The Status of Original Pilipino Music (OPM) in the 21st Century Youth Subculture

I wrote this paper for our Soc Sci 1 and Eng 10 classes. I ended up enjoying writing this.

I. Introduction

Music and society have always been intimately related. Music holds a strong, essential, and definitive role in reflecting and shaping the culture of every society, every country. It unifies groups of people and moves them to common action and helps them express common emotions. Some songs become anthems for particular generations, as Eraserhead’s Ligaya became for many in the 1990’s. In times of national crisis, songs seem especially appropriate, such as ASIN’s “Masdan Mo ang
Kapaligiran” or Francis M.’s “Tayo’y mga Pinoy”. Music expresses widely-shared values, experiences and emotions, that helps define a group’s identity and solidarity. It also serves as a forum for public debate about manners, morals, politics,
policies, and social change. Musicians and their audiences are social actors. While they reflect the world around them, they also interpret and change it. Some are most valuable for telling us what concerned people, how they saw issues, and how they
expressed their hopes, ideals, anger, and frustrations. It facilitates communication which goes beyond words, enables meanings to be shared, and promotes the development and maintenance of individual, group, cultural, and national identities.
Through Original Pilipino Music (OPM), the diversity, uniqueness, and richness of the Filipino culture, as well as the distinctive values and sentiments of the Filipino people are clearly expressed, exposed, and reflected at its most honest and rawest form.

Much of OPM have been influenced by the colonial legacies of Spain, Western rock n’ roll, hip-hop music and pop music from the United States, the Austronesian population and Indo-Malayan Gamelan music. It is a mixture of European, American and Indigenous sounds.

OPM originally referred only to Philippine pop songs and ballads, which appealed very much to the Philippine mass, right after the collapse of its predecessor, the Manila Sound, in the 1970’s. OPM is referred to now as any music composed and performed by a Filipino artist. It became hugely popular with the peak of the Metro Manila Music Festival or Metropop in 1972.

Artists such as Ryan Cayabyab, ASIN, Rico J. Puno, Joey Albert, Pilita Corrales, Basil Valdez, Claire dela Fuente, Rey Valera, Imelda Papin and Freddie Aguilar dominated the 70’s OPM scene, delineating the decade’s music with their powerful tunes and melodies, and lyrics with recurring themes of social, political, and familial struggles and of the pains and gains of hopeless romantic affairs.

In the midst of 1980s and 1990s, OPM was even more lifted by solo artists like Regine Velasquez, Sharon Cuneta, Jose Marie Chan, and Vina Morales who built their music career with their sweeping voices on ballads about unconditional love and heartbreak.

Also in the 90s, bands like the APO Hiking Society, Eraserheads,and Rivermaya found haven and developed a fan group following with their appealing and generally widely-accepted lyricism and their experimental, sometimes upbeat, sometimes melancholic, stadium rock tunes.

Meanwhile, band s like Side A, Introvoys, The Teeth, Yano and True Faith glorifies the maudlin, sentimental facet of OPM pop and reflects the Filipino people’s fondness to romanticism.

From its kickoff, OPM has been centered in Manila, where the city’s dominant, core languages are mostly Tagalog and English. Ilokano, Visayan, Bikolano, and Kapmpangan and other ethnolinguistic groups have not been recognized as OPM despite their palpable music production in their respective native languages. Multiculturalism advocates, and federalists often associate this discrepancy to the Tagalog-centric cultural hegemony of Manila.

The Visayan, who created a subgenre of Philippine Rock they hailed as Bisrock, have the biggest collection of modern music in their native language, with great collaboration and contribution from Visayan bands Phylum and Missing Philemon.
Regardless of the growing uproar for non-Tagalog, and non-English music, the apparent greater representation of other Philippine languages, the local Philippine Industry, which is centered in Manila, is unforthcoming in venturing investments
to other locations. Some of their major reasons include the language barrier, small market size, and socio-cultural emphasis away from regionalism in the Philippines.

In the present decade, artists and bands such as Yeng Constantino, Gloc-9, Hale, Up Dharma Down, Parokya ni Edgar and Callalily are still boldly persistent in creating experimental songs that explores a myriad of subgenres. Gradually, through the years, OPM has evolved, and has been experimented with myriad of genre-styles by many fleeting Filipino artists who each left their marks in the OPM history.

Filipinos had palpably supported OPM since the prelude of the Metropop culture. However, noticeably, after decades of the proliferation of music from prominent Filipino artists who made distinctive marks in the Filipino music scene, the
Philippines’ music industry gradually seemed to merely settle with the production of auto-tune, second-rate songs and revivals or covers of both foreign and English songs from the past.

Youth Subculture and Musical Preferences

Some consumers in the music industry are coming from the youth subculture. They are one of the essential demographics targeted by record producers, because they already have the capability to buy individual records or album, either through
online or physical means. The youth subculture also has the powerful capacity to expound a fan group following, being the primary users of social media platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Therefore, this subculture is very
effective in disseminating music.

