Narda: Goodbye to all that?

Emil Sarmiento

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The band that built a cult does one last gig

MANILA, Philippines – “Perfect mag-interview after ng gig because you feel all nostalgic.”

Sitting on the front steps of Shift, the bar across the street from Saguijo, Makati, Duster front lady Katwo Puertollano reminisces about the recent set she performed, perhaps for the last time, with her original band, Narda.

Ten years after its formation and 5 years removed from their breakup, the band played their final gig on February 1 at Saguijo in front of friends and fans who have been with them since the beginning.

One would imagine such an event to be bittersweet.

“You’re just playing with people that you love and you grew up with, so there’s no feeling of it being bittersweet… it was just a feeling of joy, and privilege. It’s so nice to play with these guys again, such a privilege.”

When they disbanded in 2007, Narda had released their second full-length album, Discotillion. The constant gigging and other internal concerns caused them to part ways, and it took some time for them to get over it.

“Time heals all wounds. We laugh about everything now. I know that everyone who’s been in a band has issues, and we figured it out. We’re all better musicians now, so it just feels that it’s so easy to perform.”

With Ryan Villena on drums, Nico Africa and Tani Santos on guitars, Jing Gaddi on bass, and Jep Cruz on synthesizers, the set featured a 12-song list that took tracks from their 4 EPs and 2 studio albums. It has been 2 years since their last reunion gig, and that one, as Katwo recalls, still felt heavy in context.

“But now,” she gushes, “fast forward to 2012, seeing each other, it was so nice. Everyone was so relaxed, everyone is not as bitter with the breakup… that made the gig extra special.”

Building a cult

On a slow Wednesday night, people flocked to listen to the band that has spawned local hits such as Molotov, Swerte, Mitsa and Gasolina, showing how devoted Narda fans could be.

“For me, Discotillion is my album. Discotillion is me. That’s my voice, that’s how I sing. The earlier work was Ryan’s. The easy, breezy sound that people loved. I was more into making the angrier, more vocal (songs). It’s so nice to be able to sing those songs again.”

Narda won the NU In the Raw award in 2003, where the band started building a cult following for their heartfelt lyrics, melodic riffs and amazing chemistry.

Katwo perhaps summarized best why they seemed to work so well together. “Narda was like having a bunch of brothers take care of you. It was amazing. Even after we broke up. Ryan and I have a solid friendship.”

So why is a band that seems to have carved out a niche for themselves, who have again found their drive for music, suddenly performing their last gig?

Katwo is migrating to New York. With her husband’s family already situated in the Big Apple, the decision to leave came gradually and from good intentions.

“It’s time. At a certain point, you have trust your instincts. Narda is 10 years old… I think it’s time.”

Cherished memory

In those 10 years, the band performed all over Metro Manila with different acts, forging a bond between other musicians that as Katwo describes, will be her most cherished memory as she leaves.

“This scene for me is my family. I will miss this scene the most.”

Ten years in the scene, and Katwo still remains humble. After her performing her front lady duties
splendidly with Narda and Duster, she can still recall how Narda was the catalyst in her life.

“It was just such a privilege. Narda changed my life for the better.”

The idea that being in a band can transform your life sounds absurd, but Katwo puts her belief in simple terms that really tells what a band is about.

“I guess we weren’t really taught to believe in ourselves that much. Narda taught me that I can believe in myself, that I can do it.”

Being inspired not only reached the feisty singer, as fans will openly say that Narda has changed their lives as well. Katwo downplays their part though.

“If you feel that Narda has inspired you, it was all you. It wasn’t us. It was because you decided to listen to us and because you decided to fall in love with the wrong person and learn from it… which is the lesson of all the Narda songs, really.”

Katwo laughs, seemingly dropping a private joke that anyone can be privy to. However, she continues with her earlier prognosis.

“It was that. It was really all you.”

Further down the line, Katwo imagines how far their influence would have truly reached.

No regrets

“I would like to believe in my deluded fantasy that we have a sort of cult following. That in 10 years, people will approach me and say, ‘You changed my life.’ And I’d be like, ‘Awesome.’ That to me would be priceless.”

It would come down to how timeless their songs will be. Katwo thinks they stand a chance.

“With Narda all the songs are so personal. They’re all attached to an experience.”

Lyrics that touch the heart, she jests. What would Katwo want others to get from hearing their songs, or at the very least, their story?

“For me, I would like the legacy to be about being in that moment, and losing yourself in that moment. Be it love, pain… as a performer, it’s about claiming that moment, and it’s yours, and everything is right, and you’re doing so well.”

With her imminent departure getting closer and the possibility of another Narda reunion getting dimmer as the night wears on (“It’d be like breaking up with your ex and asking for another date,” she jokes.), she leaves her parting thoughts, where it seems, she taps into her Narda memories:

“If there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that if you want to do something, just do it. You’ll never ever going to regret it. Never ever regret it, never. And always trust your gut, even if everyone tells you not to do it. Fight for it, and it’ll be so worth it.” –; photos by Emil Sarmiento

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