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ideas of an eLven being in Canada

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Cosmic Journey of Khumb Mela Band


Tribute to Philippine Alternative Rock Music, part 7
The Cosmic Journey of Khumb Mela Band
(On an Obscure Philippine New Wave Band)


A
rguably one of the most underrated and poorly promoted Filipino Alternative Rock bands that emerged in the 1980s was Khumb Mela Band. Although the group began as a promotional gimmick of Widdie Saulo, the owner of the local shop Khumb Mela (in Harrison Plaza Shopping Mall, in Manila; and in Park Square One, in Makati—which specialized in sports gear, bags, and other stuff including bootlegged and reproduced imported music albums—Khumb Mela Band, which proved to be a musically tight and style-conscious group, took off and carved a name of its own in the Philippine Rock music scene in the 1980s.

I saw them live many times back in the late ’80s, the first time at a concert party billed as “Sneak Attack 2,” held in May 1987 at The Atrium of Makati. The fashion sense of the band members left a memorable mark in my mind. They were among the typically New Wave–attired bands of the time—teased or gelled-up hair, silk or satin longsleeves, madeup faces, boots or creepers, and lots of accessories.

Luckily my former band Half Life Half Death got to share bill with them at a few gigs in 1989 and in the ensuing years. Khumb Mela Band used to cover songs like “Absolute Reality” (The Alarm), “Dancing with Myself” (Billy Idol), “I Don't Like Mondays’" (Bob Geldof & the Boomtown Rats), “A Way” (The Bølshøi), “The Distance between Us” (Fra Lippo Lippi), and “My Way” (The Sex Pistols).

I got to hang out with the band’s bassist in the early ’90s, when he became a member of Mariya, a band whose music had the influences of Pinoy Rock and Synthpop and whose members included Cool Carla (Abaya), Leni Llapitan, and Marvin Mendiola of Identity Crisis (another pioneering Philippine New Wave band) and Rozylyn Torres, who used to be a female vocalist in my former band Half Life Half Death.

Khumb Mela Band was able to record only one album, entitled 108 Music, in cassette-tape format, released independently in 1988 and sold exclusively at the Khumb Mela shops. The band was among the first batch of Filipino bands that the now-defunct Philippine FM radio station NU 107 gave regular airplay during the station’s early days, in the late ’80s. Khumb Mela Band songs that I remember being played on NU 107 were “Questions,” “Moving Away,” and “Cosmic Journey.”

Perhaps the most popular song of Khumb Mela Band, "Questions" received a regular airplay on NU 107 in 1989.


Khumb Mela Band's songs like "Moving Away" displayed the band's penchant for angular, sharp guitar rhythms.

  "Cosmic Journey" exhibited Khumb Mela Band's music in its most New Wave--a marked marriage of synthesizer melodies and angular guitar tracks.

Before, I never really paid attention to the musicality of Khumb Mela Band. All I knew was, they sounded New Wave because of the incorporation of keyboard sounds and synthesized guitar melodies and the obviously New Wave attires of the band members. However, in retrospect, only in the recent years when I had the chance to listen again to the album after obtaining a copy of it from a fellow music enthusiast that I realized how Khumb Mela Band’s music was ahead of its time, especially the lyrics.

Khumb Mela Band’s musical ideology predated that of the 1990s-formed English Britpop band Kula Shaker, which adopted Hinduism as the central theme of its music. Yes, now that I fully understand Khumb Mela Band's music, I realized that the central theme of their album was Hinduism—what with song titles like “Cosmic Journey,” “Limited Pleasure,” and “Govinda,” which predated Kula Shaker’s song of the same title released in 1996.

