September 26, 2008
Dizon acts as Kenneth in Kalam, the mirage making (uple) sidekick of the powerful sorceress Albina.
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September 21, 2008
By Jason Paul Laxamana
Central Luzon Daily
Budding Kapampangan musicians these days are more fortunate compared to the dreamy-eyed elders, who didn't enjoy the presence of local mass media that could increase their popularity. As I have been telling a chum, pursuing a music career these days doesn't require one to perform everytime (although that would certainly help). A musician, if busy in other matters, can sit pretty; his recorded songs, as long as they're melodically infectious, can spread like virus to the masses.
With the rise of local (local, as in Pampanga- or Central Luzon-based) television and cable stations, musicians, in partnership with filmmakers, have now a new means of propagating their works: through music videos.
For the record, music videos are what Filipinos passionately call MTVs. But MTV, which stands for Music Television, is a company name. To say “Inalben ke itang MTV nang Michael Jackson king MYX” is nothing different from saying “Sinali kung Colgate, itang Close Up,” or “Menalbe yang Popeye, itang Dragon Ball.”
In a phone interview, I asked Ara Muna (singer of 'O Jo, Kaluguran Da Ka') regarding the importance of music videos because I heard he has plans of rendering a music video for his Tagalog-Kapampangan hit.
“Nung kabud ka mu kasi king radyu, mapalyaring aburi de ing kanta mu, oneng bala mu 50% ya mu; e da ka balu itsura,” the comedienne claimed. “Potang atin kang music video, ababalu da nung ninu ika; kayi potang kabit de ing lupa mu karing tarpaulin o nanu, tambing dang balu ring taung ika ita. Dagdag yang exposure para karing artist.”
But music videos, while highlighting the musical artists, have more functions. Being a filmmaker myself, I believe music video making is another avenue for budding filmmakers, along with other people involved in the production of a film or video like editors, actors, and cinematographers, to practice their craft. When a music video wins an award, for example, in the annual MTV VMAs (Video Music Awards), it's not the just the victory of the artist; it's also the victory of the music video director.
The Upaya of Images
Music videos vary according to style, depending on the director or whoever is in charge with the concept. Some videos austerely show beauty shots of the singer/band in a certain location while some include a narrative in the video.
Music videos are actually like TV commercials—a fact which a lot of music video directors tend to neglect.
“I know some beautiful songs destroyed by their badly done music videos,” says Sigfreid Barros-Sanchez, a Quezon City-based music video and indie film director whose directorial works include the music video/s of Parokya Ni Edgar ('Gitara'), Hale ('Tollgate,' 'The Day You Said Goodnight'), Kyla ('Til They Take My Heart Away'), Sugarfree ('Hari Ng Sablay,' co-directed with another music video director, Topel Lee) and Shamrock ('Okey Lang'). “And I know some good music videos which were destroyed by crappy songs,” he continues.
The power of music videos can even transcend linguistic barriers. In radio, when one hears a song in an unfamiliar language, he is most likely to reject it, simply because he cannot understand it (except if the listener knows how to enjoy music in spite of the language). Music videos on the other hand can make a viewer tune in and watch the video while listening to the song. Even if the song is in an unknown language, the combination of the images, the narrative, and the emotional impact of the music can act as a universal language.
Barros-Sanchez tells his experience: “There's one music video I watched ['Because I'm A Girl' by Kiss] the lyrics of which I don't even understand because it's in Korean. Pero sobrang lakas ng tama sa akin at tuwing napapanood ko, may mga panahong iniiyakan ko pa rin.”
The music video of 'Because I'm A Girl' is about a girl accidentally blinded with chemicals in the dark room of a certain photographer guy. Fortunately, someone donated eyes to her, but when she got her vision back, the photographer can no longer be found, only to find out a few years later in a park that it's the photograper who donated his eyes to her.
“Very sad,” Barros-Sanchez remarks. “I love that in videos. Yung may kurot. Yung may puso.”