The youth subculture is a youth-based subculture with distinct styles, behaviors, and interests. Socioeconomic class, gender, conformity, morality, and ethnicity can be important in relation to youth subcultures. Youth subcultures have a certain
devotion attached for clothing, music, and other visible affections by members of the subculture, because these mark them a nuance of identity and distinction.

Music is the preeminent fountainhead of liberation in the youth subculture, and most music is easily accessible now through the evolution of the internet and mainstream media. However, is the Philippine media doing its role in promoting Philippine
music to the Philippine youth subculture?

OPM and the Philippine Media

The 21st Century has indeed been tough for Philippine Music Industry. From the record high estimated P2.7 billion in industry CD sales in 1999, physical sales went down to P699 million in 2010 according to data provided by the Philippine Association
of the Recording Industry (PARI).

Production of albums today is clearly difficult considering the steep competition from online music sites like Spotify and iTunes. Physical albums are competing against the invisible and invincible. Artists, especially, endure the negative repercussions of these paradigm-shifting innovations.

Because of piracy, the music industry lost an estimate of more than a billion last year. Artists are not properly compensated for their work, and the industry loses profit which may lead to the closure of more record companies. According to PARI, 8 of
the 43 affiliated with the PARI, closed shops in 2001 because of the rampant operations of piracy in the Philippines.

Another challenging issue for the Philippine Music Industry is the lack of commercialization of music by the Philippine media (TV, radio, newspaper, etc.). Mainstream media dictates taste and excellent dissemination, however, most music
companies in the mainstream media choose to produce mostly remakes of old tunes, perhaps, believing that it is the fastest way of reaching a wider audience, assuming that the listeners only consume the familiar and comfortable.

In line with this, the researcher decided to conduct a survey participated by the youth subculture, which may show the current status of OPM in the 21st Century Philippine youth subculture.

II. Description of the Sample

30 students from universities and a high school in Quezon City and Manila City participated in this research survey. 24 students are from University of the Philippines, Diliman (UPD); 3 students are from Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP); 1 is from National Teachers’ College (NTC); 1 is from St. Paul’s University, Quezon City (SPUQC); 1 is from Quirino High School (QHS). 60% of the respondents are female and 40% are male. The respondents’ average age is 17 years old.

III. Summary of Resultssummary
IV. Discussion of Results and Conclusion

From the data gathered, it can be suggested that more teenagers can hear less OPM and more foreign music (English, K-Pop, J- Pop, etc.) from our local FM or AM radio stations. This shows that local radio stations today do not play enough OPM or
Philippine music.

The data also shows that most teenagers don’t listen more to OPM artists neither in Spotify nor YouTube. There’s a great probability that the respondents listen more to foreign artists.

The frequency of teenagers who buy albums or individual records either online or through physical music stores is considerably low. The low frequency may mean ambiguously: a) the respondents or participants may not also buy albums or
individual records by foreign artists either. They are likely listening through streaming platforms like Spotify or through YouTube or they are apt to participate in file sharing/torrent downloading/online piracy, or b) they are more apt to buying
foreign individual records or albums.

Moreover, most respondents conceive that the Philippine media is not effectively glorifying OPM. This shows that teenagers are not satisfied with the efforts of the Philippine media in showcasing OPM.

When inquired if OPM nowadays appeal very much to them, most of the respondents responded with a “no”. This may mean that foreign music appeal more to them than OPM or this might also mean that today’s music (foreign or OPM) in general, do not
appeal to them at all.

In the concluding question, when asked if they like today’s OPM, the answer is generally “no”. Most teenagers or members of the Philippine youth subculture surveyed generally are not in favor of today’s mainstream OPM.

V. Personal Evaluation

I chose to carry out this survey after reading an article online titled, “The life and death of OPM” written by Philippine Star’s cultural critic, Don Jaucian. In the article, he criticizes the status of today’s OPM, claiming that OPM’s death can be gleaned when “yesteryear’s hits” are “sung to death by variety show singers,” while newer acts “struggle to get their original material released.” Consequently, this article resulted into heated discussions in various social media, and blogging platforms. On one hand, many bloggers and critics disagree, including Carlo Casas, saying that, “I’ve been a part of the music scene since 2002, among my friends from the industry, none of them think OPM is close to being dead.” He added, “You have the Internet. You all have what all of your heroes of your teen angst years didn’t: The world at your fingertips. Share your music on social media. You have things like Soundcloud, Facebook and Twitter.” Critic Rain Contreras also added, “You don’t go to enough gigs of bands you don’t know. I’ve been witness to three decades worth of Pinoy music.” On the other hand, bloggers like Leloy Claudio agreed with Jaucian and contradicted the argument of Casas, saying that, “Take the argument to its logical conclusion: if you don’t make it, poor padawan, it’s nobody’s fault but yours. Don’t criticize “the man” for making it tough on poor musicians. Rock was never about complaining anyway. Stay happy. Surf the net. And if you lack support, it’s because you didn’t tweet enough. Try saying the same thing to novelists, painters, and other artists who don’t receive enough support in the Philippines. It’s in this way that Casas and Jaucian’s other critics conjure away the power of media conglomerates and distribution networks, while patronizing younger artists. It’s not like social media isn’t awash with music from young musicians who put out their work for free, or promos for gigs where you pay P150 for entrance, a beer, and five bands. The Casas musicological theorem of “internet + hard work = magic bullet to success” is fiction.”

