Portia Placino

teaching, blogging and researching on art and culture, viewing the world through the camera's eyes, continually contemplating on the world of aesthetics and art theory and expressing it in art criticism and discourse…

OPM is not dead, but it might as well be

English: Members of the Eraserheads at "T...

English: Members of the Eraserheads at “The Final Set” Reunion Concert: (R to L) Buddy Zabala, Ely Buendia, Raimund Marasigan and Marcus Adoro together with Jazz Nicolas of Itchyworms (far left) as their sessionist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Too much to write about and too little time. That is what it’s been like here. As you have noticed, most of my updates are class-related. The time and energy I have left are dedicated to teaching five classes that I have. Whew. But hopefully, I am back.

Not to jump on the bandwagon, but I am writing about OPM. The current debate is getting increasingly annoying. OPM is not dead. The music will always be there. Filipino musicians are still making music. Filipinos are still listening to Filipino music in one form or another.

What is the problem? We don’t like what we are seeing and hearing. Most of my students do not like OPM, that is a fact. Filipinos appear to prefer foreign music, particularly American music. A lot of people, myself included, are reminiscing the Filipino music of the 90s and earlier. I have to admit, I think the mainstream OPM is filled with repetitive junk or covers of former glories. That is what we are exposed to right now. That is what is accessible right now.

I have read the comments, OPM defenders are strong there. They say they are alive, that OPM is still there. That we should look beyond the mainstream and go to Conspiracy, Route 196, Syjueco, The Collective, etc… It is sad and frustrating that Filipino musicians do not even realize the problem in that statement. That is just Manila, a very small portion of Manila. You can’t blame ordinary Filipino citizens if they are not aware of these places and the music they produce there. They might as well be dead for the rest of us who are do not belong in that circle.

Increasingly, Filipino musicians are creating a smaller and smaller circle of their own. I don’t belong there, majority of Filipinos don’t belong there. The rest of us are outsiders to the professed healthy independent Filipino music. Even if we become aware of the complicated schedules and locations of these gigs, barely anyone can just go there on a work night or even a Sunday night. Plain and simple, they are not accessible. What’s worse, they are not doing anything about it.

Instead of shooting the messenger, Filipino musicians should address the problem. Yes, the music is there, but we can’t hear it. It is the responsibility of the audience to go out of their way to listen to OPM? Isn’t it more the responsibility of the artists that they are seen and heard by the rest of us? Instead of creating their own small, impenetrable niche, shouldn’t they move to be more inclusive? I can remember growing up in the 90s, everyone was singing Parokya and Eraserheads songs, EVERYONE. Clearly, that is not the case today.

There are a lot of underlying issues here of course. The support given to the arts is weak, not just in music. The commercialization and commodification of music is another. The dictation of taste by the media and new media is there. But then again, the art world should stop thinking that the audience is dumb, blind and deaf. The audience also choose, they are also critical. The problem is that the little choice that there might be is very inaccessible.

Just today, I also read someone complain that OPM is much cheaper that foreign music, that we are valuing local music cheaper. Well, it should be cheaper, given that it is not imported, thus, less tax, transport, and warehouse expenses. Even if it is cheaper, it is actually more expensive to a lot of Filipino audience. A lot of Filipinos, myself included, would download via peer sharing sites, instead of buying the music. Or at least test it out first and see if it is worth buying the physical copy. There can’t be shame in that given the middle-class salary (if we’re lucky) that we have. That is another problem of access.

Address the problem. Make OPM accessible. Let us hear it. Maybe then we can debate OPM’s life and death, quality or lack thereof. Unless we hear the music, it might as well not exist. After that, we can tackle once again, what is Filipino music anyway? What is OPM?

 

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4 comments on “OPM is not dead, but it might as well be

  1. cactusinasandbox
    September 1, 2012

    hi portia, i have a sort of first hand experience with what goes on in a musician’s career, my husband being one (self-professed, sort of) and i think the very source of all this fuss really is that majority of Filipinos are not really interested in music as an art that evolves and progress, that we have to appreciate and support for it to grow and get better. it cost a lot to produce this kind of art and some are just lucky they have the means.
    even before a musician emerges and reaches a mass audience, they would die to get a slot even in the smallest of all gigs. an artist needs a venue to perform/showcase his brand and these places are not cheap. so most of the time, they end-up in dungee and hard to reach places basically because that’s what their money can give them. i’ve seen many talented and really good musicians who never get-out of that level of gig just because they lack the “star-quality” for a producer to pick them and spend on them. i know independent musicians who ended-up broke months after producing their own album basically because of low record sales. and when you’re broke, you’re stuck. and many of them die hungry, too.
    I don’t know how E-heads and Parokya did it. maybe it’s timing, maybe it’s the audience (our generation), maybe it’s luck.

