I met Oliver under unforgettable circumstances: heavy downpour flooded much of the city that I had second thoughts about doing our interview. I was glad I persisted, for meeting Oliver allowed me to reflect how “luck” and “chance encounters” guide much of our life’s directions. As the Chinese saying goes, no meeting happens by chance, even the encounter of clouds is preordained. As I listened Oliver tell his story, from college band member to singer, composer and radio program anchor and producer, I kind of hoped that like Oliver’s serendipitous encounters, we too could meet people who would play a significant role in our soul’s evolution as spiritual beings on this planet.
Oliver Galipot Gadista was born in Manila and raised in Sta Cruz, Laguna. At 15, he migrated with his parents to Australia and graduated high school in Parramatta. None of his parents were musicians, though they love music: his mother was a nurse, and his father, now retired, was an auditor. As a boy Oliver remembered listening to Rico J. Puno (“I like his style, the way he sings”) and the Beatles, his Mom’s favourite. But his first serious encounter with music was in Parramatta when he met a Pinoy classmate who knew how to play the electric guitar. “I was fascinated; it was my first time to see someone my age owning one. The moment I strummed it, took me to a new world of possibilities – my imagination was just going wild.”
Oliver decided to go back to the Philippines for University studies, and enrolled at Trinity College in Quezon City. As fate would have it he met a classmate who’s into drums. As he also lived on the same area of the Rotonda, Quezon City where Oliver lived, it was only a matter of time they’d make music. Together they formed a ragtag band and practiced at a nearby for-rent studio. Oliver played rhythm and a bit of lead guitar. The group did not last long as Oliver transferred to a Physical Therapy course in Binan. In his new school he met a former school-mate who’s also into music, and with some others, formed the Company Rhythm Band playing Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams songs at Perpetual College. This was Oliver’s first taste of success, and “people began asking about us.” Then, the July 1990 Luzon earthquake struck, and Oliver had to go back to Sydney, where he took up Chemistry. He’s worked in pharmaceuticals and currently working for a chemical company in Western Sydney.
Serendipitously, he met his former “electric guitar” classmate on a street in Sydney, and together with a South American friend they jammed: this time Oliver’s music skills went to the next level when he found he could compose. “I found myself writing songs every week,” he reminisced. About 30 songs were written during this time. “Anything and everything” inspired him: from the exclusive romantic love to the universal love for mankind. The “Help Africa” sponsor a child brochure inspired him to compose “Save You.” Though his first Sydney band died down, another – the “Emotional Rescue” – was formed in 1994, and it played Oliver’s compositions. “Binibining Pilipina” and ”Eroplano” caught SBS anchor Richie Buenaventura’s attention. “He invited us to record songs” and these were played on SBS radio. From the “Emotional Rescue” group, Oliver sang and played lead guitar in “Room 69” in 1996 and “Corner Stone” in 1997. In 1999 Oliver became a member of the Australasian Performing Rights Association. He completed his Diploma in Contemporary Music in 2001.
In 2002, Oliver formed “SweetMojo” playing “mojonized” (re-arranged according to the band’s sound) tunes and some of his original compositions as a resident band for a Chinese restaurant and performing all across Sydney commissioned by Wild Bean Café management to attract customers during the opening of their stores from Bondi to Campbelltown. His compositional “voice” is a combination of “jazz harmonic progression and pop rhythm” with “a melodic soul.”
In 2009, he wanted to concentrate on promoting his original songs and meeting Bless who managed the team, was the break he just needed. “It seems we (Bless and I) were fated to meet.” The group, under Oliver’s leadership, became the first Filipino group to perform at the annual Strathfield Spring Fair (and have been invited for 3 consecutive years) and in the same year embarked on their “Sweetmojo Invades Pinas” tour organized by the local promoters TBJ Productions and also took the opportunity to execute a feeding program for the Ondoy victims from the funds they raised from their CD sales. That year, they were interviewed at NU107, appeared on FHM, nominated at FamousFilipinos.com and he was offered to go solo, which he humbly refused. “It wasn’t the right time, I felt” he said.
After feeling blessed with all the opportunities they were given he felt he had the responsibility to “give back”. In 2010 Oliver co-founded the non-profit community group, called the “Music Overboard” or The MOB, to ”help out original artists in the local community.” Later, the group launched The MOB Radio which Oliver co-produced aside from being the program’s anchor and music director. With his passion and talent for music, SweetMojo performed regularly for mainstream audience and a contributor for both mainsteam and Filipino charitable events. He has also worked for major community projects as a Music Consultant.
In the aftermath of the December 2011 typhoon Sendong which flooded Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, a group of concerned Filipinos in Sydney banded and formed a charity project for the typhoon victim. The charity album “One” was produced spun around the theme of “one love,” “one hope,” and “one faith.” Oliver composed and arranged all the songs in the album in record-breaking time being able to produce 15 songs of various genre and attract/discover 19 talents of multi-cultural background. According to the ALFA team who drove this project, the “One” album has generated $13,000 (over half a million pesos) that will help in the rehabilitation of the Sendong survivors.
Asked what his personal accomplishments in life is, he replied “I am so blessed to be given a chance to do something I like for others but what’s more rewarding is I have an extremely supportive partner to make me realize my dreams and beautiful kids whom I’m dedicating all my hard work for”. In his free time he enjoys watching movies and playing the guitars with his son Kristofer and singing for his daughter, Olivia Faith.
Oliver’s life reminds me of that universal law which responds and affirms our life’s deepest wishes. Though schooled in chemistry and the sciences, Oliver’s fulfilment was in music, and it was there that he got his breaks. Someone said somewhere that life begins at 40. In Oliver’s case, he has it going at 40: he has a “little one” baby Olivia, named after him, there’s his lovely partner Bless who’s a very supportive manager of his music career, then there’s his band, charities and radio program which gives a podium for struggling artists to have their voice heard. With his projects and program, Oliver has come full circle: from someone at the receiving side of music’s graces, Oliver now gives out to others what music had made of him. His charity projects and programs are proof how just one voice can make a lot of difference.
For more information about Oliver, please visit his website http://olivergadista.weebly.com/