Formed in 1986, Khumb Mela Band was comprised by Andrew Jeffs (vocals), Randy Capawan (guitars), “Dodo” Isidore Fernandez (keyboards), Allan Dichoso (bass), and Boying Reyes (drums, backup vocals). Lyrics were written by Boying Reyes (with assistance from Boying's ex-wife Annie Reyes) except "Questions" and "After the Storm" by Capawan; music and arrangement by Capawan, Fernandez, and Boying Reyes. The band’s major influences included the popular New Wave bands/artists of the time such as The Alarm, Billy Idol, Nik Kershaw, and Philippines’ very own New Wave pioneers Identity Crisis and Ethnic Faces. However, according to Boying himself, "My own compositions [go] back in the late Seventies when I was a very young musician. I came up with the music of "Cosmic Journey" in 1979." 

By the 1990s, the members of Khumb Mela Band had ended their musical journey together. Jeffs embarked on a solo career, releasing an album entitled Nasaan Ka? on Dyna Records. Capawan did sessions for Binky Lampano, the vocalist of Dean’s December, another Philippine New Wave band that emerged in the 1980s. Fernandez became the session keyboardist of The Dawn especially for the stretch of the 1990s. Dichoso did session works for other bands that included Mariya and Mulato.

Final Note
Sadly, in 2010, vocalist Jeffs passed away due to end-stage renal cancer, amidst a brewing band reunion expressed by a number of concert producers who were interested in reintroducing the music of Khumb Mela Band to the current music generation.

Message to me by Andrew Jeffs' son Charles Andre Jeffs 
(sent on September 22, 2011):
  • Thank you for all your kind words towards my father.
    I do try to maintain his Image towards his fellow musicians through myself and how i play and sing.

    To answer you question, yes. he was able to come out with a solo album titled "NASAAN KA" under Dyna records.

    Though, it was poorly promoted as my dad had to leave for the states because his mom got sick.

    He was on various shows doing appearances and radio promotions.

    Uncle Yadu and Dad go way back. Uncle Yadu saw dads potential and decided to put the band up.

    im sure you know that Khumbmela is a big brand name for Bags. (Back packs)

    they're friends basically. 

    after Uncle Yadu saw dads potential, he then sought out to find great musicians such as Tito Alan and tito Dodo.
    Uncle boying and Tito Randy.

    thats from what i know.

14 Comments:

  • At Friday, March 01, 2013 2:24:00 AM, Anonymous Haku said…

    CooL Dude, we do the same thing when im studying at St.Mary's and Sta.Clara at pasay city, hanging out at D'Clarion lunch time and dismissal. waiting for a jeep at the intersection of zamora and burgos. its good to saw a blog about my / our Former School. ^^,

     
  • At Monday, January 06, 2014 12:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Are the members of khumbmela stayed together until the 90's or is there any replacements with the members?

     
  • At Tuesday, August 05, 2014 7:46:00 PM, Blogger eLf ideas said…

    The group disbanded in the 1990s. Jeffs embarked on a solo career. The other members either joined other groups or did session worls for other artists, but no one reformed Khumb Mela Band.

     
  • At Tuesday, August 05, 2014 7:46:00 PM, Blogger eLf ideas said…

    The group disbanded in the 1990s. Jeffs embarked on a solo career. The other members either joined other groups or did session worls for other artists, but no one reformed Khumb Mela Band.

     
  • At Sunday, September 27, 2015 10:20:00 AM, Anonymous melody said…

    Wow! I didnt know my dad (Boying Reyes) existed on the internet besides FB. I will definitely show him this blog. We were bandmates at one point before I settled down. He's a great drummer.

     
  • At Monday, September 28, 2015 4:05:00 PM, Anonymous Boying said…

    It's nice to find out that Khumbmela Band is still being followed, the was my greatest acheivement in my entire music career, i really hope that i'd be given a chance to make some comments to give more facts about why the band was formed in the first place,, Boying Reyes

     
  • At Tuesday, September 29, 2015 5:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I just find it funny that the guy who is responsible for bringing the band to existence was the least mentioned in the comments does anyone know who Boying Reyes is? Does anybody or even the surviving members ever mentioned that he is the one who led the band to its journey? and the reason why the band ceased to exist because he decided to pack it in, not even when Yadu tried to reform it did'nt work because the main ingredient was missing, and most importatntly he was the one who wrote all the songs in the album and not Anny Reyes (his ex-wife),non of the members know what exactly he was talking about in his lyrics, it was only Andrew Jeffs who has an idea of the concept because he was like a little brother to him and always hang around. to know more,, wait for my next comment...

