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Cure yourself of Tarantism with Junoy Manalo

Meet the Filipino psychedelic funk musician whose latest release nods to Daft Punk, St. Germain, Disclosure, Joey Negro/Dave Lee, Saint Guel, Chic, Khruangbin & more

  • Jacob Mendoza
  • 17 November 2021

You can hit as many notes as you can or shred infinitely during a jam but if you don’t feel anything, then there’s no point to it with the likeliness of obliterating into oblivion. Thelonius Monk once said, “You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?.” Amongst other notable quotes by the legendary jazz musician is, “Don’t play everything (or every time); let some things go by. Some music just imagined.”

With that being said, experiencing a live show by Basically Saturday Night (BSN) can help you understand these ideas. Also known as BSN, the five-piece band mainly plays boogie-fusion songs with introspective lyrics that get you groovin’. One of the reasons that make the band so good is that its members are individually talented in their own light. Basically Saturday Night consists of the following musicians: Faisal Tabusalla (the beast drummer who always plays in the pocket), Jairus Paul (the suave keyboardist that always complements the spirit of the song), Arvin Dale (the bassist who never fails to get you in that groove), Kurt Floresca (the band's substitute bassist who definitely plays in respect to Mr Dale's absence), Migie Garcia (the vintage yet modern voice that gives BSN its uniqueness) and last but not least, Junoy Manalo (the gifted guitarist who continuously gets better each performance).

Due to the pandemic, the elevating streak of shows the band had was put to a halt. However, this sickness didn’t stop the crew from the boogie. While there may be no more live performances, they still did online shows such as their Rappler gig. Even without much live presence, they still gained recognition by winning the Awit Awards’ Jazz Recording of the Year. Moreover, the members still continued to create music as a band and individually. Jairus Paul, their keyboardist, released his debut production in the form of a sampled house track for the first Nais compilation. And seemingly out of nowhere, BSN’s Junoy Manalo released his first solo project – an EP series called Tarantism.

Originating in southern Italy between the 15th-17th century, Tarantism was a disease that caused you to dance like a madman. It was thought to result from the bite of a tarantula spider which caused you to have this frenzied urge to dance. Apparently, the cure for Tarantism was to dance off the spider’s venom which could last up to 4 days. “I was so intrigued by the concept of a psychological illness causing an extreme impulse to dance, with dancing even being the main cure for that same illness," said Junoy Manalo to Mixmag Asia. "This was perfectly timed with my growing interest in producing dance music while Manila remained under lockdown. The whole philosophy behind it was that “the music never stops, not even in quarantine."

Junoy Manalo’s debut release as a solo musician was the first Tarantism which was released on July 9, 2021. The cohesive EP consisted of five songs with conscious and intuitive feelings definitely heard in the music. ‘Morning’ is the first track and is a piece of the lyrical motif that recurs throughout the song. “It’s a track that has a very easy-going groove, almost like a pick-me-up in the morning,” Manalo says. The next four tracks are nods to different art that inspired Junoy. ‘The Story of Quincy Jones’ samples the musical legend’s early years as a short story with a groovy and subtle acid house track as its background. The third track is dubbed ‘Spirit of the Party’ and is a homage to George Benson with its instrumentation perfectly encapsulating the good parts of a night-out. For the fourth track, Junoy says the goal was to create a song based on the idea of “watching Ocean’s Eleven with Santana” – hence the title, ‘Latin Heist.’ The last track of the EP is called ‘Lady Francis’ which samples the film ‘Round Midnight’, a story of a tortured musician named Dale Gordon who was helped by main character, Francis Borler. The song title was Dale’s term of endearment for Francis in the film. Relevantly, ‘Round Midnight’ is also a song by Thelonius Monk.

Get to know ​Tarantism Vol 1

What inspired you?

"Being stuck in lockdown, we took every chance we could to get out of town. In those times, I fell back (heavily) into DJing which naturally rekindled my love for dance music. Getting into the production side was simply the result of all the music I was playing and hearing in those DJ sets, and I fell in love with the idea of arranging some of my own."

Who helped you and how?

"Lizzi Garcia created the album art and extended art, Vicky Manalo created the teaser video. I turned to a good friend, Miguel Santiago (Saint Guel), who was very helpful in giving tips on production techniques as well as tips on the mixing and mastering process."

What is the explanation behind your artwork?

"The artwork shows people seemingly inflicted with the tarantism bug, dancing around what is actually a design for specific pool tiles. All the time we spent DJing out of town, the majority of it happened poolside."

How and what was the process of creating the tracks?

