By DOM GALEON
Images by NOEL PABALATE
He used to be known as DJ Myke, from the popcapella group Akafellas. But Myke Salomon’s love for music started back when he was younger and it grew side-by-side his love for theater. This becomes obvious when you look at how many stage musicals Myke has had a hand—or ear—in as musical director. He’s arranged the music for PETA’s Rak of Aegis, 3 Stars and a Sun, and Ako si Josephine, as well as for Dirty Old Musical by Spotlight Artists Center. His most recent stroke of genius is in the Full House Theater Company and Resorts World Manila collaboration Ang Huling El Bimbo, featuring the music of ‘90s rock icon Eraserheads.
We chatted with Myke, after a production of Ang Huling El Bimbo, to try to understand his musical mind.
When did you realize that theater is something you can do?
When I was in high school—that was in year 2000—my teacher in Cue Drama Club, Ms. Ginny Natividad, she gave me the responsibility of teaching all the songs of West Side Story. I’m into music, I love it, I can hear everything. So hinimay ko lahat nung voices dun. I was part of the theater club, so I also acted. I was Tony that time.
Cue Drama Club trained me to do music. We learned the whole show and we were able to do it.
Di ko alam. Para siyang isang malaking bagyo. Whenever I am given a script, I always ask questions to the writers, the director. It’s a collective effort, just putting the right song.
Then bahala na ako kung anong pwede ko pang gawin.
For example, “Tama Ka” and “Ligaya”—that was so hard for me because I didn’t know “Tama Ka,” which I think is a song by Raimund Marasigan. And it’s very mellow.
Compared to Ligaya, right?
Yeah. (starts humming “Ligaya”) So what I did was, I tried to come up with the mood and the music first, and then I tried to fit it in. It was so hard. The funny thing was, last year (for the first run of “Ang Huling El Bimbo”), Gab [Pangilinan] wasn’t part of the cast yet. But she was already helping me do the female vocal demos for Joy and the rest. She was the one recording the vocals for transcription. All of the vocal studies were her.
So now, what I did was, I told her, “Oh tutugtugan kita, kantahin mo yung ‘Ligaya’ sa 3/4 ah, kakantahin ko siya ng 6/8 tapos I’ll record it. Then tignan natin.” Ganoon. Then I check if it will meet. That song, it probably took me two to three days to get it, para lang mag-tunog kanta siya.
When do you say that, ‘Ok, this is it?’
If it’s a relative note to the chords and, at the same time, if it moves the scene forward. Like that vignette medley, the mash up of “Poor Man’s Grave” and “Magasin” and then nag-meet sila with “Sayo.” Na-appreciate mo ba yun?
Yes, yes, of course!
Nung nahuli ko yun, ang saya ko sa bahay. Ako lang yung masaya. (laughs) That one, the new medley, that was so hard. We didn’t know what to do with it. It was really a challenge.
So it goes through a long process that doesn’t really have rules.
What do you think is the most enduring lesson you’ve had from working in theater?
I have to work with the right people. When you work with the right people, you’ll feel safe and you’ll get creative. You’ll think bigger.
I don’t believe in thinking out of the box. I believe in thinking out of this world. The box is not enough.
My first crack at musical direction was so memorable.
This was with Rak of Aegis, right?
Yeah. I learned a lot from Maribel Legarda and Liza Magtoto. I can’t think of any other team that could’ve nurtured me into becoming what I am now. With every musical, I become more courageous and daring.
What can you say about the state of Philippine theater today?
Everyone is enthusiastic to join a team. Like El Bimbo, Eto na! Musikal nAPO, Charot—everyone is combining, working together. Synergy. They are all teaming up to be creative.
So it’s in a good place, for you?
I’m in a good place. (laughs) I can’t speak for everyone.
But I am enjoying every minute of it. I can’t think of any other job that can match this kind of work. It’s living. Creating music, creating scenes, acting—it’s living a new life every day. It makes me sane.
I used to do TV before. I earned a lot there. But nothing beats the energy of theater. I could eat tapsilog once a day and rehearse the whole day. I love it.