Philippines’ ‘Prince of Rock’ Bamboo Manalac ready for return gig in UAE

Affectionately dubbed by fans as the Philippines's “Prince of Rock”, former Rivermaya frontman Bamboo Mañalac has been in the game for more than two decades.

Filipino rock star Bamboo Mañalac last performed in the UAE in October 2014. Courtesy Flash Entertainment
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Affectionately dubbed by fans as the Philippines’ “Prince of Rock”, frequent UAE visitor Bamboo Mañalac has been in the music game for more than two decades.

The 37-year-old first found fame in the mid-1990s, at the forefront of the country’s rock revolution, as lead singer of Rivermaya. Combined sales of the band’s three influential albums have reportedly earned them 14th spot on the list of all-time best-selling Philippine acts.

After the band's 1997 swansong, Atomic Bomb, Mañalac moved to the United States, before returning home to front eponymous band Bamboo, who released a further four albums between 2004 and 2008.

In 2012 he went solo – still performing, a little confusingly, under the name Bamboo – and released the smoother-sounding No Water, No Moon.

Now a familiar face once more as a judge on The Voice of the Philippines, Mañalac cranked the amps back up for new album Bless This Mess, which was recorded in New York and released last month.

You rocked Dubai in 2013 and 2014 – are you excited to hit Abu Dhabi for the first time?

I am excited, man. It’s the perfect time – right now, as I talk to you, I’m at my album launch party, so I’ll be coming to Abu Dhabi to play the new stuff as well as the old stuff. So it’s going to be fun and it’s going to be loud. I’m expecting a lot of energy from the crowd, as well as myself and the band.

Do you feel more comfortable as a solo act the second time around?

The new album is pretty different to the first, this one involves a lot more rhythm, a lot more volume, a lot more textures sound-wise. Coming from a band, it’s always the second album where you want to perform and go nuts onstage, so you write material in the moment – get personal. It’s building on what I’ve done before – another chapter, a fresh start.

Where did you look for lyrical inspiration?

I always try to write on a personal level. Some of the songs are a response to my last few years in the business. It took me a while to release this album because I had a hard time just finding time to write.

Because you’ve been busy on The Voice?

I love it. I don’t think of that as a bad thing. My feeling is that I want every kid or adult that can sing to have their moment to shine. For some folks it could be their last time onstage, or maybe that’s the moment when someone from a label hears them and says “you’ve got something”.

So the big question – any chance of a reunion with Bamboo?

I don’t know – maybe, maybe not. Some of us are talking, some of the guys are just gone – we’re in different circles now. They’re doing they’re own thing, I’m doing my own thing, so that’s pretty much it.

Do you miss those guys?

I do miss my band. When I left, I thought it would be worse – I had no idea what to expect. We spent a lot of years together and we shared something nobody else could understand. We had a lot of battles as well – things go up, things go down. I still call them my brothers, because we shared those moments and that will never leave you. Whatever people think, I love my guys – we just can’t work together, we’re not creative anymore. It doesn’t work that way.

A final message for UAE fans?

You guys are just great, I can’t wait to be there – for one night, I’m going to bring you guys back home. That’s a promise, a vow.

Bamboo Mañalac performs on Abu Dhabi Corniche on Thursday November 26, gates open 6.30pm, free entry