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Filipino-Australian pianist finds joy creating videos to ‘fight’ the pandemic

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The Philippine Times recognises the recent struggles of artists and musicians in Australia and around the world, including talented local Filipino-Australians. The pandemic has impacted an industry which relies heavily on live music to succeed.

In an interview with The Philippine Times, Gary shares how the closure of music venues and cancellations of events has affected him and his bands plans for 2020.

Gary Cajili is a pianist/keyboardist from Manila, influenced by his father, Alex Cajili II who’s a former pianist/musical director of ABS CBN in the 60s and 70s. Gary started to learn piano at the age of 6. In the 80’s to 90’s, he played the organ at his hometown church choir and school orchestra and eventually played popular music at bars and restaurants.

In 1995, he moved to Melbourne and played piano solo at bars and restaurants. He organised a group called Ratberries Band in 1997 and also played with the bands A2G, City Lites, Southeast Border, Expressions and Solid Gold from 1998-2013.

Gary Cajili is a master on the keyboard. | Photo: Supplied

In 2014, he formed ‘Escalera’, a pop-rock band based in Southeast Melbourne. The group plays at numerous gigs, including birthday parties, weddings, community events, festivals and concerts. They play 70’s, new wave 80’s to current top hits from popular ballads and dance music including OPM.

We asked Gary how the pandemic has affected his career, as well as future plans for himself and his band, Escalera.

How has COVID-19 affected your career?

Covid-19 had a great impact with all our shows. All gigs were cancelled from March 2020. Music venues and events activities are severely curtailed. Me and Escalera are technically on holidays at the moment.

What are some of the key things you’ve been doing during the past seven months? 

I still play and record my piano music to relieve stress and fight the pandemic and to entertain viewers as well. I also collaborate with some known music artist here in Melbourne.

You can watch my videos on my Facebook page and YouTube channel. You can also check Escalera Band at our Facebook page Escalera and Kayumanggi Entertainment.

Gary Cajili with Filipino-Australian artist and Escalera vocalist, Mary Ann Vanderhorst | Photo: Supplied

What are your future plans?

When we are back to normal, it is going to be very competitive to book events and venues. Hopefully by next year, everything will be alright.

After Covid, I’ll be back to play piano with my singers at the local restaurants. Escalera Band is planning to carry on with their twice a year event, June “Kalayaan 2021” and December “Christmas Party 2021”.

Escalera Band at Kalayaan 2019 | Photo: Supplied

Gary Cajili has joined the Philtimes Filo Jam Sessions. Watch him play a piano cover of ‘This Masquerade’ here:

Follow Gary Cajili:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/gtcajili

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUeZdK5vxhI2qr5z3oMjHwQ

Follow Escalera Band:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Escalera-1764557623861232

Kayumanggi Entertainment Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/KayumanggiEntertainment

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