It says a lot that even as the dominant local music channel is MYX, many of us still call music videos “MTVs.” It might be a Pinoy thing, one that’s telling of the history that MTV had in this country, one that the younger generation might not know about.
It’s bits and pieces of memory. The time when music videos by local artists were a rarity, and Viktoria was one of the first to do it with “Sasabihin Ko Na.” The time MTV Asia arrived in the Philippines, and started introducing us to artists from Asia, ones we would otherwise not hear about (yes, pre-internet years!). The time when MTV Philippines happened and it was Francis M who became one of the first Filipino video jocks with his own MTV show. Among many other Pinoy VJs, Donita Rose would take her MTV career to Singapore.
This was an MTV Philippines that was daring and adventurous, featuring alternative musicians (the indie artist of old!) alongside mainstream ones, creating shows that were new or fun, or both.
You understand why one keeps a romance with MTV. It reminds of a time when music channels were independent and credible—not merely a cog in the wheel of a cultural empire’s dominance over TV, music, and radio.
The promise of #MTVMusicEvolution
Produced by MTV Asia, MTV Music Evolution’s goal was to bring together an icon and a young star each from the Philippines and the US, in a curated retrospective of rap and hip-hop across generations. For the US they were flying into Manila the global iconic hip-hop group Naughty By Nature, DJ Cash Money, and rapper YG. For the Philippines, they had icon Gloc-9, young rapper Abra and his posse, and Apl De Ap. MTV was flying in its production team from Singapore and the UK. The possibilities of a grand show swirled in my head. One could only get excited.
But also a bit scared: would MTV be able to gather a crowd at all at this point when MTV Pilipinas is barely on anyone’s radar? One could only be overwhelmed by the thought that this was a first-of-its-kind gig and it was happening in Manila.
It was like MTV was making a comeback into our lives, and we needed to prove that we can still appreciate shows that are conceptualized well, and do not just give us what we want. MTV Asia was promising us a once-in-a-lifetime gathering of artists from here and the US. One hoped we could rise to the occasion of being its audience.
MTV does the tribute
But MTV Asia seems to have trusted this audience to come, and the number of the crowd has been pegged at 22,000 people. Yet it seems this is beside the point.
The point being this: MTV Music Evolution’s promise of an epic show was one that was fulfilled, and it was not just the fantastic stage design and the high-tech equipment, not just the multi-cultural and professional production team and the lighting design of Filipina Shakira, Villa Symes. MTV Asia also knew to respect the icons they had invited to perform and give them the freedom to be themselves. MTV Music Evolution also paid tribute to the one man who could not perform that night.
Francis M opened the show through a video that was also introducing Gloc-9 to the audience. Gloc-9 was also chosen to pay tribute to Francis M’s memory and genius. And his continued relevance: Gloc-9 chose to perform the Francis M songs “Three Stars And A Sun” and “Kaleidoscope World.” Where the latter is an anthem for peace and understanding despite diversity, the former is Francis M’s promise to nation, one that resonates still. Gloc-9 performed this song against a backdrop of stars and suns; for “Kaleidoscope World” he performed with Francis M’s face projected behind him.
The moment itself was iconic, where MTV Music Evolution had practically given us a sense of the history of rap from Francis M to Gloc-9, and why it remains relevant to a nation like ours.
Something old, something new
It was my first time watching Abra, Ron Henley and Loonie perform on stage and now have newfound appreciation for them, doing what are akin to rapped conversations. How I wish that MTV had also given Loonie more time on that stage—he was far more skilled and intelligent than anyone on that posse.
Naughty by Nature was everything one expects from an iconic global hip-hop group.
Despite their age, there was playfulness in them still, as there was seriousness: their set was a history of their career, during which one proves that some songs defy time. They also knew to pay tribute: Treach went on stage wearing a Pilipinas shirt from the Francis Magalona Clothing Company (FMCC), and “Mga Kababayan” and “Kaleidoscope World” were sampled during their set.
One realized watching Naughty By Nature how creative one can continue to be, and how one might evolve still beyond the hit songs and mileage.
Which might be said as well about MTV, coming back into our lives via MTV Music Evolution, and delivering more than what it promised. One wishes MTV Pilipinas could get back into our consciousness too, not by offering us what the rival music channel already does. Instead it might go back to what MTV Philippines used to stand for: diverse music, fun shows, interesting VJs. Then, it might win against the competition.