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Alyana Cabral

Alyana Cabral

Meet musician from the Philippines, Alyana Cabral of Ourselves the Elves, The Buildings, and Teenage Granny.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a musician, with my practice mostly revolving around songwriting, performance, and film score. Right now I play for the bands Ourselves the Elves (garage folk) and The Buildings (fuzz pop). For my solo electronic project, I perform as Teenage Granny.


Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

Manila is full of grit, which is why it’s home to a very diverse and vibrant creative scene. It’s definitely a challenging city to live in because of its chaotic nature but most artists make the best of this, creating dynamic art movements and communities.


Manila is full of grit, which is why it’s home to a very diverse and vibrant creative scene.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

The best thing is the people in it; I realize Filipinos always find ways to laugh and smile amidst any adversity. And some of the worst things—the pollution, the gentrification, failed governance and infrastructures. It’s a heck of a party town.


Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Stimulating, challenging, provoking


How did you start your career in music?

I’ve been playing music my whole life because I was born into a musical family. But it was during my college years that I started performing in bars and clubs. I met my bandmates in university and we’ve been playing together ever since. Before I finished school, I started to experiment more with electronic music especially, and also went into scoring films. I take films as a huge inspiration for my work.


I’ve been playing music my whole life because I was born into a musical family.

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

My parents weren’t supportive at first, because of the general idea that creative work is not as “lucrative” as other professions. But now they get it because I’ve been doing it for so long, and even my siblings are also pursuing musical careers now. My peers in my community have always supported each other as fellow creatives because we really had no choice but to bring each other up, otherwise, we’d all go down.


What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

World travel has always been a dream of mine. If I could continue it with what I do then I’d always be happy because it’s the best way to break barriers and open perspectives, as well as opportunities to reach out to far-flung communities. At the same time, as a part of Manila’s underground, I want to keep making healthy contributions to my own community and find ways to work with other underground sectors. Every day I figure out how to bridge gaps between artistic work and genuine service, no matter what medium I use.


Every day I figure out how to bridge gaps between artistic work and genuine service, no matter what medium I use.

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez. They’re both of my biggest influences.


How would you describe the women around you?

Everyone’s different, but I’ve noticed that every time I’m surrounded by the women in my life, I always feel safe. There’s always that genuine desire to look out for each other, as if there’s a mutual understanding that we have to, within such a patriarchal society. My mom has been raising us on her own for this latter half of her life and I feel her strength flowing through me as I learn from her how to get by as a woman in this life, most especially in this country. Like some members of older generations, she has her own semi-conservative thoughts but they also guide me to make insights for my own. I feel lucky to be a part of many feminist circles and communities, all with different personalities and principles and gender orientations, but all with the same vision to cultivate a safe space for “other”-ed gender identities.


Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

There are a lot! For one, just before my teenage years, Total Girl magazine was my bible and I looked up to the people who created it. Little did I know that in college I’d end up working for the same company who published Total Girl; ironically more so, I pursued an internship for Esquire, a men’s magazine, but at the time I was working for Kristine Fonacier, the first female editor-in-chief of Esquire in the Philippines (and maybe the world too?). So I looked up to her too. I looked up to a lot of men too, maybe more than women, just because of the fact that maybe technically I’ve encountered more men when I was working in the professional field. But it’s only now that I try to consciously grasp inspiration from female figures, as a priority (but not as an exclusivity). My influences at the moment are all the female singers of the Manila Sound era in the 70s—Yolly Samson, Ella del Rosario, Inang Laya, and many others.


Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

Of course, there’s the usual creeps and sleazes. But other than that, one of my biggest frustrations is finding more women musicians to work with. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot, but I always feel like we’re still outnumbered, so much that we always end up working separately to distribute our energy to the whole music community. Along with many others, I always try to find ways to bring us together through frequent collaborations, semi-lucrative opportunities, sharing sessions, or sometimes just hanging out and checking on each other. I always crave for that feminine energy because it’s something that’s generally lacking. I want to feel like I can relate to someone in this way.


Don’t take shit from anyone! That’s it!

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

Don’t take shit from anyone! That’s it! It helps to strengthen connections and build a support network but it’s equally important to stand your ground and believe in your personal vision. Be open to the opportunities that will help you grow, but also learn to say no to things you know will hold you back. Trust your intuition because this is where your music comes from. Trust in your own craft.



Photos courtesy of Alyana Cabral.