This debate really piqued my curiosity, because I want to know if OPM’s indeed, “dead.” I found the opportunity to get immediate answers through this research survey project.

Although my personal answers to the questions I made would be mostly ‘No”, I was still hoping and even expecting that the respondents’ answers would be mostly “Yes”, because I assumed that perhaps most young people today still find OPM appealing.

Summarizing the survey was a slightly depressing task, after discovering that most young people I surveyed do not find OPM appealing and favorable over foreign music. On one hand, the young people I surveyed do not necessarily represent the whole youth subculture. It was just a small facet of it.

Is OPM, therefore, dead? It is not. Just like Casas said, there are still many rising music groups, bands, and solo artists out there, waiting to be unveiled and to be given the opportunity to showcase their talents.

One of the questions in the survey is “Do you think the Philippine media is effectively glorifying OPM?” I included this question because I want to find validation with my perception of the Philippine mainstream media, because, like the majority of the respondents’ answers, I don’t also think that the Philippine media is effectively glorifying OPM. I might not agree with Jaucian’s blunt statement “OPM is dead,” but I agree with him that “yesteryear’s hits” are “sung to death by variety show singers,” while newer acts “struggle to get their original material released.” The mainstream media is a very powerful tool to disseminate culture. Whatever the mainstream media produces, many people would unquestionably jump and ride along with it. The sad truth is that, most producers in the Philippines nowadays are afraid to take risk. Most of them would offer labels to famous actors, not musicians, because they think that popular handsome actors would sell more. Unbeknownst to them, this is actually affecting the music culture. They should mainstream the obscure but talented artists. Another structural factor that affects the arts is government investment. In 1950s France, a disdain for American film and a desire to promote cultural production outside Paris led the government to invest in directors like Godard and Truffaut who would constitute the French New Wave. (This was a common pattern in the social democratic milieu of postwar Europe.) In 1970s Philippines, the Marcos dictatorship also poured money into the arts. Imelda Marcos spent a lot of money on pop festivals. The government now, should do the same, not just in music, but also in all arts in the Philippines, because these are in great need of a strong foundation. They are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Music and arts in general are very important facets of a country, because it reflects a lot about the Filipino people and the Filipino culture. I want to hear a foreigner hear a Filipino song, and then exclaim, “Hey, I love that! That’s a Filipino song!” instead of “Hey, I love that, that sounds Western!”

The industry may now be too far away from its glory days like in the 60’s or 90’s, but it is not dead. It just needs the unified support of the Filipino people.

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39 thoughts on “The Status of Original Pilipino Music (OPM) in the 21st Century Youth Subculture

Add yours

  1. Hi Angel, thank you for sharing this very informative piece of yours.

    Laking 90s ako kaya tingin ko 90s ang golden age ng OPM considering the music of Eheads, Rivermaya and a personal favorite like Yano.

    Although malaki ang maitutulong sana ng social media pero partly social media at internet din ang pumapatay sa OPM kasi mas may laya na tayong mag-explore outside di gaya noon na kung ano lang napapakinggan natin sa radio yun lang. Opinyon ko lang naman.

    Tapos mas takot ngayon mga artist na maging original sa ideya na di sila kikita kaya nali-limit ang kanilang creativity. Nakakalungkot pero tingin ko noon nagsusulat at kumakanta sila ng galing sa puso, susunod nalang yung sisikat sila at yayaman. Ngayon pera pera nalang.

    Sensya na at napahaba na masyado 🙂 Nice one, nice one.. please share more…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Salamat po. 🙂 I agree po kahit di ako batang 90s. Sana naexperience ko rin yung kinwento mo na sa radyo lang pinapakinggan yung OPM. Nakikinig pa rin po ako ng radyo ngayon pero pansin ko nadominate na ng mga English songs yung mga stations pero may iilan pa rin naman na Tagalog. Di ko nga rin po gets kung bakit takot sila gumawa ng original at hindi basta covers ng past songs ngayon, kasi may mga naghit naman na original talaga na Filipino songs tulad ng Gayuma ni Abra (wala na akong maisip na example haha). Mas importante nga siguro para sa kanila ang kumita. Salamat po sa insight niyo sir! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s so wonderful that college students can now publish their research projects. The blogosphere has provided good writers like you a forum for showcasing the products of their hard work. It’s a fitting recognition for your fine efforts, and it allows a lot of people to also learn what you have learned. Gone are the days when students’ research work just went into a pile of folders in a teacher’s office. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

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