Problems in Pinoy Music Videos
“Makikita mo naman sa video pa lang kung pinagkaperahan ng director,” Barros-Sanchez laments. “First of all, the camera used is bad. Second, the location is ugly; ni walang art or architectural thing na magpapabuhay man lang ng interes mo. Third, no effort was allotted to the production design and cinematography. Hindi kinarir kahit maliit ang budget. Kurtina at halaman (madalas palmera plants) at throw pillows at bed sheets lang, tapos na... Alam mong dalawang oras lang, tapos na ang shooting.”
If one will watch his favorite music channel, he will find a vast number of badly done local music videos, the reasons for which vary. There includes the lack of artistic vision of the director, lack of originality of the concept maker, and the pretentious personality of some music video directors, especially aggressive, budding ones.
Barros-Sanchez expounds, “There's always a new guy around who is willing to do his first music video kahit mag-abono siya para lamang sa demo reel niya at konting pampayabang sa pamilya at barkada.”
“Ngayon, baratan na talaga sa budget. Lokohan na, kaya mapapansin rin lately na the videos are suffering. Medyo pangit na ang kalidad at dahil doon nag-dwindle na rin interes ng mga tao na panoorin sila. Naumay na. Wala na kasi ng bagong ipinapakita.”
“Masyado nang naging sikat ang music videos lalo na sa dekadang ito,” the director comments. “Everyone wants a share of the pie, even just the crumbs that fall on the floor. Nawawala na tuloy yung art. Too many cooks spoiling what was once a special brew.”
The Infant Pool of K-Music Videos
Yes, there are Kapampangan music videos already, the number of which could either mean that Kapampangan music video making is emerging, or that Kapampangan music video making is bound to not flourish. Mekikuan, ada pen.
There are two non-commercial, non-live Kapampangan music videos. One is the Pampanga Tourism video with song by ArtiSta. Rita and Mon David ('Malaus Ka Pampanga') and the other is the San Fernando 'Kaluguran Da Ka' music video. My concern though would be more on Kapampangan commercial, non-live music videos by Kapampangan artists, the total number of which would be three. Yes, three. Atlu.
The first music video I have seen (through YouTube) would have to be Harvey Quiwa's 'Ika Mu Ing Tune Para Kaku,' the second placer in the first ever Kapampangan songwriting and pop music contest by ASLAG Kapampangan last 2007. Directed by Emil De Jesus and conceptualized by the singer himself, the video is a simple showcase of the artist singing the love song in a green and grassy field with the indigo silhouette of Bunduk Arayat in the background. Intercut with a mini-plot involving a romantic couple (where Quiwa is the leading man) in a subdivision, the video is currently garnering around 15,000 views in YouTube, mostly from Kapampangans.
The second and third music videos would be those of the opening and closing theme songs of Kalam, the upcoming Kapampangan telenovela of Infomax. 8 and Kalalangan Kamaru.
Four members of 2007 Angeles City San Miguel Beer Battle of the Bands champion 5 Against The Wall (Jon Tanganco, bass; Jaynard Bengco, drums; Nhoel Austria, guitar; Arnold Espino, vocals), the vocalist of Guagua-based Red Horse Muziklaban finalist rock band Nora Aunor Fans' Club (Ramcos Nulud), and a Mabalacat-residing teenage violinist John Canlas collaborate to create the opening theme song of Kalam. 5 Against The Wall and Nora Aunor Fans' Club were both participating bands in Kalalangan Kamaru's and Holy Angel University Center for Kapampangan Studies' RocKapampangan project, with the former doing a reggae version of 'Sibul Na Ning Arayat' and the latter composing a blues version of a hilarious Kapampangan children's song they titled 'Kaplas.'
Tarlac City-based Kapampangan band Mernuts—popular through YouTube for rendering Kapampangan translations of songs such as Rihanna's 'Umbrella' and Beyonce's 'Irreplaceable'—made their original composition 'Oras' to serve as the closing song of Kalam.
