Deep roots and pride in Calgary's burgeoning Filipino music scene
Common threads tying musicians together
Listen to the music of singer-songwriter Annie Lux, hard rock guitarist Edz Cultura and rapper Eddie Pesos (formerly Lyrique), and you'd have a hard time finding many similarities in their musical sound.
But there is a common thread that ties them together. They're all members of Calgary's Filipino musical community.
"It goes way deep," says Cultura, whose real name is Ed Montevirgen, when asked about the pool of talent calling the city home.
Music is an important element of community — often tied to identity. It's a chance to explore tradition but also find an original voice.
Calgary's vibrant Filipino music scene crosses musical styles and speaks to the performer's differing backgrounds. It also offers mutual support, connection to community, a cross-pollination of language and a chance to bring in wider audiences.
Cultura 'sharing the blessings'
Rock and reggae memorabilia cram the walls of Cultura's rehearsal space in his Calgary basement.
Ask around, and you find Cultura is widely considered an important nexus in the city's Filipino music scene — bringing his guitar skills to original music as well as cover bands that play in restaurants, lounges and concert venues. Cover bands are hugely popular within the Filipino community, says Cultura.
"When we play covers from old Filipino musicians, of course, the Filipino crowd likes it, and they reminisce through it… they really like listening to the old school kind of Filipino music," he says.
And Cultura often invites up-and-coming artists to join him on stage.
"I kind of mate everything together, I guess.… It's a good feeling, sharing the blessings."
Lux racked up 4M views for pop tracks on YouTube
Among those artists was Annie Ala, who is known as Annie Lux, who says Cultura gave her early opportunities.
"I've known Cultura since I was a little girl," says Lux.
"He's known me since the very beginning. He's seen me start singing in my Dad's restaurant and he always invites me to sing for certain shows."
Lux has stacked up over four million views for her pop tracks on YouTube. She's been featured on A-Side, the theme song for Disney TV series The Next Step. And she recently graduated from Berklee College of Music.
She says the support of Calgary's Filipino community made all the difference.
- Watch the video below to see Annie Lux perform Hurry Up
"In Calgary, growing up, I was mostly playing classical music in high school. So I never really thought this would be a sustainable career until the Filipinos are like, 'Wait, you have to do freaking music because you can do it',' and I was like 'OK, I guess I will!'" she laughs.
"So I'm super grateful for the Filipino community."
Pesos always had 'that itch to make music'
Someone who knows Lux's music, and is himself a very well-known voice in that community, is Eddie Pesos, the new stage name for Edward Que.
He moved to Canada in 2014.
"When I was a temporary foreign worker, I already had that itch to make music," says Pesos.
At first, he says, he didn't have much time.
"And then when I got my permanent residency, around 2017, 2018, that's when I really put focus into making music."
- Watch the video below to see Eddie Pesos, formerly known as Lyrique, perform Rain
Pesos has stacked up four EPs under the stage name Lyrique, working with producers from South Korea, Germany and London.
"I just took all that hunger and when it made sense to release it, I just kept going at it and I'm still going at it. Because there has been some success that I'm really grateful for … but I've barely scratched the surface."
'Always remember where you came from'
There is a clear pride in the community among all three of these musicians.
"I'm proud to carry the flag," says Cultura.
And that also informs the languages they perform in — English and Tagalog.
There is an interesting balance facing these artists. The pull to deliver music specifically to the community that has supported them, and the push to expand their audience.
And while Lux says she prefers writing in English, she makes a concerted effort to also include Tagalog in her song writing.
- Watch the video below to see Annie Lux perform Tahan Na (Bright)
"When I sing in Tagalog, it's funny because the Filipinos will be really shocked. I'm what they call Englisera, which means I was born and raised in Canada so my Tagalog has an English accent," says Lux.
But she says it's still important to her to represent her community by singing in Tagalog.
"When I was growing up, I looked up to Apl.de.ap from Black Eyed Peas. And he had this one hit song called Bebot. That was like the pride anthem because it was in Filipino. And so for me, as an artist, if I could do something like that, that would be so cool."
- Watch the video below to see Eddie Pesos, formerly known as Lyrique, perform Live Well
Incorporating Tagalog songs into his live music sets is key for Cultura as well. And not just for venues that cater to Filipino customers. When he's playing a show at the likes of the Ship and Anchor or Broken City, he'll sneak a Tagalog song into the set.
"You'll never know how they'll react. We'll play English songs and attract them and then we'll bring out one Filipino song and they're like, "Woo ... What the hell is this guy saying?" but the groove is nice."
Pesos also makes a point incorporating his native language when writing some of his rap lyrics.
"It's hard to put both Tagalog and English in one song but sometimes you just gotta do it," says Pesos. "Sometimes you just gotta take that chance. And whatever field you're in, just be original and always remember where you came from."
'I'm full of adrenaline and my body is ready to gig'
What with COVID-19 restrictions, music venues around Calgary have been closed.
But these three musicians are still writing music, recording at home or practising for a return to the stage.
"Friday and Saturday, I'm full of adrenaline and my body is ready to gig but I cannot. It's driving me crazy!" says Cultura.
While you wait for the chance to see them live again, check out this playlist we've put together featuring some of the Filipino musical talent coming out of this city — a creative network you may have never known about that is well worth a listen.