Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pinoys In The International Scene: Are We Really There?



It’s a perpetual struggle for any musician to be recognized for his or her music. It seems a contradiction for what music really stands for. It is, after all, art. It is personal and the only true validation you need is your own.

There is this universal truth we can’t ignore though. Along with our humanity is the innate need to be acknowledged. We need our lives to be witnessed and noticed, if only to assure ourselves what we are doing matters. The need is more intense for artists because they have the natural tendency to get in touch with their deepest emotions and then express it in an international language, music.

This is further heightened for us Pinoys for reasons that were borne of our painful history. We had 300 years of colonization, another 25 under a dictatorship, and 3 years under the Japanese. Our independence, if we really have it, is in its infancy. Our olds are very much alive and we continue to turn to them for guidance.

Then there are the Americans whose influence and power remain omnipresent especially in the music industry. It may be because the biggest music labels originated and centrally operates in the US. It could also be because of the international influence of US trade and commerce. After all, the US dollar remains the currency by which everyone else’s is measured.

We are part of an international industry and we mean that in the strictest sense of the word. We are part of it. We have been respected and revered. It is a pity that everyone seems to acknowledge that except us. That is why we, in liveOPM, bother. We want us to realize that there should be no doubt on our talents because despite the obvious disadvantages there have been Pinoys who more than made it internationally. They set trends, broke records and influenced even the music of today and they did without compromising the Philippine sound.

They carried a sound influenced by Pinoy culture. As much as I admire and respect the likes of Charice, Arnel Pineda and Leah Salonga, perhaps even they would agree that the artists below deserve more because they wrote their own music, carried with them their unique style and threaded the path less travelled. They didn’t compromise and proved you don’t have to.


The One Who Created A Genre



There are three names in Latin Soul that are universally respected: Ralfi Pagan, Harvey Averne, and Joe Bataan. They are credited as the godfathers of the Latin-American Soul genre. Any song that uses a capella in full or in part owes to these three.  

Anyone would agree that growing up in the United States an African-American in the 1940s was pretty messed up. Growing up an African-American and a Filipino was downright effed up. The 40s was the time when they were still not allowed to vote.

Bataan, born in 1942, seemed ready to succumb to the tragic discrimination but in true Pinoy fashion, he made sure he kicked a**es in everything he did because that’s how he rolls.

He led a street gang called Dragons before being sent to the Coxsackie Correctional Facility to serve time for a stolen car charge. Getting caught for a “petty crime” was his clue he needed to change industry. So he turned to music because he just happens to have some skill in it. “Some skill” is not an accurate description because he didn’t just sing, he influenced the evolution of two genres:  the Latin boogaloo and African American doo-wop a.k.a. a capella.

He was signed by a major record label at that time, Fania Records. Let us just step back and really appreciate what that means. Remember that although minorities like Pinoys and African-Americans were already legally allowed to marry Whites, social practice was a whole new different story. This was the decade Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were assassinated. The law and actual social practice were that so far in between. Bataan’s contract, needless to say, was a victory for all the minorities fighting for their right.

Bataan released "Gypsy Woman," in 1967 and “Riot” which reached a gold record mark. Remember that a gold record required $1 million records sale in wholesale value and only the rich afforded a record player at that time. Bataan’s success was a bigger milestone than what we could imagine.


The Ones Who Elvis Lined Up To See


Reycard Duet is the original gangsta of all things comedy and music. They are the Godfathers of total awesomeness. The Reycard Duet, composed of Rey Ramirez and Ricardo ‘Carding’ Castro, were the first Filipinos to make it big in the U.S. and they did it singing in the classic Pinoy style. They didn’t have a manager like Oprah, no youtube to display their talent, no freakin’ money to fall back on to had they failed. They, at the risk of being called a total a$$, didn’t even have good looks. Yet, Elvis Presley was a regular audience to their show.

They started their career in the Philippines in the 50s doing stage shows at the Clover Theater and Manila Grand Opera House. They were regulars in town fiestas with their tried and tested comedy-music formula. Both of them had unceremonious impressive voices but Rey would do most of the singing part and Carding the comedy part.

In the late ’60s, they hit jackpot when they scored a show in Las Vegas. Their show ran for more than two decades. Even Cirque Du Soleil needed a million dollar production budget to keep their shows running for at least five years yet there is the ReyCard with nothing but their comedy, their voice and their chemistry attracting Elvis. They didn’t have the American accent, they never bothered trying. Every night they went on stage with the “Pinoy English accent” that we often laugh at but Americans applauded them.