     
  • At Wednesday, September 30, 2015 8:10:00 PM, Blogger eLf ideas said…

    Boying,
    Thanks for appreciating my article on Khumb Mela Band.

    I would gladly hear inputs from you concerning your band. Understand that I wrote the article based on my own knowledge about the band--only from a distance and only from little snippets of details that I learn from being a part also of the same scene; add to that, from little chats with some of the band's members.

    The focus of this article is on the music itself--on how I saw the concept trying to be expressed in the music.

    But if you, being a major member of Khumb Mela Band, can contribute inside details, then that would be a great addition to this article.

    My ultimate goal is to give justice to the existence of any band whose music I admire.

    Feel free to pitch in your comments here.

    By the way, may you add me on Facebook, if you're there. I regularly post articles there about music.

    I'm aLfie vera mella--member of an old band, Half Life Half Death.

     
  • At Wednesday, September 30, 2015 8:13:00 PM, Blogger eLf ideas said…

    Anonymous,

    Sorry if you found the story I shared about Khumb Mela Band funny.

    Understand that I tried to promote Khumb Mela Band and its music in this article of mine as much as I could--giving utmost respect to the band and explanation about how I "hear" their music to the best of my knowledge and experience.

    If you can add inputs to make this article better, then feel free to do so.

    I will certainly update this article and publish it again after I have incorporated whatever inputs you and Boying can add to what I wrote.

    If only the album will be released again on CD, then I will certainly buy a few copies for my own collection.

    aLfie

     
  • At Wednesday, September 30, 2015 8:16:00 PM, Blogger eLf ideas said…

    Melody,
    Thank you for directing your band to this article that I have written about his band.
    aLfie

     
  • At Tuesday, October 06, 2015 9:22:00 AM, Anonymous Boying said…

    Yes, in fact my ex-wife Anny Reyes contributed a lot to the album making some corrections grammar wise and proper choice of words as she is a disciple of our Spiritual Master we've shared the same spiritual practice and thats what all my song were about. But all the lyrics were composed by me, it was only music wise that my band mates Randy Capawan and Dodo Fernandez gave their share to the album. Our carrier single's music (Questions) was composed by Randy as well as After The Storm but the rest was my own compositions way back in the late seventies when i was a very young musician, i came up with Cosmic Journey's music in 1979 and i did'nt realize then that someone will find it really ahead of it's time, i really appreciate it, i still have not given the possibility that we can still re make the album as a tribute to Andrew Jeffs who is like my kid brother, i will try to contact his son Charles who is my Godson to discuss it, and hopefully i'm able to reform the band like i formed it in the fierst place, next time i will tell in detail how the band was formed,

     
  • At Wednesday, October 14, 2015 2:25:00 AM, Anonymous Boying said…

    Thank you for making some updates to your article about our band, if you would welcome it i can come up with a hard copy of our history (for as far as i can remember) and i will send it to your email, as i feel you might find it contributive to any of your future publications.

     
  • At Sunday, October 18, 2015 11:19:00 AM, Blogger eLf ideas said…

    Boying,
    Do so. You may email me your inputs, and it will surely be helpful in further updating this article of mine about Khumb Mela Band.

    Thank you Boying, for taking the time to do this too.

     
  • At Wednesday, June 22, 2016 1:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Garry Nunez & family moved from Nichols to Bula for good in the 80's. Had given me a cassette tape of this band which becomes my influence.
    I am now 42 working overseas & still a fan of this great band.

     

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