Text by: Chris Quintana
Photos by: Chris Quintana and Kimmy Baraoidan
They are the rambunctious ones on what we called–and as the sign said—“Band Bus.” They were throwing around jeers, jokes, and taunts to friends from the other bands on board. With most of them sporting dreadlocks, and the longest I have seen in my life, I thought if the Predators were real and have seen these guys, they would surely beg for mercy.
Tired and with a painful, sore, pulled muscle in the shoulder that Fred’s beer managed to partially soothe, I thought I wasn’t going to be sleeping as I was secretly trying to listen to them talking. As soon as we hit the road, the rum began doing the rounds. Images of the film “Almost Famous” were flashing in my head.
Contrary to their slightly intimidating looks, this band actually is pretty warm. I saw them on stage at the Nalu Surf Camp late afternoon of the first night. They were easygoing while jamming with DreadKnot Used, another reggae band, and reggae artist Kokoi Baldo. Engkanto vocalist Ace sang “Amber” by 311 and the 311 version of The Cure’s “Lovesong.” It caught my attention. It had this sort of enchantment. He was singing it passionately, in a way that you usually only see and hear from jazz singers.
This Antipolo-based band, according to their website, was formed in 2008. Influenced by world music and roots reggae music, Engkanto calls its sound as “ethno-tribal reggae.” Current members of the band include Ace Beato on vocals, Jonathan Golez and Randy Emberga on guitars, Mark Anthony “TJ” Cesario on bass, Jerry Golez on drums, Norman Labaguis and Rodney Formaran on percussion.
According to Jerry, the band came from different batches of an ethno-tribal group that eventually disbanded. Former members were gathered by Rodney for a gig. He is also attributed for coining the band name Engkanto (an elemental in Philippine mythology and folklore), associating it with the sense of safeguarding nature. The group had since included their current lineup and decided to, since they actually also do play full band instruments, merge ethno-tribal and reggae music.