Balik Tugtog: Infusing Contemporary with Ethnicity

I can’t call myself a big supporter of the local music or OPM as it is known by many. I wasn’t even buying albums in record bars to support artists that I like. It was only when the whole Korean Wave craziness started for me that I began buying albums, and Korean artists’ albums are way more expensive and to think that I even had to buy them online. However, for me I’m only buying albums of one artist, they’re a group who have been together for 17 years and going strong. For the rest of good Korean music, I go for downloads and the same with Taiwanese, some Chinese and Japanese music. But I have since slowed down on buying for about two years now.

But this is not to say I haven’t even listened to any OPM songs. I do have some OPM songs that I really like. The thing is though, I’m very selective when it comes to music, not just OPM but all kinds of music I listen to. For one, I consider myself a fan of the alternative rock group Hale who made a comeback this year with their amazing single “See You” and a mesmerizing new album, which is available for streaming on Spotify, and digital downloads on iTunes and Deezer.

Listen to the album here:

I still remember the first time I heard them over the radio and I actually thought they were a foreign group. It was “Broken Sonnet” and that’s how I fell in love with their music. I specifically admire their talent in writing great songs and that they have their own sound that can only be heard from them. For me, that’s original despite the influences.

Then there’s Kitchie Nadal, I like most of her songs but particularly “Wag Na Wag Mong Sasabihin.” There’s also Up Dharma Down’s “Oo,” Christian Bautista’s songs, Top Suzara’s “Sabihin Mo Na,” Janno Gibbs “Fallin,” some Moonstar 88 songs, MYMP, some songs of James Reid and Nadine Lustre and Silent Sanctuary to name a few.

And some of the songs and artists’ songs I mentioned were featured in Balik Tugtog – A Night of Indigenous & Contemporary Music, which is a program presented by the Arts Management students of College of Saint Benilde held at Black Box, School of Design and Arts last March 20.

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Spaceman (Mark Enriquez (vocals/guitar) and Alex Price) front acts for Balik Tugtog - A Night of Indigenous + Contemporary Music

Spaceman (Mark Enriquez (vocals/guitar) and Alex Price) front acts for Balik Tugtog – A Night of Indigenous + Contemporary Music

Experimenting Original: Traditional & Contemporary 

Balik Tugtog aims to promote both OPM and ethnic music. Daluyong, the main act of the event is a band composed of Grace Buenaventura (vocals) from UP Musicology, the rest are students from UP College of Music: Nikko Saliva (guitar), Carl Tolosa (bass), Nicky Juanite (Philippine instruments) and from Benilde’s Music Production Program: Stephen Arevalo (drums) and Theo Blanch (keys). The opening act is Spaceman (Mark Enriquez (vocals/guitar) and Alex Price), also from the Music Production Program.

Daluyong, the main act of the event is composed of students from UP College of Music/ UP Musicology and Music Production Program of Benilde

Daluyong, the main act of the event is composed of students from UP College of Music/ UP Musicology and Music Production Program of Benilde

I was instantly interested with the event because it’s about the combination of contemporary and indigenous music in the country. I wanted to see and listen how Daluyong, the main act will perform some of the best known songs in the country from the 90s – 2000s by infusing some of the Philippines’ ethnic instruments.

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I think this is one thing that’s lacking in the local music industry. Artists have been very busy trying to go along the trend of what’s in and what’s not in Hollywood and now even  in Korea. But I haven’t seen anyone trying to incorporate ethnic music and instruments in their genre. I’ve seen this kind of style in big artists like Taiwan’s Jay Chou and Leehom Wang. Leehom Wang in particular is very known for popularizing his genre he called “Chinked-out” – an incorporation of unheard tribal sounds of aboriginal Chinese music, Tibetan music, Mongolian music, as well as Beijing opera and Kunqu opera.

Considering the name OPM – Original Pilipino Music, the word original seems to have a broad meaning. According to Carl Tolosa (bass) of Daluyong, the idea of Pinoy music in the 90s are Siakol and Eraserheads that are inclined in the rock genre. “It’s not original anymore because there’s already the influence of The Beatles, an internationally known band.” Theo Blanch (keys) also added, “Considering the phenomenon, globalization, we are quick to copy from others.”

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The statement of course is true as everyone must know that before OPM got its start, there are already a lot of foreign artists doing the rounds. A lot of foreign music influenced OPM then and now. It’s not hard to recognize how foreign music are dominating the preference of most people nowadays, which is also why Daluyong believes it is important to remain rooted to our traditional music.

So how would artists create original music despite the influences? And that is the very essence of Balik Tugtog and Daluyong – the challenge of spicing up contemporary music with traditional.

Connecting Traditional Music to Today’s Music 

And as their name “Daluyong,” which means storm, surge or flow of stream suggests, the members aim to connect traditional music to today’s Filipino music, as well as encouraging everyone to be open minded and get to know more the history and culture of our traditional music heritage.

Ethnic instruments featured at the event were the gong ensemble, kulintang from Maguindanao, tongali – a nose flute from the Kalinga provinces, gandingan – set of hanging gongs from Bukidnon, dabakan – single headed drum, and kubing – jaw harp from Mindanao.

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According to Nicky, an Asian Music major from UP, traditional Philippine music is composed of instruments from South Philippines, Central and North Philippines. Most of the instruments from the south are gongs and from the north are bamboo instruments.

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Among the performances, I specially like the version of Up Dharma Down’s “Oo,” partly because I already like the song a lot. When I heard it live with the integration of traditional instruments, it gives off that different vibe as if it’s a new song.  The whole event was all at the same time a beautiful throwback, nostalgic and yet refreshing.

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It was so beautiful to the ears how they were able to strike a great balance in maintaining the recognizable touch of the songs but also giving it a fresh new take with incorporating ethnic flavors.

Attending Balik Tugtog with my workshop buddy and college friend Anna was a delightful experience. It was the first time I ever experienced listening to music performances with traditional instruments. It was an enjoyable jamming session with Daluyong and Spaceman as they performed hits from the 90s-2000s such as, “Awit ng Kabataan (Rivermaya),” “Akap (Imago),” “Rain Song (Imago),” “Tuloy Pa Rin (Neocolors),” “Oo (Up Dharma Down),” “Migraine (Moonstar 88),” “Ang Huling El Bimbo (Eraserheads),” “Mata (Mojofly),” “Harana (Parokya ni Edgar),” “Masaya (Bamboo),” “With A Smile (Eraserheads),” and “Jeepney (Kala).”

Someone at Studio Ghibli call this student film-maker and give him a job! 【Video】

I hope Studio Ghibli pick this up and develop it into a full length feature film. It’s just worthy of it.

I’m already interested just from the plot alone, of a young man living on a treetop village and meeting strangers.

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Lush greenery, magical flying machines and huge, squelching monsters, overlaid with a soaring orchestral soundtrack. This animated short makes no pretence about its strongest influence – it’s a beautiful homage to the works of Hayao Miyazaki.

The film even features a mysterious-looking gentleman who looks suspiciously like Miyazaki himself. But this short, which has been gaining attention online in Japan and abroad, was not made by a team of professional animators, but a young film student in Paris.

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