Culture Envy: Argel MDR
His debut EP dives into the importance of happiness and self-advocacy
For Argel MDR, music has always been something that has been part of his life. Surrounded by music at a young age, from family to the youth gospel choir church at only three, he knew he wanted to be a musician one day.
Also known as Argel Monte de Ramos, his debut EP “Reign” not only has a mix of piano, drums, and electronic pop elements, but explores how to “reign our lives and not care what other people say about us,” he says.
Each song shows a part of his lived experiences, with all of them having the same conclusion of finding the meaning of life and true joy.
“‘Reign’ is all about inspiring people to reign their own lives to keep going, no matter what happens,” he says. “I hope for people to find their happiness [to] thrive and own who they are.”
The Surrey singer-songwriter was born and raised in Manila, Philippines and has won numerous awards, such as the Fraser Valley Music Awards 2021 Excellence Award by a BIMPOC (Black, Indigenous, Mixed-race, People of Colour) Artist and a top 10 finalist for the CBC’s Toyota Searchlight 2021. His work has also been featured in Spotify editorial playlists and is nominated for this year’s searchlight.
In addition to being a musician, he is an actor and the assistant for Community Programs at Arts Umbrella, a charity performing arts school. He also attended Kwantlen Polytechnic University from 2014 to 2018.
While Monte de Ramos’ music dives into his personal experiences and inspirational messages, he also uses his music to chronicle his journey as a Filipino-Canadian immigrant to inspire and uplift Filipino youth and other immigrants.
“Coming to a different country and starting from zero is very difficult,” he says. “I want to be that person to them.”
“If we don’t tell our stories, then the legacies of our ancestors would not be carried forward,” he adds. “I think that’s a really cool thing to share with other people through their stories and that’s pretty much my way of doing that.”
Growing up, he aspired to be a musician and actor, and moving to Canada helped make that possible and see what the process looks like.
To accompany the EP, Monte de Ramos released two music videos to accompany the EP, including “Story We Tell,” the first song and music video he wrote in Tagalog and other Filipino languages.
“Filming those music videos felt surreal,” he says. “This EP taught me to be process-focused rather than to be product-focused, to enjoy the process of it and to learn from it.”
The process of “Reign” began in 2020, and it took two years because it gave him more time to analyze and find others like producers that could help Monte de Ramos.
“At first, I was just planning to release songs for just my family and friends,” he says. “But it got a lot of traction nationwide and internationally through streams that I kept pushing my EP because I want it to be serving a bigger audience.”
He was able to work with producers from the Philippines over Zoom, finding the right tunes and genres for the songs.
In the meantime, Monte de Ramos says he plans to do a few performances for his EP around Metro Vancouver over the summer and is hoping to have dates released soon.
“Music for me is a means of communication. It’s a vessel for me to put my emotions into whenever I’m feeling big emotions and a way for me to chronicle milestones,” he says.
“The dream is to travel Canada and just continuously share my story to non-Filipino Canadians and inspire Filipinos through my music.”