be filled, and will never be filled so you will ramble on an endless cycle of temporary pleasure and infinite misfortunes. UNLESS you have CONTENTMENT.
If you are genuinely contented and satisfied with what you have and who you are, knowing your limitations, yet doing your best with hope, that is SUCESS. Contentment of the heart, contentment with your life… hence; you are successful.
About JyEl Tagbo
Jayelle Layug Tagbo, or just “JyEL”, 41 years young, was born and raised in Pampanga, in the northern part of the Philippines. He has three other siblings, and according to him, he is the eldest of “his mother”. JyEl has two kids, Jah 17 yrs and Jai 7 yrs.
JyEl finished BS-IT, Information Technology in Informatics, Cainta. For work, he is a professional musician and songwriter by trade, but currently he earns his bread and butter from audio engineering and post production in music. He has a recording studio and a post-production studio with my younger brother JFT, who is also an artist.
Briefly, JyEl is a Guitarist, Vocalist, Songwriter, Arranger, Sessionist, Band Frontman, Ghost Player, Recording Artist, Producer and Audio Engineer rolled into one.
As a testimony to the brilliance of this artist, his music awards include:
.“BREAKTHROUGH ARTIST AWARD” in ABS-CBN’s Wudstak 2001
• “OUTSTANDING ROCK ALTERNATIVE BAND” in the 12th ANNUAL ASIAN STAR ENTERTAINMENT AWARDS
• “BEST ROCK GROUP” in the 11th GLOBAL EXCELLENCE AWARDS
• “ BEST INDIE MUSIC GROUP” in the PHILIPPINE DIGITAL AWARDS
• “ BEST INDIE MUSIC” in the PHILIPPINE DIGITAL AWARDS
• “ BEST ROCK GROUP” in the AVIMA in Indonesia
• “ BEST ALTERNATIVE” in the IACA in San Diego (International Artist's Company Awards)
• BEST FRESH SONG -in the BPO SALUTE FOR INDIE AWARDS 2013
• BEST COLLABORATION -in the BPO SALUTE FOR INDIE AWARDS 2013
• BEST ALTERNAROCK -in the BPO SALUTE FOR INDIE AWARDS 2013
JyEl's music is available in all digital stores worldwide. It's available in Spotify, Deezer, Youtube Music, Apple Music, Reverbnation, Tidal, Soundcloud, Amazon, Indiepinoy Music and more. Just search for JyEL Tagbo songs in your browser.
The Australian Filipina wishes JyEl more success in his music journey, and more importantly that his health issues are resolved soon so that he can continue touching more lives through his music.