  2. coffeecup
    September 6, 2012

    Hi, I appreciate this view of the issue; I wrote a post about this one on Facebook, basically talking about the consumer experience. I agree, many of the musicians reacted from their own standpoint, not considering that perhaps the people were speaking from an audience member’s standpoint. I guess it’s only right to look at the issue from different perspectives, and be aware that people who are speaking up may be looking at the thing from a different angle. The problem is, people are screaming but are oblivious to the existence of different standpoints.

    What I found quite interesting was how some individuals said, “Look us up on the Internet.” The world wide web is supposed to fill the gaps and create neutral ground when it was first conceived, but like the “small circles” that you were talking about, people are also doing the same thing online. If we were to geo-locate the followers of these big acts on Twitter, we just might find that a majority of them are in the capital. Even our circle of friends on social media are limited to people who “think similarly.” This is learned from Ethan Zuckerman, an Internet expert, on TED Talks.

    I also looked at the Internet usage of Filipinos online, and found that it’s really low. Only 30% of the whole population in the Philippines have access to the Internet (this according to Nielsen and SWS studies that i found online), and so I’m wondering why musicians were a) not able to wonder where the rest of the 70% get their music and; b)quick to shoot persons who made the negative comment re; OPM without thinking positively about it, and say, “This is a person who is looking for a musical experience and has no other experience to reference back to other than the 90s because there isn’t anything new yet.”

    The thing is, i think it’s also an Internet related problem. It’s a problem that’s very interesting to solve, though I’m also at a loss on suggestions. I have a theory: of course the Internet isn’t the only cause of the gap, but it’s also a contributor. It’s easier for us to stumble upon lesser known foreign acts than it is to stumble upon new local ones. Also, because of that, the music of younger acts from the local scene may be more experimental now but it also leaves behind the 70% who don’t have access to these kinds of sounds, and find the new music too alien to enjoy. Of course, i could be wrong, and am always open to changing my mind. :)

  3. ModManZZZ
    November 1, 2012

    If you know the history, OPM is down also in 90s because of MTV in studio 23, the likes of Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, Aerosmith, N-Sync, Natalie Imbruglia, etc. and now we have youtube so that we an listen to any music local and international.
    Let’s face it, international music scene have more quality than OPM, their so artist got their original stuffs, band music scene are more on quality vocal style and excellent instrumentals, and they have no “Genre Barrier” so that they can show their passion and talent unlike here, solo artist sings remake ballads, and bands’ music are very simple instrumentally and their voice(s) are just average. Majority of OPM is more on simplicity. Simple is beautiful but all that is too much is not Good, we also need quality.

  4. ModManZZZ
    November 1, 2012

    If you know the history, OPM is down also in 90s because of MTV in studio 23, the likes of Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, Aerosmith, N-Sync, Natalie Imbruglia, etc. and now we have youtube so that we an listen to any music local and international.
    Let’s face it, international music scene have more quality than OPM, their artists got their original stuffs, band music scene are more on quality vocal style and excellent instrumentals, and they have no “Genre Barrier” so that they can show their passion and talent unlike here, solo artist sings remake ballads, and bands’ music are very simple instrumentally and their voice(s) are just average. Majority of OPM is more on simplicity. Simple is beautiful but all that is too much is not Good, we also need quality.

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This entry was posted on August 30, 2012 by in Random Writings, Reviews and Musings and tagged , , , , .

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Real and Theoretical: Portia’s Art Blog

This blog is the extension of my classroom and of myself. I teach art, aesthetics and art history. I study, research, write and blog various aspects of the art world--real or theoretical. I look at the world through my camera's eyes and share such views to those who care to look. I hope you, who stumbled into this blog, would stop being a passive voyeur and engage in art criticism and discourse with me and the public...

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