So You Want to Learn Tagalog . . . with Songs!

In my first “So You Want to Learn Tagalog?” post (Link), I recommended three television series. In this follow-up post, I have pop music recommendations and related tips. I believe very strongly that if you want to learn a language, you should learn its pop songs. If you want to learn Tagalog, then you should know Original Pilipino Musik or OPM.

It is hard to know where to start. When I started looking for German pop music, I had no idea which artists I would like. But after I found one, I was able to find similar artists really easily. In the beginning, it’s a “numbers game,” so listen to as many artists as you can!

I also have no idea what music you would like. Of course, I want to feature the most famous songs and popular singers, because of their impact on Philippine culture. But you may prefer more “indie” artists, whom I know less about. So the following is a mix of different songs and styles, with one thing in common: Since we are currently in the rainy season (tag-ulan), let’s listen to some songs about rain (ulan)!

“Pumapatak Nanaman ang Ulan” by APO Hiking Society

One of the most successful and influential groups in the Philippines is the APO Hiking Society. (Mount Apo is the tallest peak in the country.) They started singing together in the 1970s and remained very popular into the 1990s. Although they no longer record new pop music or tour as a group, their songs remain popular. Everyone can tell when it’s an APO song on the radio.

About ten years ago, contemporary artists collaborated on a album of APO covers, Kami nAPO Muna. The band had long been combining its name and the adverb “na” (meaning “already”) to make puns; the album’s title was a tribute to that. It means: “Let us take our turn now.” My favorite cover on Kami nAPO Muna is another song that mentions rain: Nakapagtataka by Sponge Cola (Link).

Tip: Listen to a mix of classic songs (“what everyone knows”) and modern hits (what you like).

Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka by Basil Valdez

This song has been a standard for decades. It is definitely something “every Filipino” would know. The lyrics also have many frequently-used nouns and verbs, with lots of repetition. (After learning the vocabulary from Tuwing Umuulan, listen to Basang-basa sa Ulan by rock band Aegis, and see how much you can also understand from it!)

Above is the original version by Basil Valdez. If you find his style a little old-fashioned, you can still find many cover versions. It has been performed by screaming diva Regine Velasquez (Link), 90s rock band Eraserheads (Link), folk singer Noel Cabangon (Link), and many others.

Tip: Search online by song title as well as by artist, to find cover versions. If you like one artist’s style better than the others, then listen to more of his songs!

Ulan by Rivermaya

This is another good song for Tagalog learners because of the repetition in the lyrics. But compared to Tuwing Umuulan, its language and ideas are a little more complex. With Ulan, you’ll learn expressions rather than basic vocabulary.

The best part is that it’s catchy! (Songs that you find appealing are very good, but songs that you find catchy are even better. You should be humming them even when they aren’t playing.) The band Rivermaya has a second song about rain Umaaraw Umuulan. (Link) Rivermaya’s lead singer, Bamboo Mañalac, is currently a coach on The Voice Teens Philippines. (Link)

Tip: If there is a version of The Voice in the language you are learning, you can probably get good pop recommendations from it!

Do you already know any Tagalog songs?

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