Are we downgrading? A look at the music culture

One of the ways that the Philippines preserves its colorful and rich culture is through art performances. Blessed with a myriad of powerful and versatile talents, Filipinos can portray almost any aspect of their iconic lifestyle through songs or dances, which allow audiences a grand view of the zest of their culture and background. Ever since the beginning of time, dancing and singing have been more than a medium of art. Dances have been used to praise gods or in age-old ethnic rituals. Singing, on the other hand, has been used countless times to express devotion, attraction, and reverence. Indeed, this legacy of performing enriches cultures both past and present.

There are numerous performing arts groups that exist throughout the country. Here in the University, the dance ambassadors are the La Salle Dance Company (LSDC), which branches out into three sub-groups namely, LSDC-Folk, LSDC-Contemporary, and LSDC-Street. For singing, there are groups such as the De La Salle Innersoul and DLSU Chorale. While each of these groups has a passion for performing, they specialize in different genres with some groups bringing a more ‘mainstream’, pop approach, while others focus on less popular styles, like folk or classical. But just how much of an impact does this difference make?


Dancing woes

One of the woes of LSDC-Folk, LSDC-Contemporary, and DLSU Chorale seems to be underappreciation. Classical performances no longer have the same wide appeal to the masses that they once did, mainly because classical music, as its name suggests, has roots very far back in the past. Steffi Grafil, the current company manager of LSDC-Contemporary, states, “Since our generation is different [from that where these genres originated from], [audiences] think that our genre is boring.”  But while some people may write these kinds of performances off as uninteresting, it is largely due to the difference in style from what the general public is used to.

Folk, contemporary, and street dancing are different in many ways, but alike in several ways as well. Bea Vargas, the current company manager of LSDC-Folk, defines folk dance as “movements [that] typically replicate movements from animals, to the daily routine and rituals of the people.” On the other hand, she differentiates street dance as, “more modern and [with] a Western origin. It has movements such as popping and locking and utilizes quirky and upbeat music.” This popping and locking seems to be what most people look for, based on the popularity of street dance in general. Finally, Steffi describes contemporary dance as, “[having] more soul,” calling it a deviation from classical ballet—a rebellion in dance form.

What is different is hard to understand, and this is exactly why folk and contemporary dance forms become subject to stereotypes of being easier or simpler than street dancing. Folk dancing looks easy, but it is the prowess of the dancer that makes difficult moves look so effortless. Students are usually familiar with just a few folk dances, like the Tinikling, but these dances, which are based on old Filipino rituals, are much more than just two bamboo poles striking each other. On the other hand, contemporary dance strikes a delicate balance between being soulful and emotive, while showing strength and power.

Downgrading of cultural performances-Charlene_with byline

Overlooked voices

The same is true for singing as the former company manager of the DLSU Chorale Sir Boy Delarmente explains, “Some people think that classical performances are boring, but in reality, it is the most intricate and most exciting art form. It has different dimensions, like it can be dramatic, whimsical,
happy or sad.”

Choral singing doesn’t only have different dimensions, it’s also a myriad of styles put together from all periods of history. Delarmente explains, “A chorale group’s repertoire should include renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic and popular music.” Because of this, choral singers are taught to apply the proper projection for any kind of style, which usually entails rigorous training. There’s the matter of learning different techniques and applying them—all while harmonizing as a group, which in itself is no easy task.  It is a shame to imagine that all this hard work and training could go underappreciated in today’s age.

But is the classical style truly underappreciated in today’s society, or is there still hope? Delarmente states that in contrast to what one might believe, “People are becoming more appreciative of classical performances due to exposure to choral concerts, Broadway plays, full orchestra concerts, opera and arias and others.” Additionally, it seems the classical music community is gaining interest and support in the Philippines—it’s really just a matter of exposure. Delarmente continues, “Almost all schools in our country today, elementary, junior, senior high school and colleges, have their own choral groups. That’s why the young generations have more fun and joy, singing, performing or just listening.”


Passion behind performance

Truly, this is the whole point behind a performance: to enjoy the art form for what it is. Regardless of whether it is singing, dancing, or another kind of performance altogether, it comes down to heated passion that pushes a performer to do his or her best. As DLSU Chorale’s former company manager adds, “Performing is when I get to do what I love and that is singing, and giving my 100 percent in my craft.”

This passion is what unites all performers, and regardless of style or genre, all arts groups in the University try to emphasize this to their audiences. However, this is not the only similarity between pop and classical groups.

In both cases, performers need to have their bodies in top condition in order to be at their best. All singers have to be trained to reach both high and low notes regardless of whether one is a soprano or an alto, thus, perfecting the techniques in doing so. Similarly, all dancers condition their bodies in order to perfect stunts, footwork, and body coordination.

The mental health of both types of performers is exercised as well. They are trained to endure the rigors of training, rehearsals, conditioning, concerts, and competition. To top it all off, these Culture and Arts groups in DLSU are basically their own companies as well, handling their own marketing needs, sponsorships, and human resources.

“Performing has become a way of life for me and an avenue where I can express myself better,” says Steffi, whose training and heart in dancing has allowed her to head many of LSDC-Contemporary’s projects. Similarly, performing for Bea is, “Doing what I’m most passionate about, and that is dancing. It is promoting our culture and the arts through dance.”

Feedback from all music groups’ shows, regardless of whether their style is classical or pop, is usually positive, as audiences feel the energy and witness the dedication that each of the University’s young artists put into their craft. The only thing left is for students to be more exposed to all kinds of performances, even the styles they may not be used to. What matters is that each of these genres are given a chance, rather than subjected to stereotypes.

So the next time you hear of an upcoming concert from one of DLSU’s less ‘mainstream’ arts groups, don’t dismiss the idea of going. Give it a chance, and see not only what sets these styles apart from the pop groups, but witness what brings them together: a commitment and a promise to make each performance one that the audience will surely love.

Trust us, it’s a decision you won’t regret.

Eternity Ines

By Eternity Ines

Belle Justiniani

By Belle Justiniani

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