TThe World Wide Web is a treasure trove of old musical clips. Among these are hilariously delightful English-to-Pilipino song (mis)translations by legendary comedians Dolphy and Panchito Alba. Rooted in bodabil, (or vaudeville), an older form of variety entertainment, these musical numbers tickled our funny bone through the post-war and Martial Law eras.These days, the Philippines' love of singing has never been more apparent. "A national pastime," observes BBC Travel in The Passport blog.
We, Pinoys, are really a musical lot. Our music is, in fact, as varied as our islands, from the kulintang and kundiman, to OPM and folk rock. As entertainment, look at how we flock to karaoke bars, and require no urging to grab a chance at the mic! We seriously belt it out. (Perhaps it is important to note that it is Filipino inventor Roberto del Rosario who created and patented the Karaoke Sing-Along System in 1975.) Agence France-Presse reports that Filipino musicians are "singing their way out of poverty... as tens of thousands [of Filipino overseas workers] stand under spotlights entertaining crowds as singers and musicians. From high-class hotel bars in the Middle East to Las Vegas casinos, ex-pat pubs in Asia and luxury cruise liners sailing the Caribbean, Filipinos are often found performing near-perfect cover versions of any genre."
This issue, OOV’s 38th, we’re facing the music! We proudly feature, in Portrait, Philippine National Artist Felipe Padilla de Leon and the Noli Me Tangere Grand Opera; essays by Felipe de Leon, Jr. on music and spiritual consciousness, and Kathleen Burkhalter on Manoling Francisco, S.J., and Simbang Gabi; Gary Granada's “salute to the grand legacy of 20th Century Cebuano Musical Masterpieces”; a look into the very Filipino tradition of serenade and courtship through music, with a clip from Harana, The Movie; the short stories of Paulino Lim, Jr., Beatriz Tabios and Eileen R. Tabios; the poems of E. San Juan, Jr., Anne Carly Abad, Jim Pascual Agustin, N. G. Ray, and OOV Resident Poet Ivy Alvarez; as well as a compilation of selected works on Philippine music history and genres in Bibliography.
In the Fil-Am music scene, I’m keeping my ears open as multi-instrumentalist and San Francisco native Ron Quesada innovatively sounds the gong. Quesada is bringing the ancient art of kulintang playing to a global community – with a twist. By mixing kulintang music with modern electronica, he is creating a new sound, Kulintronica. Quesada began studying music at the age of 8. Under the tutelage of Celestino “Bayani” Tan, he played rondalla music with The Haranistas de Manila. He later studied kulintang music with Danongan Kalanduyan, eventually joining the latter’s Palabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble. In 2010, Quesada collaborated with John Calloway at the San Francisco Pinoy Jazz Festival, fusing kulintang with jazz music in Calloway’s song “Itim” (Black). He has also conceptualized and performed the soundtrack to Aimee Suzara’s multi-disciplinary production, “Pagbabalik” (Return). From the Bay Area to Southern California, to Boston, Toronto, Manila, and Acapulco, Kulintronica’s soundscape reverberates, bringing with it the music of the Philippine South to a multicultural, younger audience. (Kulintronica)
So then, music being a language of Pinoy hearts everywhere, strike the gongs and strum those strings—or play us a couple bars, we’re about to hit all the high notes.
San Francisco, Aug-Sept 2012