Gary Granada: “Writing songs is serious business”

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“I want to be a relevant piece of history,” shared the award-winning composer.

Composer Gary Granada experienced a moment of celebrity status when his composition with witty lyrics “Mabuti Pa Sila,” grabbed the grand prize award in the 1998 Metropop Song Festival. What the audience didn’t know was that the song actually started from a joke.

“Noong araw mayroon kaming joke na ganoon,” related Gary from a previous interview. “So sabi ko bakit hindi ko ma-share ang joke na ‘yon pero sa ibang form naman.” The song he said has a no deeper meaning. “Katuwaan lang ‘yun,” he quipped.

Gary, however, said his work as a composer is no joking matter. “Among the current composers, I think, I work the hardest. My setup is not simple. I spend about 12 to 14 hours a day working – that is serious work. Kasi napapakinggan ko ang mga trabaho ng mga kasama sa industry usually their songs are very personal. They write about their own experiences and their feelings toward certain situations which are not bad at all. In my case, I get to write things which I don’t have an intimate involvement with.”

The award-winning song “Mabuti Pa Sila,” was written in 1997 by Gary and was intended as a single for an album. As it turned out, it qualified in the Metropop.

However, he considered “Mabuti Pa Sila,” as a serious piece of work. “Seryoso naman ang song na ito in a literary sense of the word. Papasa sa classroom at papatulan ng literary teacher ito. In that sense, the material is serious.”

Gary shared that his music tradition originated from protest music. “Ang mga kasama ko diyan ay ang Buklod, Patatag, Jess Santiago, The Jerks, Musicians for Peace, Inang Laya, Paul Galang,” to name some. However, he admitted that they had lost focus because many of his groups disbanded or went on to work for NGO groups.

He felt that it was about time to consider a larger audience because he thought that they were effective. “Ang effectiveness mo naman ay kung nakakapagbago ka ng public policy,” he said.

Before he became active in the mainstream, he was very reluctant to go into pop music. “Kasi pakiramdam ko naman kahit na sumikat ka riyan, kahit maging pinakamagaling ka pa riyan, hindi ka naman makakapagpababa ng presyo ng langis,” he pointed out.

Gary added: “The way we look at pop music industry decoration lang ang mga ‘yon, a piece of entertainment. You’re earning but you don’t have any political consciousness, so you’re an irrelevant piece of history. That’s why we focus our attention to more historically relevant work.”

Diversity of musical styles

Gary is a native of Maco, Davao. He first learned to play the ukulele at the age of three. As he grew older he learned to harmonize different music styles and genres from “Pinoy ethnic” to “rock ‘n roll.”

Gary was a finalist in the 1982 Metro Manila Popular Song Festival with his entry “Ang Aking Kubo.” He eventually won the Grand Prize for “Salamat Musika,” in the 1984 Metropop and “Bahay” in the 1988 KBP Musicfest. He also won in the 1989 United Nations Environmental Program Songwriting Contest for his song “Earthkeeper.”

A testament to his diversity is his ability to compose songs haunting the consciousness such as “Sino Ka Ba Jose Rizal?” while on the other hand, dishing out light-hearted tunes such as “Pag Nananalo/Natatalo/Nang Maging Champion ang Ginebra.” (The other version of the song “Ginebra” was sung by another singer Bayang Barrios.)

“I did put in a lot of work in the song ‘Ginebra.’ The challenge was to capture a national passion in four minutes,” said Gary.

Courtesy: Gary Granada FB fan page

Gary’s songwriting experience goes about several years back. He has produced numerous albums for major record labels and has had written more than 300 songs on subjects ranging from gospel, love, environmental concerns, folk, to political and satirical. In addition, he has also composed full orchestra pieces.

Gary disclosed that he wants to be a “relevant piece of history.”

Sharing here the lyrics of  the award-winning song “Mabuti Pa Sila”:

  • Mabuti pa ang mga surol

Laging mayroong masisiksikan

Mabuti pa ang bubble gum

Laging mayrong didikitan

Mabuti pa ang salamin

Laging mayrong tumitingin

Di tulad kong laging walang pumapansin


  • Mabuti pa ang mga lapis

Sinusulatan ang papel

At mas mapalad ang kamatis

Maya’t maya napipisil

Napakaswerte ng bayong

Hawak ng aleng maganda

Di tulad kong lagi na lang nag-iisa


  • Ano bang wala ako na mayron sila

Di man lang makaisa

Habang iba dala-dalawa

Pigilan n’yo akong magpatiwakal

Mabuti pa ang galunggong

Nasasabihan ng “mahal”


  • Kahit ang sukay ay may toyo

At ang asin may paminta

Mabuti pa ang lumang dyaryo

At yakap-yakap ang isda

Mabuti pa sila, mabuti pa sila

Di tulad kong lagi na lang nag-iisa


  • Mabuti pa ang simpleng tissue

At laging nababalikan

Mabuti pa ang mga bisyo

Umaasang babalikan

Mabuti pa sila, mabuti pa sila

Di tulad kong laging nag-iisa


  • Pigilan n’yo akong magpatiwakal

Bakit si Gabby Concepcion

Lagi na lang kinakasal


  • Mabuti pa ang snatcher

Palaging may naghahabol

Ang aking luma na computer

Mayron pa ring compatible

Mabuti pa sila, mabuti pa sila

Di tulad kong lagi na lang nag-iisa.


For more updates on Gary Granada, visit and follow his Facebook fan page:

Featured photo courtesy of Gary Granada FB fan page

(Based on the published feature article in the old Mirror Weekly magazine by the same author)

#GaryGranada #composer #singer #awardwinning #throwbackseries #rubyspreciousmoments #rubyasoyph


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