BICOL MUSIC FESTIVAL RELOADED 2017: The Search for Tanog Bikol

THE Bicol Music Festival Reloaded 2017 held last Tuesday, Sep. 12, marks a turning point in the search for Tanog Bikol, or a distinctive “Bikol Sound” via an increase in the production and preservation of original Bikol music. Sixteen finalists were chosen from the many entries submitted to that festival. It was clear, even when the songs were played over FM Radio Station 91.9 BBS which songs would win and they did – “Kugos” with lyrics by Imelda A. Nardo and music by James Reburiano, “Huyom” by Moi Fernandez with John Carl Denina assisting in the arrangement, and “An Mawot kong Magibo” by Marivic Salvador Malanyaon arranged by Muloi Prado. It is interesting to note that all the song writers are educators. That these pieces won is not surprising. They are poignant songs of pungaw and hidaw in the Standards genre. In “Kugos” (Embrace), a child longs for a mother’s loving embrace. The persona in “An Huyom Mo” (Your Smile) pines for the smile of loved ones who have to work overseas for a living. “An Mawot kong Magibo” is about a child who has to help earn a living before and after school and has no time to sleep in or play, an mawot niyang magibo, to achieve the dream of a better life. Time, however, will be the ultimate judge of which piece will last. For example, the 35-year old “Boses ni Lolo” by Henry Turalde won the second and not the first prize in a contest more than three decades ago. It is valued and played more now than the other winning pieces, even over the song that won the first prize. A highlight of the festival was Turalde’s presence and his surprise gift of a heartwarming rendition of his piece, sang together with Wowie Nabua and singer Ed Jaira Binamira of Partido. It is gratifying that the festival is back, that there were more than 50 submitted entries, and that an eclectic mix was chosen as grand finalists. The entries were of various genres, standard, pop, rock though, so it would be awesome if the next festival (may it live long and prosper) could have at least two categories – one for standards and another for pop/rock so that music that appeals to a younger audience could also win major awards. For example, “Buhay Paralawod” although sung reggae style is uniquely Bikol and takes from the everyday life of fisherfolk. The first lines is a list of fish starting with “Sirom, sirom, kuwaw, turingan, buraw.” Literature professor Marifa Borja-Prado says she can teach it as a folksy counterpoint to Pablo Neruda’s “Oda al Mar.” Three other pop/rock songs deserve notice: “Tatak Oragon” by Jeev Paladan Barrosa about pride of place and the Bikolnon’s resiliency, Abiel Candelaria’s “Sako, Saimo, Mapuon” with its timely message of the need for change in one’s own self, and “Hugakon” with its old-fashioned kick at the lazy Bikolnon’s backside. “Daragang Nagueña” has a catchy tune, but its lyrics are an instant turn-off, with the sexist focus on a woman’s physical characteristics and even the normalization of harassment via wolf whistles. A funny song about borrowing money is Lyndon Salcedo’s “Yaon Saen ka Na” and “Tagay na ManGa Padi” is easily an extension of drinking songs and the tigsik. Many of the other finalists deserve their place in the list, although some tunes sound too similar to mainstream songs. Support, collaboration needed Why has Bikol music not made an impact in the region in the past though? Interviews of active Bikol composers of both classic and pop music for the textbook Kabansayan Contemporary Arts from the Regions (Bikol) in 2016 surfaced this insight: that though there is no lack of talent or even of effort among music artists, the support for the blossoming of Bikol music is still sorely deficient. There is no dearth of individual talents either, with the likes of singers Raymond Roldan, Jonathan de la Paz Zaens and choirmaster Roy Regaspi, only three among many other now famous names. Fr. Fruto Ll. Ramirez S.J. of Baao has composed church music such as the moving “In­ang Mamomot-on,” still being sung today. Joseph Reburiano, who teaches at the Ateneo de Naga University also composes original church music, among them, another paean to the Mother, Ina nin Kabikolan. Towns such as Baao, Camarines Sur have estudiantina musicians that organize and rehearse regularly to perform for Good Government somehow supports the Bikol music scene by funding music competitions and festivals, as well as videos to promote their cities to tourists. The late 1990s and early 2000s brought some good original works, spurred by the Goa Song Festival of Marcial Pan and the Bikol Music Festival of Luis Villafuerte Sr. with the efforts of the Development Institute for Bikol Artists (DIBA) and the Bikol Heritage Foundation. Some of these recent Bikol originals are still sung in the 2000s. In Naga and in Albay, 4rk Barrel and Karampag have produced original songs with a contemporary beat, with the latter focusing on social issues.