Sounds of Philippines History


Just as the recent global diffusion of North-American hip-hop music spawned multifarious varieties of local hip-hop musics around the world, Afro-American jazz has also found new sonic faces in urban spaces that have welcomed it.  This we find in 20th century Asia, particularly in Manila where reception of jazz is inevitable given the fact that Manila has been one of Asia’s entrepot, a crossroad, a contact zone where the two-way traffic of ideas and music commodities converged.  The transnational exchange between “East” and West” is  thus deeply manifest in Philippine landscape from the 19th century kundiman which came perhaps from the 18th century Spanish fandango to the late 19th century when Spanish zarzuelas became vernacularized.  These are evident of transculturation or the mixing of foreign with local cultural elements.  The circulation of printed sheet music that incorporated local images, rhythms and colors–afforded by capitalism, technology and the market–was another case of host culture assimilating foreign expressions into the local.  The “Pinoy jazz” of post-Pacific war paralleled  these developments.

The UP College of Music presents two concerts demonstrating this music-language diversity or hybridity that fundamentally characterizes Philippine culture.  On September 6, 6:30 pm, Abelardo Hall Auditorium, UP Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Prof. Rayben Maigue, will render an all-Flipino concert of “Pinoy Jazz” from late 70s to present.  Historically, this repertoire is a witness to the age of postmodernity where mixing of disparate elements, leading to the birth of unstable hybridities, is the norm.  The concert, to be annotated by jazz historian Ritchie Quirino, will feature “works” by the best proponents in the genre in the Philippines such as Matt Catingub, Jun Palacio, Domeng Valdez, Willy Yusi, Bobby Enriquez, Boy Palacio, Ritchie Quirino, and the most influential of all, Angel Peña.   This concert also commemorates the foundation of UP Jazz Ensemble in 1978.

From this sajonismo, the College equally celebrates hispanismo in Philippine culture with a rare concert on September 13, 6:30 pm featuring Philippine salon music from 1860s onwards.  Dubbed “Tertulia sa Abelardo Hall,” this concert showcases popular musics from the pages of Philippine history.  The phrase “popular music” means music  that were circulated among piano-owning social class in 19th century urban Philippines, i.e., music played in the salons of middle to upper class of Philippines society.  The development of national consciousness in late 19th  century owed much to this group, i.e., Filipino ilustrados (enlightened).  They were intellectuals who exchanged ideas among themselves through print medium: the newspaper, books, and commodified printed sheet music of the past that the concert recreates in the present.

In cooperation with the UP Colleges of Home Economics and Fine Arts, this event will showcase pieces for solo piano, duo, instrumental trios, songs, poetry reading and dance by Prof. Augusto Espino, Jourdann Petalver, and with the special appearance of young pianist Lorenzo Medel.  Outstanding students of the College such as Charlene Magalit, Roxanne Abuel, Raymond Roldan, Ralph Taylan, and Guiseppe Diestro will join their professors in the event.  Prof. Pat Silvestre curates the show.  Spanish refreshments will be tasted during the intermission.  Prof. Lou Decenteceo directs the show, with Lex Marcos as designer.

Tickets to the jazz and tertulia concerts are at 200 pesos each.  Attendees to the tertulia concert are requested to don on salon society Filipiniana attire.”  For details, please call Josie Baradas at 929-6963 or 981-8500 loc. 2629.

Lester Demetillo’s Protest Songs in Abelardo Hall

Exterior to the canon of dead composers that is still being propagated in conservatories in Manila (though one can apologize for the ideology of this canon in terms of its benefit in musical discipline and training), UP College of Music inculcates all types of humanly significant music expressions that have created diverse forms of solidarities in histories. In the Philippines, music did and continues to matter in the formation and sustenance of its pluralistic societies. Without  it, how social realities have been experienced through time cannot be conveyed. It proposes ‘truths” beyond rational calculation and appeals to collective memories, embodied sensations, or to what one would call, ‘direct experience.’ Though this is individually mediated, ‘direct experience’ is always social because music is communicative (yet not in the manner of symbolic words).

 On Thursday, August 16, 6:30 pm, Abelardo Hall Auditorium, UP College of Music relives ‘protest songs’ composed by its guitar faculty, Lester Demetillo, during years of political upheaval in the 1970s and 1980s in the Philippines. Lester will be joined by his sister Becky Demetillo and her husband UP Diliman professor in Art Studies, Edru Abraham, who will annotate the show. Becky used to sing with Karina Constantino-David as “Inang Laya”  whose vocal renditions during years of political oppression moved sentiment and social critique into democratic public opinion and social reforms. Lester’s songs are set to texts by noted activists Ed Maranan, Doming Landicho, and Karina David. Lester’s songs are partly inspired by American protest songs, having been influenced in particular by creations during the Great American Depression of 1930s and particularly that which emerged from 1960s and 1970s civil rights and liberties movement such as those by Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary. In the Abelardo Hall concert, Lester will be joined by Astarte Abraham, Mario Andres, and Lory Paredes.

 The concert is dedicated to the late activist Susan Fernandez and visual arts professor of UP Baguio Darnay Demetillo.

For details regarding admission tickets to the show,  please call Josie Baradas of UP Music at 929.6963 or 926.0026.