Conversations: Culture and Commerce (3)


Dear Bill,
Hi. It would appear that the solution to the problem most of us deal with when it comes to the exploitation (this is a pretty heavy word) of our culture seems to hinge on the question of whether it is non-Igorots or us who do such exploitation (heavy word). We understand that musicians, as any practitioners of the other arts, are given the license to improvise on their craft.

However, it is precisely that artistic license which spawns all the negative sentiments which we then harbor towards those who attempt to represent us. The primary reason for this would be the fact that the sights and the sounds which we’ve been accustomed to have been unchanged since when our forefathers originally performed them. (It’s very safe for us to assume this since the first contact most of us have with our native music is during our cultural celebrations. We learn how to play the gongs, etc. from our elders who have gotten the knowledge from those who came before them.) It is then an assault to the senses when we hear a variation of what we’re familiar with. And the irritation more so if the violator is a pretender — a non-Igorot.

So, would it then be pardonable if the artist who massacred our songs or our dances came from our ranks? An Igorot? I would say, absolutely yes! Let our brothers be creative with our songs and our dances. Let them tinker with the notes and the steps any which way they desire. With the natural groove which the Igorots possess, I bet that they would eventually come out with a piece that should be worthy to present in any stage. Or if they should fall short, then at the very least, it would be them and not some outsider who would make our own songs sound silly.

I made a similar point in an article here. But before anything else, I would like to stress that the comment on the Benguet cowboys in said article is not in any way meant to disparage them. As a full reading of the article would reveal, it was made in consonance with the article’s thrust which is to challenge the Igorot artist to aim high or go for the big time and that their best chance of doing this is to look at their roots. But hey, if they could create a country sound which would displace American country singers’ songs from the charts, then, great. It would be like beating them Americans at their own game.

I think that should be all for now.

: The commercialization of our culture is a very broad issue. Maybe its very broadness is what makes us unable as a people to come up with an appropriate and a rational response? Do we accept it? Do we reject it? If we do accept it, do we accept all facets of commercialization? Are there such things as “good” commercialization and “bad” ones. How do we make the distinction? What the heck is “commercialization” anyway? Are those Igorot beggars “commercializing” our culture?

Daming tanong ano he he. Anyway, Pagano and I decided to share our ideas on this matter via this Conversations. Do join us as we wrestle with the issue. And let’s welcome Pagano to the blogosphere, you can read his blog here 🙂

RELATED POSTS: Conversations, Part 1; Conversations, Part 2. SOMEWHAT RELATED POST: More on the “Igorot Princess” or Igorots as Objects of Fun. PHOTO CREDIT: Kayakbiker.

4 thoughts on “Conversations: Culture and Commerce (3)”

  1. Whether we admit it or not, Country music isn’t really that popular. In the Philippines, dito lang ata. In the US it’s not even that popular; it wouldn’t be unless you’ll make it sound like pop music – like the songs of Leanne Rimes in Cayote Ugly and that hit song by Shania Twain. Otherwise, it wouldn’t really be popular.

    I don’t know, but I think if the Igorots come up with their own brand of music based on culture, they wouldn’t attract many listeners — even Igorots. Their market would at least be the “unconventional” Filipino, especially those bin Manila. I’ve been trying to look at some indie scenes(music) in the country and most likely, those who deviate from the popular music(pop, rock, punk, hiphop, metal, etc) that are popular amongst Filipino artists are those who patronize the music of Bayang Barrios, Pinikpikan(yes, there’s a band named Pinikpikan…. have you heard of them?), Joey Ayala, etc.

    Sorry for the scattered thoughts. Hehe

  2. This should surprise many people (I was), but it seems that country music has produced two of the top selling solo artists of all time. One is Elvis Presley who went on to help define rock ‘n’ roll and became known as ‘The King’, and the other is Garth Brooks. Also, at the beginning of the 2000s, pop-oriented country acts remained among the best-selling performers in the United States. That should be proof that country music has quite a huge following but Betelnut is right in saying that most of those country singers who eventually proceed to command such admiration and respect in the music industry are those who cross over to making sounds which are more pop sounding. The late John Denver used to be so popular; Shania Twain as Betelnut mentioned; and browsing through Yahoo music, one also finds that some of Bon Jovi’s songs are classified under country. It should also be worth-noting that in the US, many artists sprung to develop what would be called Alternative Country. These artists were opposed to the more pop-oriented style of mainstream country. Other country sounds have also become subject to criticism by more traditionalist performers which led to the creation of other “country sounds.” It seems that it’s not only Igoys who have problems with their sounds becoming abused. (I’ve culled most of the items above from wikipedia articles and there’s much more to be learned from there. He he. Obvious ba?)

    Now, to that issue about the (im)probability of our native tunes ever making it pop, it hasn’t even been tried. Or if it had, the level of its development should still be in its infancy. It could very well be akin to ‘suntok sa buwan’ but I don’t know which is more pathetic- developing one’s inner and natural musicality and showing it to the outside, or copying outsiders’ developed music and showing such music to those from whom they were copied?

    Anyway, I’m not a pure-country music fan and neither do I feel hot about dong-dong-ay. It’s just that with the proliferation of songs being uploaded by Igorot artists in the internet (some of the songs are good) one just couldn’t escape the thought- Is that all that we can do?

  3. Yes, Shania, Bon Jovi, Leanne are ‘technically’ country but not purely country as in the country music. There’s strong hint of pop-ism in it kaya patok sa mainstream, not necessarily a cross-over. Pero pag yung tipong hardcore country, eh baka sa mga country music fans lang talaga.

    Hindi ko naman ibig sabihin ng hindi natindapat gamitin ang musicang Igorot… I’m more of incorporation of different influences to come up with a unique music.

    Dayang-dayang is Indonesian but it’s not purely Dangdut. You’d find western incorporation there(except the lyrics, of course..hehe)

    Bill, yan lang ata yung Ibaloi nilang kanta… at saka yung isa sa Youtube.

    Pinikpikan, napanood ko lang sila kumanta ng Lupang Hinirang with “tribal” rythms. Yun lang. Hehe. Weird nga eh.. kasi ang original lyrics nun is in Spanish… La Marcha Nacional ata yung original title nun.

    Ginawang folk-pop ni Grace Nono yung Salidumay diba? AFAIK, chant siya.. tapos nagka music background. Hehe

  4. Session Road…is a good example of incorporation….hindi mo na tuloy alam kung saan mo icacategorize…at an angle it sounds pop, if you look from another angle, mejo reggae ng kaunti, at another level may subliminal hints ng traditional Cordi music.

    Parang yung manila sound…Latin-Rock and Roll with hints of Asian ness pero it died out… sayang.

    ..pero some years ago, they were accused of plagarizing a melody…. something like that.. ewan ko kung totoo

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