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…
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?