The Kapampangan youth, who have been part of the so-called MTV generation, have not been disappointed upon seeing the music videos created for the theme songs, which are regularly aired on the Infomax channel. They may also be viewed by checking out the YouTube account of 'sisigman,' where they are gradually garnering lots of views from Kapampangans and non-Kapampangans alike. “Agyu na pala ning Kapampangan ing gawan anti karen,” said one of the students who saw the music videos in Kalam's Pampanga Campus Tour.
In spite of the pop culture theme of the music videos, Kapampangan culture enthusiasts will not be disappointed as well, as the creative team made it a point to fuse pop culture and local culture.
Shot in the City of San Fernando, the music video of 'Oras' features not only a number of the main cast of 'Kalam,' but also Roland Quiambao, Pampanga's contemporary giant lantern master, and some of his beautiful works.
Shot in the Henson-Hizon heritage mansion care of Corito Panlilio-Lim, the music video of 'Alang Anggang Sugat' could serve as an independent short film, as it boldly shows the experience of a girl raped by her trusted male friends and how the loss of her virginity caused social stigma, until she decided to end her torment by committing suicide. The non-conservative treatment of the video has caused some to brand it "too dark and gory," while some reacted in awe and called it a "piece of art" and "at par with international music videos." Maleldo (Holy Week) icons were used as well to poetically show emotions of regret and suffering.
Filmmakers and Musicians
Kapampangan musicians and Kapampangan filmmakers can grow hand in hand by supporting one another, a phenomenon which I have witnessed as a student in the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Mass Communication—indie bands and indie film directors working and celebrating their art together.
I call on Kapampangan Masscomm students to be observant of the music videos they see on TV and to take advantage of the Internet when it comes to studying. While observation can help you get familiarized with the popular standards and styles of music video direction and conceptualization, remember that you should not be content with copying or perfecting the style of another. As a Kapampangan, you are obliged to bring pride to your race—by coming up with an original style in the creation of music videos which other peoples can look up to someday.
Let's not forget that as Kapampangans, we should live up to the tradition of excellence which we love to take pride in. Let's keep striving for more groundbreaking Kapampangan music, partnered with breath-taking and non-mediocre Kapampangan music videos, as every music video we make is an “advertisement” of the Kapampangan people. To spawn a mediocre music video is either a learning stage for the budding filmmaker, or simply a form of neglect to the subconscious consequences an ugly piece can have to the Kapampangan image.
May Kapampangan music and music videos bloom in the future. Young Kapampangan filmmaking enthusiasts are invited to get acquainted with the writer by texting 09186992459. Kalalangan Kamaru has plans of developing young Kapampangan directors.
Email reactions to email@example.com
September 11, 2008
An Overview of the Kapampangan Music Scene (Part 1)
By Jason Paul Laxamana
Central Luzon Daily
The Kapampangans, it can be said, are still in the stage of exploring and learning the industry of music, and its technicalities. As Project Director of Kalalangan Kamaru's and Holy Angel University Center for Kapampangan Studies' RocKapampangan, the first ever Kapampangan rock album, I have witnessed first hand that we already have everything that is required to build and sustain a Kapampangan music industry. Well, almost everything.
Thank Apung Ginu for these
Talent. We have a pool of talented but innocent musicians, albeit poor in confidence and aggressiveness, as they generally believe that a successful music career can solely be achieved by being discovered and being handled by the hands of Manila-based record producers. They are often fanatics of national musicians, but little do they know that they can be Bamboos or Sarah Geronimos in their homeland, if they just believe more in themselves and acquire a sense of competition with Tagalog and even foreign musicians.
Equipment. We have competent recording studios, three of which would be Kikoman's Recording Studios, Aldrene Tuazon's Kid's Place Recording Studio—both in Angeles City—and James Dizon's D'Zone Digital Recording Studio, located in the City of San Fernando. They're not as high-tech as those of Manila-based studios, but their quality, subject to the level of skill of the recording engineer and/or mixer, are ready for radio airplay and even out-of-the-province release.
