Thursday, September 6, 2012

OPM is (NOT) dead

There has been quite a stir online when the issue that OPM is dead has been given light on the media. It sparked a lot of reactions both supportive to the topic and otherwise. This is my take on the current situation of the country's local music...

OPM has evolved greatly, from songs with deep meanings using words that seemed like old world Filipino poetry made into a song, to simple and easy to understand lyrics, to music used as propaganda or to spark a revolution, instilling hope to people during times when creativity and democracy was in iron chains. OPM used to have a lot of reflective content; of what is happening in the country, may it be about a certain Filipino lifestyle, characteristic, or perhaps maybe just about a place. In the old days, when people don't have much freedom for anything, people were more patriotic, so was our local music. In the old times, writers really do put such an effort in the songs they make, and they make it big and the songs are immortalized. There were also days wherein OPM lyrics were so simple like most songs in the 90s. We had a lot of hits during that time because many people can greatly relate to the song's message, thus, the reflective content of the songs in those days were apparent, many people were able to grab and love the meanings, producing hits. There were songs that merely tells a tale of a heartbreak, a past love, or simply meeting a girl in a jeepney; presented in a very novel and tastefully executed way. At present when people have more freedom than ever, the quality of such content in the musical arts have greatly declined. As what is being shown in the mainstream media, most songs are merely remakes of old ones. I'm not against remakes, but aren't there anything else to tastefully write?

I have been an avid supporter of OPM, and I have been listening to it since I discovered what a radio is back in the 80s. I started purchasing cassette albums of local bands during the 90s, an era where many say was the greatest age of OPM. Then I started buying CDs when the new millennium came, as it did, OPM started to change too, sounding more international and its sound has been hitting foreign shores. As time passed by I noticed that the mainstream OPM has been dominated by remake after remake of old hits, which is apparent in telenovelas and on the masa-market radio stations. I wondered, what happened to making new songs? As I continue my recluse from mainstream music and television; I then submerged myself in the local live music scene; watching live bands instead of listening to some crappy song on the radio or watching recording artists who cannot sing, or actors forced to sing, or perhaps some singer reviving an old hit one after another. Watching live music and going to such places is where I get updates on bands and their new materials, as well as new talents. Hanging-out with like minded people also feeds my thirst and it builds my knowledge on what is out there in the OPM scene.

There are still quite a number of venues where one can still watch good local music and great bands, we have B-Side in Makati, Big Sky Mind, and Cubao X; where some of the last remains of the old Metropolitan Manila is still standing and which is in danger of being lost to a high-rise real estate. Saguijo (also in Makati), is one place that has been catering to people who loves good music and is a venue for great bands to show off their talents, at the same time showing some artworks made by local artists. I have been going to this place for years, and each time, I go home satisfied and drunk (figuratively) with the great sound of OPM music. It was where I first watched Urbandub perform, during the time their hit First of Summer was dominating the airwaves. It is a place for artists who make and write their own music. Going there is immersing myself in pure OPM bliss.

As I was preparing to write this blog entry, I had many thoughts regarding OPM songs. I even thought of defining it or how to define it... Here are my first few thoughts regarding the topic: That if a song is made by a Filipino artist, is it automatically an OPM? In my own opinion, an "Original Pilipino Music" should: reflect the life of a Filipino, be about a place or a certain Filipino lifestyle. Is OPM really dead, dying, or just evolving? I was wrong in the former, because music do evolve with time. As new OPM songs are becoming more "globally sounding", our bands are becoming ever more popular worldwide, enabling our local bands to be internationally known not just in Asia, but also in the West; bands like Typecast and Taken by Cars. However, I am not sure if these bands are widely known locally because I don't hear their songs being played in most radio stations. I cannot say much regarding the T.V. media, because I don't watch T.V. except for documentaries and the daily news.

NU 107, was a haven and an outlet for both the popular and emerging Filipino bands. When it disappeared, it was a loss, not just to local bands but for people who greatly appreciate rock and alternative music. Jam 88.3 then took in what NU 107 left, giving a venue for great OPM and alternative music. Then soon, the latter will be changing its format; to what, is yet to be known. If they will be driving their way to the masa-market radio station bandwagon, then it will be such a great loss. As they are the last medium on the radio who plays alternative music and gives opportunities for good local bands to be heard on the airwaves.

We have a lot of talented and great bands right now. Most sounding so good one will never know they are even a local band, with materials that can be at par or even better than any popular international artist or band. We have bands such as: Yolanda Moon, Encounters with a Yeti, Turbo Goth, Malay, Anyo, Lampara, Techy Romantics, Curbside, Wilabaliw, Not Another Boy Band, Sleepwalk Circus, Jejaview, Taken By Cars, Paramita, and many, many others. How many people, specially the masses know all or even some of the bands mentioned even exist? How many of them know the beautiful music they make? If they only know, maybe they won't be too much attached to crappy foreign pop songs, and the untalented singers will be forced to be better at their craft and release better materials.

I do understand that it is a matter of taste, each to his own as the famous line says; but even those who have access to greater forms of media, the middle class, immerses themselves in the foreign pop culture.  Most of them do not know that we do have such great talents in the local music scene. Most of them (IMO) do not know that we still have a thriving OPM scene.

Yes, at present, OPM is thriving; but only to those who know where to watch them, to those who can, to those in the know. I do think, not long from now, great OPM will only be for the exclusive few.

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