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» » » » » » » » » » » » Why most Filipinos love singing (and are quite good at it)

JR Lopez Gonzales 11:42 AM 0

Author's Note: This article was reposted in the GMA News Online website. You may read the post, here.

It’s in the headlines: Rose “Osang” Fostanes, 47 years old and a Filipina caregiver working in Israel, was the runaway champ for X-Factor Israel.

As a Filipino, that sure made me glad that a kababayan was able to do well despite the hardships she’s had living away from her family. One good thing which came out of this, is that her win showed that the word “Filipina” does not always translate to "a humble caregiver".

This article is not saying that the Filipinos ‘race’ is the best singers. This is not a case of another “Filipino Pride” (despite the deluge of Facebook statuses not checking for hot air). Yet I have always believed there is a case for Filipinos being one the best singers in this part of the globe. And this article will try to tell you why.

Yes, most Pinoys are great singers. And despite me not knowing any studies regarding this conjecture, I have to say that this archipelago of ours has the most singers (and karaoke machines) per capita.

One of the reasons for this is because we are one of the happiest people in the world. We can easily find contentment on the finer things in life, one of which is grabbing that mic and warble, (oftentimes with a beermug on the other hand).

Almost all of the households spend their leisure time, singing on the karaoke (locally referred to as ‘videoke’). Those machines exist everywhere, together with the reverberating noise every time one’s got the urge to belt out a few lines from Michael Learns to Rock.

We love our karaoke. And in this country where there is little entertainment, at 5 peso per song at the videoke is really quite affordable. Weird enough, we take “Killer Karaoke” on a different level. As in literally, where some people get killed in sing-along bars because of their bad rendition of Old Blue Eye’s "My Way". Yes, we are dead serious on our singing (sorry for the pun).

We’ve been into competitive singing for quite a while, too. It has been said that before the American Idol, X-Factor, or any other franchised talent search competitions, we already have our versions of those in our local barrios. And we have been doing these for centuries - and that’s no exaggeration.

In fact, according to the journals of Jose Rizal, while he was in Japan, he stopped upon hearing a band playing Strauss. Apparently moved after the performance, he inched closer and heard them mutter in a recognizable dialect. It was Tagalog. Then in a jiffy, he learned that those were his kababayans performing overseas.

The Philippines had been influenced by numerous cultures so it's not surprising that melodies incorporate musical diversity unseen in any other Asian country. Music and dance is very much a part of any Pinoy occasion, whether it’s religious or cultural.

Largely because of the early Western influence since the 1500s, the Filipino songs are hybrids of some sort. One of the forms of these songs is kundiman which are soulful and gentle sing-song style. We have troubadours, too. Songwriters like Levi Celerio or Freddie Aguilar are noted for their ballad and folk singing. Filipino songs seem to flow more "smoothly" and are easier to listen to (I have the likes of the song “Rosas Pandan” in mind).

Another probable reason for the Pinoy’s vocal talent is because of our prowess in the English language. The majority of popular songs are, after all, in English.

Because of these reasons, the Philippines has been Asia's top representative in international chorale and singing competitions. Filipinos have also made considerable strides in Broadway and the West End theaters. We have the likes of Charice, Tony awardee Lea Salonga, Arnel Pineda (of the band Journey), Banig Roberto, Jessica Sanchez, and others.

Unfortunately, the Filipino talent is still actually underestimated in the singing community around the world. Filipino names of singers in the Western hemisphere are still quite uncommon in other popular mediums probably because of some intermittent factors of marketing and exposure. Maybe we have to learn from the Koreans… and PSY.
Just how many performers have made it big with world acclaim? Not much. Maybe it’s not too late that we develop our own style. We can export our own just like how we did back in the seventies with “Anak”. That is, if we can get out of the shackles of Western music.

Indeed, there are wonderful Filipino singers, but they deserve to be heard and recognized more in the global arena. Good thing that as of the moment, we have Osang. She is not the first achiever on this field, and with the plethora of singers all around, her feat would certainly not be the last.

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