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September 11, 2008

An Overview of the Kapampangan Music Scene (Part 1)

Nanu nang atin, Nanu pa ing kailangan
An Overview of the Kapampangan Music Scene (Part 1)

By Jason Paul Laxamana
Urban Kamaru
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?

Wanted: Investors

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.

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