Rivermaya's Pinoy rock talent search "Bagong Liwanag" premieres on Studio 23


(From left) Rivermaya bassist Japs Sergio, drummer Mark Escueta, and guitarist Mike Elgar. The quality of musical talent that graced the Rivermaya auditions has strengthened the band's resolve to help sustain the OPM industry. Mark calls on everyone to do their part in fighting piracy. "There is an abundance of talent in this country but our scene is a small one. Help make it stronger in every way possible," requests the drummer.


Rivermaya makes OPM history as they launch the first-ever Pinoy rock search on primetime TV this Sunday, September 16. Titled Rivermaya: Bagong Liwanag (The Audition Specials), this show chronicles the band's search for a new member.

The power trio—composed of Mark Escueta, Mike Elgar, and Japs Sergio—kicks off the seven-episode documentary that will air on Studio 23 every Sunday at 9:15 p.m.

Hot on the heels of the first post-Rico Blanco EP titled Bagong Liwanag and the successful two-day audition that was held last August 24 and 25, Rivermaya marks a whole new chapter in the band's history. The auditions, which took place at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, had to be extended an extra date to accommodate hopefuls not just from all over the Philippines but also from the United States, U.K. and the Middle East.

Around 500 people auditioned last month and more than 80 initially passed. The number was finally pared down to twelve finalists, and this lucky dozen shall compete for the enviable position as the newest member of the iconic 14-year-old act dubbed as the "Banda Ng Bayan."

The formidable judges' panel consists of The Dawn guitarist and NU 107 In The Raw host Francis "Brew" Reyes, Razorback bassist Louie Talan, and Rivermaya's manager, Lizza Nakpil.

Fans and televiewers alike will thoroughly enjoy taking a peek at the whole audition process. Lizza tells PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal), "The originality [of those who auditioned] was there in spades. When we had our very first audition [for the original Rivermaya] in 1993, everyone was doing covers. But now, I would say 80% brought their own material. It's a salute to how well OPM is doing and how it's affected the outlook of all our young musicians."

The members of the band note that there is a sustained interest in the group." We received so many text messages and email asking not only how to join the auditions, but also, how to watch and witness," says Mike, vocalist-guitarist of Rivermaya.

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"We think of this as not losing a vocalist, or a songwriter—but gaining four," says Mark with a grin, vocalist-drummer. "We have three singer-songwriters now in Rivermaya. We are now looking for a fourth brother for the Rivermaya family."

Admittedly, Rivermaya's last two frontmen are tough acts to follow. Bamboo Mañalac is a definitive voice of the ‘90s band explosion while Rico Blanco is credited for composing most of the band's classic hits like "214" and "You'll Be Safe Here."

The colorful array of Rivermaya wannabes (and we use this term in the most positive way) made it very difficult for the judges to execute their job.

"There were a few who tried their best to look, sound, and move like our former vocalists, which is definitely not what we're looking for," Mark explains. Instead, the three insist that the finalists find their own unique voice to land a rightful place in this new chapter in Rivermaya's career.

A keen understanding of music, passion for playing with the band, and creativity are just some of the qualities the band is looking for in a new member. "We would like to find someone who can succeed with or fail with the band and yet, still have a good time playing music," says Mark.

Almost everyone predicted the band's demise after Rico left. But the doomsayers didn't count on the thousands of fans who called for their favorite band to forge ahead. The deluge of support from their fans and the local band frat greatly contributed to Rivermaya's current optimistic view of everything that transpired. Mark reveals, "I can honestly say that this experience had become a great blessing to us and it has made us all stronger, and happier!"

The drummer even posts this message in their band's website: "We are way past the mourning stage and even though we are also up to our necks in recording, we are currently enjoying spaktayular, fantabulous, happy-dayz!!! (sic) The audition experience is something that we will never exchange for anything else and we would like to invite you to enjoy it with us for the next few weeks, through the magic of Sunday night TV!"

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Rivermaya: Bagong Liwanag (The Audition Specials) airs on Studio 23 every Sunday at 9:15 p.m.


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