These two were a quarter awesome, a quarter hardcore, a quarter badass, a quarter cool and ONE WHOLE PINOY.



The One Who Had A Street Named After Her


Pilita Garrido Corrales started her musical career in Australia. She was the first woman to make the Australian pop charts with a local recording called 'Come Closer to Me' and this was in 1958. Women were viewed as one of two things – wives and punching bags. Corrales holds the distinction of being the first female artist to top the Australian pop music charts long before Helen Reddy, Olivia Newton-John and Kylie Minogue.

She became a star of the Victoria Television circuit and she’s billed as one of the Grand Dames of Victorian Radio and Television. Being one of the pioneers of Australia's early television years, a street was named after her in Victoria. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) featured Corrales as one of the pioneering female artists in Australia.

Corrales returned to Manila in 1963 to pursue a career in the Philippine music industry.

Her signature song A Million Thanks to You by Alice Doria Gamilla was translated in seven languages. She eventually recorded songs composed by Pinoy composers like Danny Holmsen, George Canseco, Willy Cruz, Ryan Cayabyab and several others. Under Vicor Records, Corrales interpreted numerous Filipino classics and introduced them to younger audiences.

She did the country right because she performed with internationally acclaimed artists like Sammy Davis Jr., The Beatles, Bob Hope, Pat Boone, Frank Sinatra and Julie Andrews. As if that is not enough, through the personal invitation of Sammy Davis Jr., Pilita became the first Filipino to sing in Caesars Palace. She was so badass that she even sang songs in Tagalog in a Western audience. Ha!



The One Who Wrote The 2nd Greatest Hit of the 80s*


There is this one Pinoy-written, -sang and –produced song that was ranked 2nd in the Billboard 100 successful song of the 80s*. The song is Anak (Filipino for child or more accurately my son or my daughter). Written by Freddie Aguilar, it was inspired by his own story. As it turned out, millions other went through drug addiction, disappointment and self-inflicted torment.

Although "Anak" didn’t win the first MetroPop Song Festival, it generated thousands of cover versions, was released in 56 countries, in 26 different foreign languages, and has sold 30 million copies. As of 2006 it was unsurpassed as the all-time highest-selling Pinoy song.

To this day, it’s one of the few OPM ballads that is still recognized by people that weren’t even born a decade after the song was released.

*This was lifted from an article written by Dot Ramos Balasbas- Gancayco titled Still Up On His Toes published on Philippine Star December of 2006. We tried to verify this directly from Billboard. Unfortunately, we are unable to find any sort of resource that could. We found a list of Billboard 100 successful songs of this 80s and didn’t find Anak on the list but we are not sure how reliable the source is. We will continue to try and verify this. We have to note that the song was released in the Philippines in the late 70s. Releasing a song internationally takes time and we don’t know who or how it was released in the US. If you have direct sources that could help us verify this, please let us know. (Ed)


The One Who Was Idolized By Kurt Cobain


The Pixies is one of the few band that is respected by all bands of all genres and believe me when I say, there aren’t many out there. The Pixies is one of those band you simply can’t hate, impossible to ignore, and rightfully revered. The band never compromised their art… not for money, not for fame, not for anything.

In its heart is Joey Santiago, the band’s guitarist and acknowledged by Kurt Cobain (along with the rest of the band) as one of his biggest influences. He is known for his angular and bent guitar playing. It’s a sound that finds the listener’s soul and pierces it. MTV's Laurel Bowman commented that Santiago's "sonic plow was the key element in the Pixies' monstrous presence."

That’s exactly what he was and is – monstrous in a quiet way. He was never a limelight whore and certainly not a big talker. When The Pixies signed with the record label 4AD in 1987, Santiago told the head of the label, Watts-Russell: "All I care about is that you make me famous in the Philippines because all the chicks are really pretty".


The Others


There several more worth mentioning like Jerome Earl Fontamillas of The Switchfoot, Kate Earl and Kirk Hammett of Metallica but I would rather that you guys discover it yourself.

So much time and effort has been directed towards looking at our limitations that we ignore what we have already achieved. That is why so many are insecure and discriminating against our own kind.

Do you know of anyone else we can add to the list? If you do, we encourage you to post. Maybe, in the process of searching and pursuing international success will we finally realize that we have long achieved it.  

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