Tread lightly with Ben&Ben’s Limasawa Street
I still clearly remember the first time I listened to Ben&Ben. It wasn’t through a music streaming platform or a Pinoy rom-com. Before I quit my corporate job in a TV network, I had the opportunity to watch them perform in a compact studio that fit very few people. I was captivated; I had never heard anything like their music before. As with the eclectic mix of elements, the lyrics were heart-wrenching—a perfect combination of melancholy and longing—which reminded me that no experience was completely my own. As the band’s secret to songwriting goes, “The more [experience] is real in your life, the more the message is universal.” Fast-forward to two years later: They’ve become a household name, so much so that I still hear Kathang Isip on the radio.
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The nine-piece folk collective is helmed by brothers Paolo Benjamin and Miguel Benjamin Guico—formerly known as The Benjamins—with Poch Barretto on electric guitar, Agnes Reoma on bass, Keifer Cabugao on violin, Patricia Lasaten on keyboards, Jam Villanueva on drums and Andrew De Pano and Toni Muñoz on percussion. The bright, young crew recently made headlines after signing a Sony Music Philippines dealership in Hong Kong and meeting John Mayer in Singapore—with an enviable group photo, might I add.
They’ve amassed millions of fans without even releasing a full-length album, becoming the new face of contemporary Filipino music. As of writing, they have 1.8M monthly listeners on Spotify, while their most popular song Kathang Isip—an anthem for unrequited love—has been streamed 76M times. They recently released their highly-anticipated debut album, Limasawa Street, which features a collection of 13 original tracks.
Their press launch was held last May 10 at Ayala Space in Makati. They featured a listening gallery for media partners and friends highlighting a series of track-for-track visuals by creative director Nicolai Maybituin. They performed their hit single Maybe The Night and introduced two new love songs for an enthusiastic crowd. Miguel shared, “Pagtingin, para sa maraming nararamdaman—but [don’t] saying anything. Araw-araw naman, if you love someone, it’s choosing to love that someone every day.”
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Limasawa Street, found in Makati, is also a place in Leyte. “Masawa,” a Butuanon word which translates to light, is the main focus of the entire album. It represents “hopeful perspectives in troubled situations.” Firmly rooted on this idea, the (sold-out) box album, which surprisingly turns into a lamp, contains a flash drive that lights up when plugged. It also contains printouts of Nicolai’s digital paintings for each track. Toni explained the concept behind it, “Gusto namin ‘yung album maging full experience rather than a thing you just play music from. [It’s also] like opening a gift, parang Happy Meal—nakakaexcite.”
They created the album by listening to a vast pool of alternative and rock influences like John Mayer, U2 and Fleetwood Mac. Speaking of icons, they collaborated with Sugarfree frontman, Ebe Dancel, in track #7, Baka Sakali, even considering him the “10th member of the band.”
On dealing with pressure given their rapid rise to fame, Poch shared: “As a group, we handle pressure by focusing on what we’re good at: creating music…and eating all the time. It’s a privilege and honor to be part of the (OPM) movement, instilling hunger and purpose to the younger generation—sparking them to want to love music.” Pat added, “Also, be grateful—the cure for yabang.”
Bringing local artists to the fore, Ayala Malls partnered with the band for a nationwide mall tour in major metropolitan areas from Luzon to Mindanao. Catch them live at their 11-city tour from May 17 to August 17 in selected Ayala Malls. Want those tickets? Feast on Yellow Cab’s Four Seasons Bundle until May 31 and get a chance to win Ben&Ben’s Limasawa Street Tour tickets, signed albums and limited edition merch.
Words Elisa Aquino
Art Alexandra Lara