"Incredibly fun! But also very challenging because I didn’t have the rig that I really needed for those songs. I was using an old 2012 MacBook, a tiny M-Audio key station 32, and I didn’t have monitors at the time so I just worked with what I had. There’s so much that I could’ve done differently for Tarantism 1, but the two main hindrances were 1) my incredibly limited production knowledge at the time, and 2) every time I wanted to make big changes, my laptop would hit me hard with the rainbow wheel, so certain aspects of the songs just started to grow on me in the mixing stage. It was all very bare-bones, and I loved it."

Get to know ​Tarantism Vol 2

Just three months after sharing five impressive songs from the Philippines to the world, Junoy Manalo surprisingly shared a simple yet classy teaser for Tarantism Volume 2. Eventually released on October 22, the second volume of Junoy Manalo’s Tarantism consisted of another cohesive five tracks that were similar yet somehow distinct from the first release.

"Right after Tarantism 1, I finally got a new computer and all the upgrades slowly started to happen. I was extremely motivated by the idea of creating a project that was a sonic improvement from Tarantism 1, that was really the main goal- so much so that the week of Tarantism 1’s release, I had already ironed out most of the song ideas for Volume 2 on my new computer,” Manalo shares.

“The artwork represents the songs through a clean and straight-forward aesthetic. The distinction between colours represents the variety of moods that are present in volume 2.” Lizzi Garcia and Vicky Manalo once again designed the art for this Tarantism.

What inspired the tracks for Tarantism, Vol. 2?

'La Madre de la Musica' — which translates to “the mother of music”. This concept came from a book entitled The Music Lesson written by Victor Wooten. This book changed my life in college! Additionally, Angelica Alberto performed the vocals for this.

'Wynton’s Wisdom' — the sample is a nod to Wynton Marsalis, and my love for his ability to articulate his passion for music education.

'Going Up Sir?' — a bit of an inside joke, but I’ve always wanted to create elevator/lounge music simply because it’s usually far more complex and colorful than some people might notice. 'Going Up Sir?' is just usually what you’d hear from the elevator operator.

'L. Austin D. Sauce' — as funny as the phrase is, being “lost in the sauce” kind of represented the lyrical content of the song, and it also represented the feeling of being deep in the rabbit hole of producing music and jumping from one project straight into another.

'The Strange Kid' — Lizzi Garcia co-produced this song. She plays some of the different bass and synth elements. 'The Strange Kid' is her DJ name.

How and what was the process of making the tracks?

"I was under extreme analysis paralysis for this project so it was incredibly challenging. I think I got in my own way so often, perhaps because I was constantly trying to apply all the production knowledge I was studying. A few songs into the creation process, I got a proper pair of studio monitors which have since become my prized possessions. It was an intense back-and-forth process, but I’d like to think that I achieved my goal of creating something that at the very least, was a sonic improvement from volume 1."

Any background or fun facts on the samples in Tarantism volume 1 & 2?

"I spend a lot of time watching interviews of my favourite musicians, and I find it really cool to chop up their interviews as samples, which you’ll find in The Story of Quincy Jones (Quincy Jones), Wynton’s Wisdom (Wynton Marsalis) and The Strange Kid (Oscar Peterson).

I’m a huge fan of George Benson’s music and playing style. Besides 'Spirit of the Party; (volume 1), he was also a big influence on the guitar solos for volume 2."

After watching La Crema live in Siargao, we caught up with Junoy and he said that he surely teared up a bit during the psychedelic funk band’s set. Unsurprising for someone who loves music that much – and who hasn’t experienced it live with others after more than a year. Besides Tarantism, we ask the man behind all this music madness.

Who is Junoy Manalo?

"Your friendly neighbourhood guitar instructor based in Manila who also plays the guitar for Basically Saturday Night & Paul Marney & The Rascals."

Who are your major influences?

For Tarantism: Daft Punk (just like everyone else), St. Germain, Disclosure, Joey Negro/Dave Lee, Saint Guel, Chic, Khruangbin, among several others

In general: Blues guitarists such as BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, John Mayer and Santana. Funk guitarists such as Nile Rodgers, Tomo Fujita and Cory Wong. Jazz artists such as Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Oscar Peterson, Quincy Jones and Aretha Franklin.

When did you start creating music?

"I started producing April this year, DJing since 2012, and playing the guitar since 2007."

How are you?

"I’m very glad to have started my music production journey this year. In the absence of live shows with my bands, there was definitely a void to be filled, and I’m very happy to have ventured into a new creative outlet. Besides music, I’ve been coping with the pandemic with lots of family time! This may be the most time our family has constantly spent together, and it’s priceless."

Any final words?

"Thank you to everyone who has supported Tarantism volumes 1 & 2 through Spotify and SoundCloud! I’m continuing to do my homework and I’m learning every day. I'm so excited to keep making music for you guys. More is coming very soon! Stay safe, and get vaccinated!"

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