edmund "bosyo" fortuno

(JUNE 2, 1949-MARCH 2, 2000)

1999 by Rafael A. S. G. Ongpin, all rights reserved
Please do not reprint this article, or substantial portions of it, without attribution.
This article was based on interviews with Edmund Fortuno in 1999.


The story of this legendary drummer is practically the history of Pinoy Rock itself. His wild, manic, almost chaotic style (like that of "Animal" in "The Muppet  Show", for Gen-X'ers) was at once unique and compelling, and he was one drThe story of this legendary drummer is practically the history of Pinoy Rock itself. His wild, manic, almost chaotic ummer who always gave it his all, for every performance, no matter if there were 10 people in the audience or 10,000.

Born to a drummer/big band leader father (Ramon Fortuno), Edmund began playing drums seriously while still quite young. He first began sitting in on big band sessions at age 13. His first group was a Motown-style quintet called The Swooners (or sometimes, "D' Swooners"), formed in 1964, when he was 15. They had a million-seller called "Sonata of Love" in 1965, which was popularized by Eddie Ilarde on his radio program "Kahapon Lamang".

The Swooners toured Hong Kong and found success there as well. There were several feature articles on the band in the Manila and Hong Kong papers of the time, with photos of the (then) angelic-looking Edmund, in a Beatles-style Nehru jacket, with the rest of the band.

In 1966, as the psychedelic Age of Aquarius dawned, Edmund split for Japan with a multi-ethnic band called Foodbrain. His bandmates were Hong Kong Chinese and Japanese, and the band had some success in Japan.

Speaking of the Age of Aquarius, Edmund's Foodbrain fame landed him the drum stool in the Japanese version of Hair (the musical), which, despite an imported cast, was sung entirely in Japanese.

Edmund had met Joey "Pepe" Smith in, of all places, Vietnam, back in 1965. They were both journeymen musicians, playing for US troops. When Edmund returned from Japan five years later, their reunion resulted in one of the most notorious partnerships in Pinoy music history.

The Juan dela Cruz band was founded by Edmund and Mike Hanopol. The original personnel were Edmund on drums, Mike on bass, Bo Razon on guitar (later of T. Tinio, and today Afro-Cuban beat master), Bing Labrador on keyboards (later of Anakbayan), and Alex Cruz on saxophone. It was Edmund who came up with the name. His reasoning was, they wanted to make rock for the common man, so they should name the band after the common man. It is interesting to compare this with the later name "Anakbayan", which Edmund also came up with.

It was not until a year later that Bo was replaced by Wally Gonzales, and then, the notorious Joey "Pepe" Smith joined the band.

Pepe was already a drummer of some repute (his previous group was the Airwaves), but he joined Juan dela Cruz as a front man. Initially, he did vocals, but as time went on, he began to sit in on drums more and more. He and Edmund became quite close. This was the period when Edmund acquired the nickname "Bosyo", to Pepe's "Kalabog", after the inseparable komiks duo, one of whom was tall, the other short, like Pepe and Edmund.

This era, from roughly 1970 to 1973, was the golden age of Juan dela Cruz, and thus, of Pinoy Rock. Almost all their major hits were cranked out during this period, and Bosyo was the drummer on many of them. They also gained acclaim as the backing band for the smash hit Manila productions of "Hair" at the UP, and"Jesus Christ Superstar" at the CCP.

Eventually, Edmund decided the time had come to leave the Juan dela Cruz drum stool to Pepe and strike out on his own. So in 1971, he went off and formed Anakbayan.

Meanwhile, 1974 brought the first breakup of Juan dela Cruz, although some of the members kept on touring. Eventually, they all had a dispute with Dodie Gonzales, their manager, and the brother of Wally. However, Dodie owned the rights to the name Juan dela Cruz. So Mike and company (essentially the original band) got Bo Razon back and renamed themselves "T.Tinio", which, although it sounds like it was meant to be an insult to Wally and Dodie (and no one believed it wasn't), was actually from a Pampanggo manager they had had, named Teodoro Tinio, insists Mike to this day.

AnakBayan had several hits, among them the heavy "Probinsyana" and "Jeepney Rock", and the haunting ballad "Habang Buhay". But the band petered out by 1976.

It was, in fact, not until 1978 and the band's comeback (under the auspices of Sampaguita, who they backed), that Anakbayan had the monster hit "Pagbabalik ng Kuwago", which remains perhaps the foremost ur-metal anthem among even today's kids. This is thanks to a number of covers by contemporary bands emulating Bosyo's earthshaking beat and Gary Perez's immortal riffs.

Kuwago tends to overshadow its own B-side (yes, it was a vinyl record), the intricate "Sirang Plaka", which hardly anyone remembers today, but which was just as massive back then. In the meantime, many of Sampaguita's hits were propelled by Bosyo's considerable energy and steady backbeat.

