Arts & Entertainment

13 Best Vocalists of '90s OPM Bands

The band explosion of arguably the best decade for OPM produced many notable singers
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When you’re talking about the best vocalists of 90s OPM bands, there’s a lot to choose from. The 90s were fertile ground for some of the best Pinoy music ever, so naturally, it would be easy find some of the best OPM singers from that era, too. 

Many OPM bands from the 90s were classified as alternative, pop, rock or any combination of the three. Some defied conventions and jumped freely from genre to genre. But for sure, what many of the best bands had in common was a talented and charismatic vocalist, who interpreted their songs with as much depth and emotion as any other contemporary singer or musician.

What makes a great vocalist of a 90s OPM band?

The best and most memorable performers from the 90s—and from any decade for that matter—not just had terrific voices, they all oozed charisma and an undeniable presence onstage. The best OPM bands of the 90s, in particular, all knew how to work a crowd, whether they were rocking out to a loud song or slowing things down with an intimate ballad. Above all, people felt connected with the band—especially the frontman/vocalist—because they found a way to be accessible and relevant, even though they were often simultaneously intimidating and larger-than-life.

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Here we list down some of the best vocalists of 90s OPM bands, in no particular order:

1. Wency Cornejo


The frontman of Afterimage (and son of newscaster Mel Tiangco) is one of the most recognizable voices of OPM bands, especially in the early to mid-1990s. With hits like “Next in Line,” “Mangarap Ka,” and “Habang May Buhay,” the band was one of the early breakthrough stars of the 90s OPM alternative movement. For sure, much of their success was due to Cornejo’s undeniable talent as a singer.

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2. Bamboo Mañalac

IMAGE: Edric Chen

The original frontman of Rivermaya is also the voice behind some of the band’s most iconic hits, like “Ulan,” “214,” “Kisapmata,” and “Hinahanap-Hanap Kita.” Classic Rivermaya fans will remember Bamboo as the quintessential frontman: loud, gregarious and gifted with a solid set of pipes. Bamboo left the band in 1998, went on to form his own band that bore his name, but is now enjoying a career as a solo artist.

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3. Rico Blanco

After Bamboo left Rivermaya, Blanco stepped up to the plate and took over frontman duties, starting with the band’s fourth album, It’s Not Easy Being Green. It didn’t take long before Blanco came into his own, ushering in a new era for one of the most popular OPM bands in history. It was during his tenure that the band began experimenting with newer sounds, evident in hits like “A Love To Share,” “Balisong,” “You’ll Be Safe Here” and “Liwanag Sa Dilim.” Blanco would officially part ways with the band in 2007, and, like Bamboo, he would then go on to start a succesful career as a solo artist.

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4. Medwin Marfil


True Faith first got together as a band in 1991 but it wasn’t until two years later that they finally made it big with the song “Perfect.” Medwin Marfil’s singing voice has often been compared to British band Breathe’s David Glasper and it’s no surprise why: both possess clear, expressive vocals with amazing range. For proof: listen to “Alaala,” “Muntik Nang Maabot ang Langit,” and “Kung OK Lang Sa Yo.”

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5. Barbie Almalbis


One of Barbie Almalbis’s earliest musical gigs was with the band Hungry Young Poets, whose best-known song is probably “Firewoman.” She then went on to front Barbie’s Cradle for a few years before launching her solo career. Her distinct voice—gentle and delicate, almost fragile—as well as an extremely likeable personality quickly earned her a following, especially in a music scene dominated by men.

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6. Melody Del Mundo

Melody Del Mundo and the rest of her band Sugar Hiccup defied conventions in the 90s when they came out with their debut album Oracle in 1995. The record contained the single “Five Years,” which became a massive hit despite being nearly wordless. Anyone who has heard it will no doubt agree that Del Mundo deserves a spot on this list. The band released three more albums after that, the last one in 2017. The band is currently inactive, after Del Mundo moved to the US to raise a family.

7. Chito Miranda


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He’s not exactly the strongest vocalist, but the frontman of Parokya ni Edgar is, without a doubt, one of the most captivating performers to ever emerge out of the 90s OPM band scene. Smart, engaging and hilarious, Miranda is a major reason for the success of PnE. The band celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.

8. Dong Abay

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Yano may not have been as popular as some of the other bands in this list, it has amassed a loyal cult following through the years. Its frontman and chief songwriter Dong Abay wrote about social as well as deeply personal issues and sang them with a deep and relatable sincerity. Yano’s most popular hits include “Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo,” “Tsinelas,” “Senti,” and “Esem.”

9. Basti Artadi


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No list of the best 90s OPM band vocalists would be complete without Basti Artadi, who has proven himself time and time again to be the prototypical rock star. From his early days covering songs by Metallica, Black Sabbath, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, Artadi soon came into his own and began belting out unapologetic rock songs with his bandmates in Wolfgang. The singer has also proven to be quite a versatile performer, having starred in locally staged musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar and American Idiot.

10. Karl Roy


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For many music lovers who came of age in the 90s, Karl Roy was the voice of Pinoy alternative rock. Roy first gained prominence as the frontman of the band Advent Call but endeared himself to generations of OPM fans with his work as vocalist of P.O.T. and rock supergroup Kapatid. In songs like “Yugyugan Na,” “Hindi Nyo Alam,” “Prayer,” and “Pagbabalik ng Kwago,” Roy fused funk, soul, pop and rock, making use of his one-of-a-kind smoky, gravely voice. Sadly, he passed away way too soon in 2012, at the age of 43.

11. Kevin Roy


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Karl Roy’s brother Kevin was no pushover. For many years, the younger Roy fronted Razorback, one of the country’s hardest-rocking bands, and channeled the swagger and intensity of their heroes Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath) and Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden). Witty and smart, Roy is a consummate entertainer and has buckets of stage presence. He continues to pop up at bars and events even after he left Razorback in 2018

12. Ely Buendia

IMAGE: Paolo Pineda
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It only makes sense that one of the most influential bands of the 90s or any other era is included in this list. Ely Buendia was a skinny college kid in the 90s when the Eraserheads exploded into the consciousness of almost every music-loving Filipino. His singing style is more casual and conversational rather than technical—like hanging out with a friend with a guitar at the neighborhood sari-sari store. That’s just one of the many reasons he is beloved by generations of music fans.

13. Cooky Chua


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Color It Red were one of the biggest OPM bands in the early to mid-90s, and much of its success was due to the commanding presence of Cooky Chua. Since releasing the seminal album Hand Painted Sky in 1994, which carried the song “Paglisan” that practically defined the era, Chua and the rest of Color It Red have become OPM legends and are often cited as an influence by many younger artists. Blessed with ethereal vocals, Chua is still active in the music business today. The Filipino music scene is lucky to have her.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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