Rock 101: Narda

Narda (noun)

1. song written by Kamikazee about Philippine comic superheroine Darna which received massive airplay and numerous accolades across the country

2. a critically-acclaimed Philippine indie band which sadly left us too soon

Narda is a band I’ve referenced multiple times in this blog, so I figured I might as well show readers why I mention them so much. Hopefully, this’ll be an eye-opener for those uninitiated with the band and only know that blasted Kamikazee song.

According to Wikipedia (Hey, it’s not like this is allowed in college so allow me to indulge a little bit), Narda started out as the band Lilian, with bandmembers including mainstay Ryan Villena, Pupil’s Yan Yuzon, Xander Angeles on guitar, Patrick Tuason on keyboards and Mimi Chu on vocals. This lineup would eventually shift into one of Narda’s more popular and, perhaps more impressive, longest lasting, incarnations, with Katwo Librando as vocalist, Villena on drums, Wincy Ong as bass guitarist, and JV Javier and Ed Ibarra on guitars. This would be the lineup that released the first Narda E.P., A Postcard From.

The album featured the dark and moody track Hypochondriac, the acoustic ditty Meron Ba, the lo-fi indiepop of Kusina, which was also featured in the indie artist compilation Silver Shiny jeepney, and this particular cut, Crime Fighting Mama.

Personally, I loved this EP, as three of the tracks are constantly on my playlist (Crime Fighting Mama, Hypochondriac, and Meron Ba), and the other is not too shabby in itself (Kusina).

After their debut release, Narda went cheeky (something that would prove to be a trend) by releasing their follow-up disc Suwerte on Friday the 13th, in the December of 2002.

Another four-track CD, this one featured lots of pop, containing Tanga, In the Afternoon, Leave, and Suwerte. Here’s the video of Leave, one of the few Narda videos you’ll see on Youtube that isn’t a live one.

After Suwerte came their stripped-down release Burador. The album, which contained “sparse arrangements, mean backwards guitars and string arrangements”, was released in early 2003.

True enough, this is probably the least electronic of Narda’s releases. Despite this, the EP was no less effective for it. The track list, once again composed of 4 cuts, was Another Day, Santong Paspasan, Pasensya Na, and this song Ang Gabi:

By this time, Narda was finally gaining ground in the fickle Philippine music scene. NU 107, ever the advocate of good indie rock, started playing some of their songs on the airwaves. By this time, however, the band suffered the first defection of many, with Ed Ibarra leaving and Nico Africa taking his spot. With the new lineup, the band released another EP, titled Salaguinto’t Salagubang.

In a shocker, the EP had FIVE (!!, ok not really) songs. The release featured the songs Vanillin, Daylight Savings Time, Saan Na, Liwanag, and Jaywalker, plus one untitled track. Once again, this is indie pop at its best. Oddly enough, Ibarra performed the guitarwork here before leaving the band. Still, that doesn’t stop the EP from being really good. This release was a bit heavier than the previous ones, even when ignoring the acoustic Burador. The CD was moody at times, yet still hopeful, as can be seen in Liwanag, which is my favorite Narda song:

At this point, Narda was poised to make a major leap. After winning the In the Raw award at the NU Rock Awards, the band began writing and recording their first major release, Formika.

The album was a critical darling, making its way to many “Top Albums of….” lists. Unfortunately, it did not do well commercially, and thus the band was unable to shed the indie label that is associated with them. Nevertheless, the album was great, mixing in heavy cuts like Detox with lighter, melodic fare like Pantalon and Tayo Na. Continuing the cheekiness of the band, here’s a line from 1-800 Hey:

“Hey hey hey hey hey, parang kang promo sa Mcdo, nawawala tapos ng isang linggo…”

How true. Nevertheless, the album is full of intelligent and sophisticated tracks, including this one, Biyernes, a noted favorite of Dodobird, an OPM blogger who has sadly since shut down his site:

There was also this little ditty, Disquiet:

In promoting the album, Narda suffered from more lineup changes. Guitarists JP Javier and Nico Africa both left the band, leaving a huge gap. This pushed the band to undergo serious soul searching, resulting in something nobody could have expected. Jep Cruz joined the band as the keyboard player, while Tani Santos would step in as the guitars, while Wincy Ong also left. The band would also be joined by Yaps Estagle who handled the keyboards as well. This would leave Villena and Katwo as the only members left from the original EP. And that definitely showed. After all, who would’ve expected Narda’s sublime garage pop to turn into irreverent dance punk, as would be seen in their album Discotillion.

A complete 180 from their previous releases, the band’s final album would prove to be just as good on its own right. In fact, the release could be considered their artistic and critical peak, with numerous magazines and periodicals championing the band as the next big thing.

Given proper promotion and distribution, of course.

Now that part didn’t work out too well. Despite being bigger than ever, the band barely made a dent in the commercial music landscape. Of course, the pogi-rock-and-emo-dominated music landscape had something to do with that. Also, there was also that Kamikazee song that dominated the airwaves. This pushed the band to actually get some payback, as they released a song titled, you guessed it, Kamikazee:

Ah, the cheekiness of it all. Genius, though I wished they actually referenced the Kamikazee song in the track. Still, with heightened popularity, critical acclaim, and an identity that now fitted the personalities and talents of the group’s members, things were looking up for Narda- at least until they disbanded. Nardamaggedon, in their own words.

You can read about it in Pulse.PH’s article. Long story short, the band just couldn’t find any stability in the outfit with band members constantly shuffling, and the band got tired of teaching the new recruits. And there you go, a band dies out before their time, in another cautionary tale of what could have been.

Still, there’s hope yet. Katwo is starting Duster, another dance punk band in Narda’s vein. And Villena is als busy with his own projects. Better yet, the band actually got back together for “one night only”. And every one knows how those things work out. Hopefully, the band members rediscover their love for the band and put together more good songs. If not, well, thanks for the memories (and the music).

Essential Narda Reading: – the official Multiply. They scanned most of the magazine articles about them and uploaded them onto their multiply, so you can see what the critics say.– Narda’s breakup and what comes next– A quick look on Narda’s four EPs– A Formika review– A Discotillion Review

I’d link you people to dodobird’s reviews as well, but the site is gone and the wayback machine‘s not being helpful. If anyone could help me with those archives now would be the time to speak up.



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