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Ruby Ibarra’s New Record Label Comes Out Swinging

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a group of four young Filipino-American musicians stand for a portrait, dressed in colorful clothes
Bolo Music Group’s founding roster of artists, from L-R: Ouida, Ian Santillano, Ruby Ibarra and Vince A. Ibarra co-founded the label with producer Angelo 'LASI' Macaraeg. (Gino Lucas/Bolo Music Group)

When Bay Area rapper Ruby Ibarra takes the stage at the New Parish in Oakland on Friday, Dec. 8, she won’t just be performing as an artist, but as the head of a new record label for Filipino-American artists: Bolo Music Group. Ibarra and her co-founder, producer Angelo “LASI” Macaraeg, formally announced the label in October, Filipino-American History Month. Now Ibarra and LASI are set to showcase the sound of their founding slate of artists: Ouida, Ian Santillano, Vince A and Ibarra herself.

“We’re in a very special moment right now,” Ibarra says. “We see a lot of AAPI talent in general thriving, but more specifically Filipino-American talent really showcasing to the world that we’ve been here, we’ve been making this art. And I think it’s now our time to be able to bring it to the global stage.”

“We always ask, ‘Why aren’t there more of us in the mainstream?’” LASI adds. “When we look at who’s big and who is Filipino, there’s only a handful. You think of H.E.R., you think of P-Lo, you think of Saweetie, Bruno Mars. We need more of that.”

a diptych; at left, a young Filipina-American woman in a white shirt holds a sword up, at right, she and a young Filipino-American man smile with their arms around each other
(L) Rapper Ruby Ibarra holds a bolo sword. (R) Bolo Music Group co-founders Ruby Ibarra and Angelo ‘LASI’ Macaraeg. (Gino Lucas/Bolo Music Group)

Ibarra and LASI chose the name Bolo, a Tagalog word for a pre-colonial sword used in the Philippines, to emphasize the cultural mission that underlines the music.

“Just the imagery of a bolo sword up in the air captures the energy of what it means to be resilient, what it means to break barriers and what it means to be a Filipino-American artist during these times trying to break through that glass ceiling,” Ibarra says.

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She adds that it can also serve as an acronym: “Be On the Look Out” — for their artists and what they’ve got in the works. That includes albums from San Francisco soul singer Ouida, who counts Billie Holiday and Amy Winehouse as inspirations; Hayward singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ian Santillano, who’s blending jazz, funk and indie sounds; and Vince A, formerly of Bay Area hip-hop group The Lychee Boys, who’s tapping into a nostalgia-driven R&B sound.

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“This is an independent label, homegrown here in the Bay,” LASI says. “When you think about music hubs, you think about L.A., you think about Nashville, New York. But we’re here to represent the Bay and the artists that are here.” Ibarra and LASI also put together a backing band of local Filipino-American talent for the Dec. 8 showcase – many of whom play with the Ibarra-led Balikbayans. Some of the players include keyboardist Christian Manzana, drummer Mykho Magalong and guitarist Anna Candari.

“It’s just going to be a very special and magical night…because I think it’ll give everybody a glimpse of what’s to come,” Ibarra says. “This is beyond just creating a business or even a record company, at the end of the day. What we’re trying to do here, really, is a movement.”

Bolo Music Group presents Ruby Ibarra with Ian Santillano, Ouida and Vince A on Friday, Dec. 8 at The New Parish (1743 San Pablo Ave., Oakland). Tickets and more info here.

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