Singer-songwriter Noel Cabangon refuses to believe that the local music industry is dying. He pointed out that, despite fighting numerous setbacks, independent artists still find ways to write original material. It’s just that there’s not enough venue to showcase their works, he said.
“We have to be proud that there are a lot of independent artists who continue to create music even if they’re not being heard,” he said in an interview after the recent “Tunog Natin: Himig ng Kalayaan” concert held recently at the Ayala Triangle Gardens in Makati City.
“I think we owe to them the continuity of creation. They keep on contributing to the anthology of Filipino music,” he added.
Cabangon, vice president for external affairs of the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM), related that one of the biggest struggles in promoting Filipino music is trying to enforce Executive Order (EO) 255, which requires all radio stations to play four Filipino songs every hour.
“When you listen to the radio, what you’ll hear are mostly foreign songs,” he said. “We’re really pushing for EO 255. But since it’s only an executive order and not a law, it doesn’t have enough teeth.”
He lamented that Filipino artists virtually have to beg just to have their music played on radio. “It’s ironic. As Filipinos, it should come naturally for us to promote our own culture and identity. And music is a representation of both,” he said.
On a brighter note, Cabangon is pleased that more and more people in the industry are thinking of new ways to provide local music artists with alternative platforms to showcase their works.
One of these is the advocacy program “Tunog Natin” — a concert series that brings together some of the country’s best music performers. Presented by Avida Land (a subsidiary of the Ayala Group), “Tunog Natin” has already mounted six free shows since its launch in June last year.
“This concert series was conceptualized because of the lack of venues and support for OPM,” said project manager and singer Myrus. “There are many talented Filipino artists out there, and we want to give them a chance to be heard.”
For this third leg of “Tunog Natin,” Cabangon and Myrus joined five other local artists: acoustic singer Princess Velasco; ex-South Border vocalist Duncan Ramos; theater actress-singer Ima Castro; the soulful Bituin Escalante; and the legendary Rico J. Puno.
The performers breathed life into the diverse sounds of OPM — from kundiman to the more contemporary, R&B-inflected hits.
The most applauded sets were those of Cabangon and Escalante, who both stayed faithful to the night’s theme, “Himig ng Kalayaan.” Clad in barong Tagalog, Cabangon brought the crowd to their feet with his rousing performance of his own anthemic compositions, “Panaginip” and “Ako’y Isang Mabuting Pilipino.”
Escalante was delightful in her jazz rendition of the Katy de la Cruz hit, “Balut.” Her rich and booming vocals resonated in a medley of tunes popularized by Sharon Cuneta.
The show was capped by a group performance of Ryan Cayabyab’s “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika.”
Asked about future plans, Myrus said that “Tunog Natin” might tour provinces around the country. Project head Chris Cahilig added that they will be giving away about 50,000 copies of the 10-track compilation album “Tunog Natin: Songs from Home” to departing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the next two months.
“The CDs will be given in the OFW lanes of our airports,” Cahilig said. “We want to give them something that will remind them of home. And with this effort, we’re hoping na ma-export din ang OPM outside the country.”
A second album is set to be released later this year.
Meanwhile, to address the problems plaguing the music industry, Cabangon said that OPM is planning to organize a summit.
“We want to bring in all the stakeholders, record industry associations, networks, the singers, the academe and the government, and challenge them to do something about the current situation of the music industry,” he said.
Cabangon explained that he and OPM president Ogie Alcasid have been discussing the possibilities of starting a nationwide “Filipino music movement” that will help promote not only popular songs, but also traditional and indigenous music.
“This is really to make OPM a representation of our identity and culture,” he said.
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