Visionaries. We have record producers who can supervise the production of Kapampangan songs and albums, scout for potential talents, and even manage them. These producers, however, are quite independent—struggling, if you wish to call them—as they don't have corporate giants like Universal Records, EMI, BMG, or Star Records to backup their endeavors, simply because, on a Manila perspective, to venture into Kapampangan music is not very commercially viable compared to venturing into English and Tagalog music.
Financing. We have foundations, cultural groups, and wealthy individuals who see the benefits of having a strong music industry. These people have been willing to morally and financially support the production of Kapampangan albums or tracks for the sake of the Kapampangan people.
Media. We have enough local mass media firms to promote Kapampangan music—television stations, cable channels, radio stations, and even the Internet. Apart from these, we have ordinances and resolutions supporting the propagation of Kapampangan music through mass media.
Other skills. We have enough skilled people to support Kapampangan recorded music productions in terms of publicity, such as photographers, inlay and CD designers, music video directors and technical team, printing presses, concert and event organizers, and journalists.
Ask Apung Ginu for these
Capitalists. Either Kapampangans build their own big record labels, or convince Manila-based music corporations to establish a regional branch in Central Luzon. But how to convince? Not merely by words certainly. We need to show the big people of Manila that Kapampangan music is not only competent, but thriving, and is worth the investment. It's just something like tourism, or attracting foreign investors to erect firms in Clark.
Distributors. Based on experience, we don't have CD replication presses in Central Luzon still. When Kamaru and HAU produced RocKapampangan, we had to bring the master copy to Manila for quality CD reproduction. All we have right now in the region is CD burning.
An alternative to independent CD replication is getting a distribution deal. But are there big time distributors here? None, which results in a very interesting case of music piracy. An illegal act, piracy has served a latent function in the promotion of Kapampangan music. I personally heard Ara Muna's O Jo, Kaluguran Da Ka first on the lines of bangketas along Miranda St. in Angeles City. Two weeks after the launching of RocKapampangan, pirated copies began to swarm Apu. Other people have informed me afterwards that San Fernando pirates have begun selling pirated CDs. Then Tarlac. Then, even Quiapo. Would you believe, even in New Jersey?
It's difficult to find original Kapampangan CDs in record stores, but bangketas, they have them all—from the polosadors to ArtiSta. Rita, from Aslag Kapampangan to funny remixes. Thus, I pose this question: is piracy of Kapampangan music all that bad, when it is piracy that serves—temporarily I hope—as the distributors of struggling Kapampangan musical artists?
The bad side of this is pangalugi of course. Pirates live off the work of enthusiastic producers and musicians. If producers and musicians don't earn back what they have spent, how will they continue making more and much better Kapampangan music in the future? This is something the local government should look into.
Strong market. In relation to piracy, Kapampangan music has a growing following. But does 'following' equate with 'market'? To a certain degree, yes, but 'market' here is discombobulating, as there is no transaction involved. People don't buy the music; they ask for it to be given away for free, or for a cheap price (thus, resorting to pirated copies). Will Kapampangans ever be ready to purchase and support Kapampangan music, to the extent of getting the original copy instead of the piratical? Do they have enough purchasing power to avail original copies of the latest Mon David or K4ad album?
World view. Another thing the Kapampangan music scene needs to embrace is the sense of a global village, which implies that every piece of music we churn out should be a potential player in not only the national but global cultural industry. This means that the quality of the song should be observed. Quality may be subjective, yes, but using our own standard of quality, we should strive for it nevertheless whenever making music.
But the musical quality of the song is limited to the world of half-notes, sopranos, baritones, and G-clefs, which the real world is absolutely not. Musical quality does not ensure a hit or a historical mark. We should also look into what I love to call the “social quality” of every track. Your song may be beautifully sung or wisely mixed and engineered, but is it anything new to the world of music? If I place it in a shelf with all other songs in the world, would it potentially grab my attention?
