Sunday, June 2, 2019

Original Pilipino Music (OPM) Lives On

Original Pilipino Music (OPM) lives on.

When I left the Philippines in the early ‘80’s, the country was awash with nationalistic fervor and government protest actions. I eschewed the more political folk songs and preferred pop songs, especially ballads. Singers like Rico J. Puno, Hajji Alejandro, Rey Valera, Marco Sison, and Nonoy Zuniga appealed to my romantic heart. In my apartment in New York, I surrounded myself with cassette tapes of Tagalog music and listened to them when I was feeling homesick.

Soon I gained a more eclectic appreciation of all genres of music in my new home in the United States. Life happens and I did not have much time to indulge in music except for the easy-listening music on 106.7 as I drive around and kid songs that my young son loved to sing over and over again. Thankfully, my son outgrew Barney (You love me, I love you...) and I was able to listen to regular music again.

The wide reach of the internet and the social media have finally exposed foreign music to those who may not even understand the words but do appreciate the universal appeal of a good melody. Non-English songs in the worldwide music directory? Not really unheard of because we did have French songs like La Vie en Rose and C’est Si Bon and Italian songs in the international market before. However, the dearth of non-English songs in popular media is pitiful.

The popularity of Luis Fonsi’s Despacito brought Spanish music into mainstream again. Hey, if Justin Bieber can sing in Spanish, so can everyone, right? K-pop (Korean pop) buoyed by massive support from their Asian fans, invaded America. Psy and the phenomenal Gangnam Style video achieved 3.3 billion views on Youtube, even though he was singing and rapping in Korean. BTS, a seven-man South Korean mega-group, looks like a reincarnation of the Beatles with their massive success among fans of all races and ages, although most of their songs are in Korean.

OPM lives on, now with a new breed of artists. These are songs written in Tagalog and sung by Filipinos, but now they have broader appeal and had reached the global audience. Their Youtube videos have garnered millions of views from Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike. In one of the reaction videos, four African-American males were belting out "Akin Ka Na Lang". I fervently hope that OPM will achieve the same success as K-pop and Latino songs. The OPM songs are beautiful, catchy, and can actually be pronounced if you try your best to roll your tongue. Baby steps. Since some Tagalog words have been derived from Spanish, surely, even Justin can sing "Buwan"?

BUWAN- by Juan Karlos Labajo
(English: “Moon”)

Juan Karlos started as a contestant in “The Voice Kids edition”. Now, as an 18 y/o rocker with his own band, he has achieved platinum status with the song “Buwan”. The viral music video which he wrote and released in September 2018 received 117,001,309 views, because “Buwan” is truly a beautiful and poignantly haunting song. The video is somewhat weird and confusing which had birthed many weird and confusing explanations, too.


Angeline Quinto - Buwan (Live Performance)
Out of the many versions that followed the song’s release, this is my favorite.

DAHIL SA ‘YO- by Inigo Pascual
(English: "Because of You")

Inigo emerged from the shadow of his immensely popular actor father Piolo. Inigo wrote this catchy melody "Dahil Sa’Yo," which dominated the Billboard Philippines charts for several weeks. This feel-good song has been featured in many local TV and movie soundtracks, and in dance videos. The dance steps are so challenging and definitely more complicated than Electric Slide. I really wish that I have the moves and easy rhythm of the Millenials and the Generation Z'ers. If only I can do the steps!

AKIN KA NA LANG- by Morisette Amon
(English: “Please be mine”)

This 2014 song, written by Francis Salazar, showcases Morissette’s incredible five-octave range and whistle that caused many of her video reactors’ jaws to drop. This “hugot” song is a love song to her former lover to return to her; not exactly what I would urge for strong women like me. But all is forgiven, because Morissette is an incredibly versatile and talented singer who is destined for a bigger worldwide audience. This song has been sang in Tagalog by a slew of foreign singers from Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Canada, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Vietnam, and France.

IKAW- by Yeng Constantino
(English: “You”)

An accomplished singer-songwriter, Yeng penned this song as a wedding gift to her husband in 2014. It was the most played OPM song for that year and continues, to this day, to be a favorite wedding day song. This song is a heartfelt message of enduring love and the charming wonderment of the gift of love.

Ikaw ang pagibig na hinintay
Puso ay nalumbay ng kay tagal
Ngunit ngayo'y nandito na ikaw
Ikaw ang pagibig na binigay
Sa akin ng may kapal
Biyaya ka sa buhay ko
Ligaya't pagibig ko'y ikaw

You are the love that I waited for
My heart has grieved for so long
But now you are here
You are the love
That was given to me by the heavens
You are the grace in my life
You are my happiness and my love

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