But by 1979, Pinoy Rock as we knew it finally died, smothered under the weight of its own glitter, and Bosyo turned his considerable talents (and, by this time, name) to jazz. He had started playing session for Eddie Katindig in '77, and '79 found him backing Bong Penera as well.

Bosyo always remembered 1980 most fondly, as it was the year he got to play alongside one of his own musical idols. He was handpicked by Chuck Berry himself to back him at the Folk Arts Theater on his tour of Manila. A framed photo of Berry duckwalking, grinning at a manic Bosyo, occupies a prominent spot in the Fortuno living room.

Mainstream rock began to reawaken with the Manila Band in 1981, where Bosyo's solid rhythm wall with Cash Manalang on bass took the tiny but always packed Calesa Bar by storm. The Manila Band played largely covers of US and British music, but it drew an enthusiastic rock audience, which at the time was almost unknown.

In '83, Edmund once again formed his own band, Vozio, managing to reinvent himself to a whole new generation of listeners at Mayric's and Red Rocks, which would later evolve into Club Dredd. He was then invited into Coco Jam, and presided over their peak years from 84 to 86, when huge crowds thronged Mayric's and Kalye to skank to the reggae beat. Coco Jam lasted until the early 90's, but it was session work that kept Bosyo alive in those lean days of "fusion jazz", when every local guitarist was aping George Benson, and there simply wasn't room for the hard and heavy.

The Edmund Fortuno band was Bosyo's vehicle until '94, when his solo album spawned the hit "Suklayin Mo". Bosyo sat in with the Blue Rats while gigging at Hobbit House in 1995, and joined the band late that year.

In 1998-99, Edmund played at the Juan dela Cruz reunion concert and jammed with a temporarily re-formed Manila Band. But it was in December 1999 that perhaps the greatest recognition ever, finally came: Bosyo was made the newest Hall of Famer at the year-end NU Rock awards, joining Pepe Smith, Sampaguita and Clubb Dredd. He was now officially a legend.

Bosyo continued to play with the Blue Rats and other bands until suddenly, on February 18 this year, he was taken ill. He initially complained of weakness in his limbs. He thought, at the time, that it was something to do with his gouty arthritis, which had bothered him all his life. Not many people knew it, but Edmund's recurring arthritis occasionally made it very painful for him to play, but he would never miss a gig unless it was so serious that he literally could not move his hands.

By the next day, Feb 19, he began to run a very high fever, and was rushed to the San Juan de Dios hospital. The day after that, he lapsed into unconsciousness, and was diagnosed as suffering from bacterial meningitis.

He awoke briefly the following weekend, and appeared to be making progress, although he was still unable to speak, but he lapsed back into unconsciousness. He passed away few days later, at 4 pm on March 2nd.

Edmund is survived by his wife, Emmy, a son, Moon, in his early teens, who also plays the drums, a daughter, Abby, in her 20's, a registered nurse. and his mother, Rosa. He has a brother, Ding, also a musician, working abroad, and a sister, Nora.


"Requiem for a Drummer" unites stars at Republic of Malate, Hobbit House

ref: Rafael A. S. G. Ongpin:

"Requiem for a Drummer", an unprecedented gathering of Pinoy rock, pop and jazz icons, will commemorate and pay tribute to the late, legendary Pinoy Rock drummer Edmund "Bosyo" Fortuno, who passed away suddenly last March 2nd,, from meningitis. The concert will benefit his family. Hobbit House, where Bosyo played in various bands for the last 20 years, and the Republic of Malate, two doors down, have teamed up to provide a double-venue concert on March 15, Wednesday. The concert begins at 9 pm and will run until 3 am. One ticket (P250) is valid at either venue. Patrons may switch from one venue to the other, SUBJECT TO CAPACITY LIMITATIONS. The concert features major stars of the rock, pop and jazz scene, almost all of whom have played in groups or jammed with Edmund, and some new groups as well:

Advent Call
Freddie & Maeghan Aguilar
Heber Bartolome
Blue Rats
Coco Jam
Color It Red
Dondi Ledesma
Mike Hanopol
RJ Jacinto
The Jerks
Juan dela Cruz Band
Eddie Katindig
Lampano Alley
Kuh Ledesma
Jun Lopito
Manila Band
Mr. Crayon
Grace Nono
Perf de Castro
Pepe Smith

Each band/singer will play 3 to 4 songs, and there will be a few short testimonials to the memory of Bosyo. The concert is produced by The Blue Rats (Bosyo's last band), Kuh Ledesma and Louie Gonzales of Republic of Malate, and Jim Turner of Hobbit House.