Having said all these, I call out to the wealthy people of the Kapampangan region who see not only monetary but cultural potential in the growing Kapampangan music industry: please stand up! Grab the idea while it is new. Conquer the field while there is no king yet.
Please email reactions to firstname.lastname@example.org
September 5, 2008
and his Kapampangan Comic Book Superheroes
By Jason Paul Laxamana
Batman, Superman, Wolverine, the Powerpuff Girls, Spider-man, Naruto, Yusuke (Eugene), Son Gokou—who is your animated childhood superhero? From the day we were born in this country, our minds have already been imperialized by foreign superheroes that range from a photographer bitten by a radioactive spider to a Kamehameha-blasting warrior; from bug-eyed, Chemical-X-energized little girls to a delinquent Japanese student in green school uniform shooting Rei Gun from his fingertips; and from a temperamental mutant male with Adamantium bones to a rich and skillful crime fighter of Gotham City.
To counter this early imperialization of the youth by foreigners, the Tagalogs have crafted, through comic books, Darna, Capt. Barbell, Panday, and Lastikman. They have penetrated the Filipino consciousness well, albeit still on the disadvantage compared to their First World counterparts.
Now we take a look at the Kapampangan children. Who are their animated superheroes? For the relatively older Kapampangan generation, I ask the same question. Even my Ima would mention non-Kapampangans like Darna and Superman, whom she has knowledge of more on due to television and movies, not because of comic books or cartoons. More culturally-rooted Kapampangans would recount the tales of their grandparents about Sinukuan, Kargen Kargon, Pugut Negru, and Pande Pira, but the Kapampangan generation of ngeni are exposed to everything that is non-Kapampangan.
Although now based in Manila and working for Tagalog/English comics, Kapampangan elements have not failed to disappear from Pedriña's consciousness, as in his collection of original Pinoy superheroes titled Sanduguan (blood compact), most of the lead protagonists are Kapampangan.
“Most of what we have [in comics] are Tagalogs and Americans,” Pedriña explains. “I want diversity so I make characters from Mindanao, Kalinga, Bohol, Ilocos, Laguna, etc. but a lot of my characters are Kapampangan.”
Sandata, on the other hand, is a Mabalacat-residing master of Kapampangan martial arts. A practitioner of sinawali (Kapampangan arnis), Sandata is gifted with two magical batons to help him fight dark forces. Garbed with the Philippine coat of arms, he is devoted to combat evil all his life.
Aside from the two, three more are Kapampangan.
The story of Sanduguan falls under the typical good versus evil category, but no matter the redundancy of such topic, it still attracts an audience. Why? Probably because the good-versus-evil in real life is ongoing, and the final judgment is something that intrigues all of us.
Pedriña's comic book story highlights Kalayaan City as a major setting, which is actually what we know today as the Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga. Siginaguran, the Philippine god of evil, escaped his century-old imprisonment and proceeded to causing havoc. Creating monstrous automatons, he attacked and destroyed the mega city of Kalayaan. Four heroes—Diwata, Sandata, Supremo, and Sidapa—decided to band together to defeat Siginaguran and prevent further carnage by any possible future threat.
“I really want to do a Kapampangan epic [in comics], but i haven't been really lucky with regard to reference materials,” the artist laments. “I need to know who is best suited to be turned into a comic book. Juggling work, family, and hobby already eat too much of my time.”
“I shall need all the best materials we have on the subject, and from there, pick the best story for adaptation,” he adds. “I really want to do a lot of them.”
This where the matenakan (experts) of Kapampangan folklore, literature, and history enter. If you want to get in touch with Gener Pedriña, you may email him at email@example.com.
If we, Kapampangans, be able to develop our own comic book industry independent of Manila and foreign countries, then that's again one step closer to cultural self-determination and another way of providing our talented artists a fulfilling graphic career without leaving the province. We now have new Kapampangan recorded music, Kapampangan TV shows, Kapampangan publications, Kapampangan films. Will Mr. Pedriña be the pioneer of the new Kapampangan comic book industry? That we have to watch out for.