“Dakila was pretty much ahead of its time back in 1971,” David Bustamante says. He might have a bias, but he isn’t totally wrong either — Over 40 years ago, Bustamante was one of the original members of Dakila, a Filipino Latin jazz rock band emerging on the heels of Carlos Santana. There was a slew of a la carte Santana groups emerging at the time, but what set Dakila slightly off course and into an record deal with Clive Davis’ Epic/Columbia (now Sony) was this adherence to who they were as Filipinos. Despite only releasing one record, the group has sustained a somewhat global following decades after their prime. Blog Pinoygrooves literally could not have described this group any better:
“The music on this album presents a flavor that Latin freaks will not immediately recognize. They’ll hear the congas and timbales, the organ and guitars they know and love. But a subtle spice has been added to the pot, and it’s a whole new stew. The new flavor is Tagalog; it’s the Philippines. Just a taste more jungle than you’re used to, but then, who wants the same old dish all the time?”
On August 18, Dakila returns to SOMA in part with Undiscovered SF’s Sunday Streets event. Having already kicked off the season with an appearance from Jocelyn Enriquez, Undiscovered hopes to expand its music programming to include Filipino acts across the diaspora and generations. We spoke to Bustamente on how Dakila’s short-lived spotlight created a lasting legacy and what it could mean for the next generation of artists to come.
The Bay Bridged: In your mind, how do you remember Dakila during its heyday?
David Bustamante: We didn’t want to be lumped in with one of those Latin rock bands that came out of the Mission, we were a little different. At the time, after the success of Santana, recording camps were looking for bands that were similar. Then Malo came out and then they found us. But we were a little different, we wanted to keep our culture. We weren’t just Latinos from the Mission, we were Filipinos.
We changed our name (from Soul Sacrifice) to Dakila, which means ‘great’ and ‘noble’ — and some of the songs we did had Tagalog lyrics. So flash forward to nowadays, we’re very proud of what we did, we stuck to who we were and didn’t wash out with these recording companies. And part of the reason why we broke up, we didn’t go any further than that because of the times. No recording company wanted a Filipino band, even worse, no one wanted a band that spoke a foreign language.
TBB: The original Dakila band was largely a family band based in the Mission. How did those two identities — having Filipino ancestry and growing up in the Mission — shape your guys’ sound?
DB: We were kind of two families — well, really one family — that came together and formed this band. And all of them had some kind of Filipino ties, either by marriage or they actually had Filipino ancestry: Our second guitar and bass player were cousins; Romeo, my brother, was our keyboard and organ player; my nephew was the drummer and our brother-in-law played timbre and percussions.
A lot of us were from the same community, played in the parks and developed a similar sense of guitar playing. So it was a sort of melting pot of music in the Mission district at that time. The whole Bustamante family actually came from a musical family — The name of Dakila came from our father, who was a musician himself, he was a career musician in the Air Force. I have three older brothers in different bands of music since the ’50s. It was my older brother, Romeo, who’s 10 years older than me, he already found a band in San Francisco as soon as he got out of the Army, which was in 1969. And he had quite a following, he had a Santana cover band called Soul Sacrifice. And they were one of the first Santana cover bands and he developed a big following in the Asian