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).”

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1st Mid-Autumn Film Festival – The Rooftop

Takeshi Kaneshiro in Red Cliff

Takeshi Kaneshiro in Red Cliff

 

Takeshi Kaneshiro and Jay Chou are now officially added to the list of biases I have seen on the big screen.

I’ve seen Kang Dong-won through the Korean Film Festival for (5) times already in “Jeon Woo-chi: The Taoist Wizard” and “Secret Reunion,” Kenichi Matsuyama through last year’s Eiga Sai with “Kamui Gaiden,” and most recently Yusuke Iseya twice for “Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno.”

I did see Jay first on the big screen with “Green Hornet” but that wasn’t a Taiwanese film. Takeshi has been a long-time bias, one of my very first actor biases so he’s really special for me. And so I did, I successfully managed to watch “Red Cliff” at the Newport Mall. I won’t be discussing “Red Cliff” anymore as I’ve seen the film before.

It was my first time really seeing “The Rooftop.” That is something for me, as I haven’t seen the movie before and seeing it on the big screen is amazing in itself.  At first I was a bit confused with the movie, I feel like there are too many elements thrown in all together in one.

The first scene I saw was at Dr. Bo’s herbal clinic where Wax (Jay Chou) works and his friends. There was this performance of girls dressed as nurses with guys in wheelchairs that was intended to make the audience buy herbal medicines from him. That scene was like watching a Jay Chou music video, which isn’t particularly a good or a bad thing.

I didn’t know the film was set in the 70s too, so when I finally saw it; it kinda felt a bit awkward. It’s a musical in 70s setting with action and a bit of fantasy. Like I said, there are so many elements going on in just one movie. And all the colors too, it was definitely colorful but I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do in every scene. I do give credit for Jay though for attempting a Taiwanese musical/action/fantasy film; combining genres in one. The costumes and the hairstyles may have been a little bit off at some parts for me, specially with Jay Chou’s Elvis Presley-inspired hair.

The film is set in a fantasy city called Galilee City; wherein people with power and wealth live on the ground and people who live of simple ways live on the rooftop.  Wax and his friends Tempura, Egg and A-lang live at the rooftop and while they may not have the wealth and power, they all seem to be happy with their way of life with their friends and neighbors. Wax is in love with an up and coming actress named Starling who has a billboard overlooking the rooftop. By chance, Wax gets to meet her in person and starts working as William’s double in the movie she’s filming with the influential actor. He also helps his friend Tempura on his side job as a rent collector for City Housing Authority headed by Rango.

Things start to get complicated when Starling grows closer to Wax. William hires the help of Big Red, another rent collector to snap photos of Wax and Starling and have it scattered all over the media in an effort to put Wax down. Unknown to Starling, she believes this ploy thinking that Wax betrayed him. Due to her father’s debts to William, she is then forced to accept his conditions by making them appear as a real couple.

By this time, the movie starts to go all cliche. The sing and dance routines are suddenly pushed to the background to focus on the film heading to serious cliche. After discovering Starling and William are now a couple, Wax is seen walking and pondering whether he should start forgetting about her, and accompanied with some sudden dancing as he walks by on a rainy day. He later decides to go see her at the film’s premiere with his friends. Tempura gets in the event without hassle as Wax, Egg and A-lang waited.

Rango finds out Big Red is looting some rental money from him and fires him. Tempura is asked to take over Big Red’s duties. With this, Big Red kills Rango and seeks revenge to William as well, because it was William who told Rango that he wanted to take over Rango’s position at the City Housing Authority. He creates a big show at the film premiere when he killed William in front of the audience, Starling and Tempura. Wax then comes to the scene who now has to decide whether to save Starling or his friend. He manages to outwit Big Red with A-lang and Egg’s help and take Starling away from the scene. And here we go again, the damsel in distress and the hero sacrificing his life for the girl.

If there are some things I did like about the film, those are the scenes at the rooftop. I particularly like their big gramophone and when they play music every night. I also love the new songs Jay has penned for the film, specially “Moonlight on Rooftop” and “You Are Everywhere.” These are the kind of songs he’s best at and not the electro/auto-tuned songs he has released lately. These type of songs are after all the very reasons I like him in the first place.

As for the film, his best is still “Secret” and I’m still waiting for that sequel. I’ve also seen him in “Initial D” and acting, story and directing-wise, it’s still “Secret” for me.

*****

 

Also tried something new at Lucky Chinatown Mall, which is a new and small yet very posh kind of mall. I tried Mr. Bean’s hot mocha soy milk. I love their tagline “Life’s simple pleasures” and their kawaii logo. I also tried Mongolian style bbq rice from Heaven’s BBQ at the food court. Lots of rice but the bbq was quite small yet delicious. I love the water bottle too at the mall that I didn’t want to put it to the trash.