A who’s who of OPM stars like TJ Monterde, MC Einstein, I Belong to the Zoo, and more are coming together for a concert that’s for the music.
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If there’s one thing you need to know about OPM, it is its diversity in terms of both music and genres. Name a genre, and most likely a Filipino is doing it. There lies the beauty—it doesn’t discriminate against the kind of music you want to make or even where you come from. Any kind of local artist is welcome to contribute to OPM’s vast lexicon. The quality and kind of music alone speak for themselves. And letting the music speak for itself is what Cornerstone’s Just Music is all about.
Its artists come from a wide field with their music alone enough to tell their story. It’s a story that’s going to be on full display this November 27 when Claudine Co, Kenji, TJ Monterde, MC Einstein, NKO, and I Belong to the Zoo, take to the stage for a special Just Music Concert. Safe to say that it’s going to be a memorable concert, one that showcases the excellence of OPM. Ahead of the concert, NYLON Manila had the chance to speak with all six artists as they let us in on their music, performing on stage, and more.
To some people, Claudine Co is just known as a popular YouTuber. But in reality, Claudine has dabbled in music for a while now. In fact, some of her earliest videos on YouTube are song covers. “Napakita naman sa kanila ang music taste ko.” So far, she has two singles, I Love You Goodbye and Patay Sindi, that showcase her take on jazz and pop ballads. But her upcoming single is set to be a special one. Not only is it more upbeat, but it also was written by OPM icon Yeng Constantino. “It’s an honor for me because isang pop rock royalty ang sinulat ng kanta ko,” shares a giddy Claudine on the collaboration.
While it’s still early days for her music career, Claudine already has an album planned, “we’re working on an EP,” that is set to connect all her songs. As for her Just Music performance, she expressed excitement and nervousness about it because this will be her first-ever show. Though she isn’t coming unprepared as she’s done dance workshops and practice sessions to hone her performance skills.
OPM isn’t just limited to Metro Manila. All over the country are artists flexing their regional culture through their music. One such rising star is Kenji from Cebu City. Despite being relatively new to the game, he already has received positive attention for his acoustic jams. Some have even called him the male Moira Dela Torre. “I try to relate my songs to personal experiences. I’m trying to pick parts in my life and put in a song,” says Kenji on how he manages to get those hard-hitting tracks. To him, the secret to his music is his honesty and making sure that what he puts down in writing comes from the heart.
Aside from just making a name for himself, Kenji’s rise in the industry is also helping put a spotlight on Bisaya artists. He name-checks Kurt Fick, Jericho Streegan, Jacky Chang, and Morrissette as Bisaya artists who he both looks up to and wants to work with. He even hopes to represent his roots by making a song in the full Bisaya language. “It’s also very good to cater to our Bisaya crowd.” In the meantime, fans can look forward to a hugot-filled performance at Just Music Fest. “They’ll feel talaga na ang sakit naman ng kanta, but you can also learn from experiences.”
With several hits under his belt, TJ Monterde is a certified pro in OPM. Whether it be sad or happy music, TJ knows how to craft a relatable bop. “You’re not alone with what you are feeling.” Just like his fellow Bisaya artist, Kenji, TJ expresses that honesty is where his success comes from. “The honesty in music always be in check. You will know when you’re writing a song just for the sake of writing it.” It’s this feeling that also guides TJ’s songwriting. “You’ll just know when it’s honest or not.” And during those moments when his creativity needs a spark, he actually turns to K-dramas for help. “Whenever they have their soundtracks, it makes you feel that you want to be there.”
Aside from his music, one thing that has got people falling in love with TJ is his wholesome relationship with KZ Tandingan. It’s a relationship many roots for, as seen in their TikTok videos that often go viral. “I feel very happy realizing I married a legend. I’m a huge fan of hers,” he happily shares. It already is enough for him that he’s married to one of his idols and frequent collaborators, it feels even better that their marriage of two sonically different artists is one of the internet’s favorites. “I’m happy people like it and love it whenever we are together. I hope they also follow us not just as a couple, but as musicians.”
For those attending Just Music Fest, prepare to get in your feels as TJ hopes for a night of performing on stage and singing along with the crowd.
Pinoy hip-hop and rap have always been popular. But it seems the genre has seen an explosion this past few years. And one artist who has had a front-row seat to this boom is Darlon Adrian Elmedolan, more commonly known by his stage name MC Einstein. He got his start as a hype man in a club before a local DJ discovered him and gave him the name MC Einstein. The name has stuck as he’s spent the next years releasing viral hits. “Nakakarating sa kanila ang message,” is what he’s most happy about when it comes to the success of his tracks.
His secret sauce to making his music consistently hit is that he likes to imagine himself in the music. “Nilalagay ako sa situation sa kanta na ginawa ko.” That way, he’s able to envision how the track can feel even if he’s not experienced the situation before. MC Einstein has seen multiple successes in his career, but the rapper still has items on his bucket list he has yet to cross off. In particular, he would love to work with Gloc 9 and Moira Dela Torre, collaborations we would love to see as well. As for his advice to the young kids who want to make it in hip-hop, he says it all comes down to practice to perfect your craft.
Every generation sees young artists enter the OPM space ready to bring something new and exciting. And one such name that should be on your radar is NKO. His take on the playful 80s city pop vibe is unlike most of his contemporaries, and that’s not an accident. “I really want to bring something new to the table na hindi masyado kilala sa Philippines.”
This new energy can be felt in his work like his criminally underrated debut EP, XOXO, which was released earlier this year. Taking inspiration from Western culture, he set about making a body of work that spoke to him. And that meant taking over a year to produce the EP. “All of the songs on XOXO, I had to experience everything. I didn’t want to release an EP I didn’t relate to.”
All the tracks on the EP are bangers, but the opening track, Pano Na, is a standout. The pop track bore out of NKO’s desire to “release a sad song that can be played in a club.” He actually submitted the song to his label right at the final deadline. Keep an eye out for NKO as this young artist is bringing his music theory knowledge to give a new flavor to OPM.
I BELONG TO THE ZOO
I Belong to the Zoo’s success feels even more phenomenal when you learn that the indie band originally started with just one member. Argee Guerrero started the project as a solo endeavor in 2014 before eventually expanding to a group in 2018. And since then, the band has racked up millions of streams with hit tracks like Sana and Patawad, Paalam.
If their tracks can feel like gut punches, that’s because Argee processes his thoughts, emotions, and personal experiences through music. “My songs are mostly about personal experiences and different stories I gathered from my friends, which coincidentally are almost all about heartbreaks and relationships. I end up using songwriting as some sort of release because I’m not too keen on talking about what I’m going through. I’d much rather write a song about it.”
When it comes to his music-making process, Argee doesn’t have a set process. It all depends on the moment. “I have to be in the right moment to be able to properly put the feelings I have into song. It usually starts with an event or a memory, then I’ll come up with a verse or a chorus, which I will then send to my bandmates so they can take part in completing the song.”
Needless to say, fans and concertgoers can expect all the feels when I Belong to the Zoo takes the stage. “I can say that our performances are heartfelt and emotional. As for the Just Music concert, we will be performing our newest single, Aalis Ka Ba?, and we’re just hoping that the listeners will appreciate what we have in store for them.”
Catch all these six artists and more at the Trinoma Activity Center on November 27, Sunday, 5 PM.
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