It seemed ironic really that the Linggo ng Musikang Pilipino from July 25 to 31 happened without getting much mileage, not quite trending on Twitter, not quite talked about on social media, certainly not felt on mainstream FM radio.
This, despite a full show’s worth of promotions on ABS-CBN’s Sunday noontime show ASAP. This, with the support of government’s National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). This, with the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit, and the FILSCAP fully behind the project.
Ah, but that might be precisely the problem here. The institutions that are supposed to be promoting an appreciation and love for original Pinoy music are revealing its very real limitations.
That ASAP show
Watching what was like a launch of the Linggo ng Musikang Pilipino on mainstream TV, with a full show devoted to it on Sunday noon, would have been the best thing for original Pinoy music.
After all, ASAP 20 has so far outlived any other program in its timeslot, has revealed a creativity that’s evolved with the times, from choreography to musicality, despite the need to promote ABS-CBN’s own roster of stars. Yes, it has its low moments, but with an able directorial hand, it is also able to make us forget the lipsyncing and sintunado singing and the non-dancers dancing.
And yes, ASAP 20’s “Palakasin ang Boses ng OPM” show was one of those instances, where what resonates is the pretty fantastic Basil Valdez medley that had the man himself performing with ASAP’s better singers. Where the Johnoy Danao song performed by Danao and Aiza Seguerra still resonates.
But that’s pretty much it. I’m sure there were other really good performances, but what’s in my head now is the fact that it was not quite as diverse as Pinoy music actually is, and as such it was not quite an honest display of our musikeros’ creativities.
Case in point: no indie artist performed on that stage. Neither were Pinoy rock ala Juan dela Cruz and the alternative scene of the 90’s ala Eraserheads represented in the videos that tried to piece together a history of OPM.
Point number two: All performances happened with an ASAP host or singer in it. Even the Rak of Aegis performance, which the cast would’ve certainly blown out of the water, was stunted by the inclusion of ASAP’s own singers.
Walking right into the crisis
If the launch of OPM week was supposed to display the crisis of original Pinoy music, then it did a pretty good job of doing that. The organizations that are lording it over and supposedly representing Pinoy musicians also revealed that they are not quite listening to the different opinions and perspectives on how to actually be more representative of the dynamism and variety of Pinoy music.
Independent musicians have said it all of last year through to this year: they are not being represented at all by these organizations, and neither is mainstream radio and TV supportive of the real independents. These are musicians and artists who work outside of commercial recording companies. They don’t get airtime on radio, if at all. They especially do not get to sing their songs on live TV.
There is original music as well happening in Philippine theater. There is original music that’s being created and made public through sites like YouTube—sometimes those become hits, as with Jireh Lim’s “Buko.” Very few of those are allowed to cross over to the mainstream.
And that really is the crucial thing here: so much music is being created but few are allowed to cross over. Which is to say this cannot be merely about promoting OPM once in a blue moon, or insisting that radio stations follow a law that says they must play at least four original Pinoy songs per hour. At this point in time that barely scratches the surface of this crisis, and only really encourages airtime for songs that are already familiar to radio DJs and TV viewers. At this point, it only means having cultural enterprises like ABS-CBN, promoting the songs and musicians under its Star Records label by using these same songs for TV and movies, having these same songs played on ABS-CBN radio stations, and giving these same artists mileage on shows like ASAP.
Celebrating original Pinoy music, and launching Linggo ng Musikang Pilipino on ASAP made very little difference to this status quo. Shows like ASAP after all are symptoms as well of this crisis.
And this is the thing: it’s not that audiences are not listening to original Pinoy music. It’s that organizations like Filscap and OPM are not listening to the varied concerns of musikeros and musikeras that they are supposed to represent. This is also why campaigns like “Palakasin ang Boses ng OPM,” and weeks like Linggo ng Musikang Pilipino, fail tremendously: it’s all empty rhetoric.
It’s energy that should be spent figuring out how to be more inclusive, how to treat independent artists, OFW musikeros, session musicians better, given specific needs and circumstances.
If I were Noel Cabangon or Ogie Alcasid, and I were this close to the President, I would have already worked towards this process of being more inclusive, regardless of political stand, regardless of songs that decide to critique the system by working outside of it. I would have asked the President to make it easier—instead of more difficult—for indie artists to come out with their CDs and get space in record shops. I would have asked the President to already make a statement imploring—ordering!—radio stations to play Pinoy music regularly, because there is enough to go around, in English and Filipino, for every genre there is.
There are many easier, cheaper ways to get a real campaign for original Pinoy music going, the kind that is not merely about trying to get a hashtag to trend, or just putting together the same old faces of OPM with young singers in forgettable production numbers.
And yes there is this: speaking in front of students, rapper Gloc-9 asked this rhetorical question: why would a poor Filipino spend the little that he earns on buying his CD?
Which of course points to the fact that were the conditions of life better in this country,
then certainly it would mean a bigger, paying audience for local music.
That right there, is the state of Pinoy music.