A piece I wrote last year.
OPM is dead. We’ve all heard it before. The notion became especially widespread a couple of years ago due to Don Jaucian’s and Leloy Claudio’s respective articles declaring the death of Original Pilipino Music. Though I agree with almost everything these journalists had to say, I side with the small group of Pinoys who believe OPM is still alive but (because its health has tremendously deteriorated throughout the previous years) it is struggling.
Contrary to what the majority of media attempts to convey, the OPM industry is most certainly not thriving. Let’s face it: sublime Filipino musical compositions are seldom heard of. This reality manifests itself on our own charts (which are frequently topped by foreign music). Maybe it’s true that Filipinos aren’t supporting their own music enough, but what is there to support when most of the OPM we hear nowadays is overwhelmingly inferior to what’s been merely imported? What? “Filipino pride”?
Set aside the rampant revivals (which were what provoked some to say OPM is indeed dead) and you will notice the scanty collection of decent OPM songs in the mainstream. A huge portion of it (and I mean HUGE) is comprised of ballads and pop tracks with miserable arrangements, insipid tunes, and forced lyrics. Imagine: since these are the ones that are produced by people with bread and bones, despite their fantastic mediocrity, they receive adequate advertisements, and—ugh—represent OPM. That’s why Filipinos shouldn’t be surprised (or take offense) when OPM in general is labeled as substandard and “copycat.”
What has happened to musical exploration and experimentation? Where are the brave, brilliant writers of OPM? Most have been—regrettably—bullied into the indie scene, the haven of real artists. Perhaps not all want to reach out, but a lot do. Sad thing is without the proper contacts and bills, these talented people oozing with eloquence can’t just cross the line from indie to mainstream. Why? What’s been restraining their quality creations from easily reaching the mass?
It is the creeping, crippling, chronic disease of OPM.
Take for example national songwriting competitions. Have you considered how the submissions are filtered? How familiar the sur/names of the finalists are? If there’s someone new, trace his/her origins and you’ll discover that s/he’s of a celebrity lineage or is connected with one of the industry’s veterans (or both), or is connected with someone who either is part of a celebrity lineage or is connected with one of the industry’s veterans (or both). A group has been conspired na kung sinong may kapit, siya’ng may sure sabit (no pun intended).
The same manipulation can be observed with the lists of nominations for pretentious—err—prestigious Philippine music awards. “Sila-sila” lang kung baga.
Of course, if you’re a condescending online ranter who hallucinates of being the “cure” of “people’s stupidity” by now you’ve exploded, like, “SO WHAT IF OPM SEEMS DEAD IN THE MAINSTREAM? YOU’RE RANTING ABOUT <bleep> PROMOTION? WE LIVE IN THE DAYS OF INTERNET <bleep>. IT’S JUST STRATEGY. LET THOSE ‘TALENTED’ LOCAL FILIPINO SONGWRITERS YOU SPEAK OF <bleep> SHOW THEMSELVES AND PROVE THAT THEY’RE ACTUALLY WORKING THEIR <bleep> OFF TO DESERVE SUCCESS.”
Internet promotion. Of course. How can I forget. It sure can look that simple, ‘no? Especially in the eyes of pitiful windbags. Sadly, it’s more complicated than that. And instead of cursing back, let me just conclude with a relevant (and true) narrative:
Once there is a Filipina, born and raised here in Philippines, who started to perform her original songs when she was fourteen. Though she didn’t have much in her pocket, she would guest at gigs and concerts without pay for promotion’s sake. She would print and xerox fliers and promotional cards so she had something to distribute out in the streets and other public places. Each time she had posted a new composition online she would solicit for views from her friends and fans and strangers on Facebook, Twitter, Friendster (I know, right?), Youtube, and whatnot. And she did a lot more. Still proper publicity was inaccessible. Still she couldn’t reach out to and win the support of a lot of Filipinos.
She tried to audition for national TV talent shows, but was surprisingly not allowed. (You think those crowded scenes you see onscreen are actual auditions? Nope, those are only “pre-auditions.”) National songwriting competitions weren’t so nice either: they promptly tossed her off.
Labels and talent managements came along, of course, but they drew her on and stalled. Good thing she had confidence in what had been bestowed upon her by grace (unmerited favor); she held her ground and refused to be exploited. When local label heads finally realized she wouldn’t give in to cheap proposals (e.g., 6,000 pesos for a song to be “interpreted” by someone else—joke ‘yon?), it was rather too late: she was already signing a deal for her debut album under an Australian records.
She’ll probably end up like a bunch of Filipino artists who are recognized abroad first before hailed by fellow countrymen. If and when that finally happens, I know she’ll glimpse back for a last time, and ask, “Why?” Why…
Why didn’t my own country take care of me? And however I shall lay and connect the pieces of this issue in my mind, the bigger picture will always reveal the evident politics in the Philippine music industry.
Yes, OPM is alive.
But in order for it to start healing and regain its past vigor, parasitical megalomaniacs must be purged out of its systems.