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Stories, essays, readings, facts and trivia on Philippine music and the local music industry

Music of Social Concern and Cultural Freedom

A Force for Social Transformation

This is the music for social criticism and cultural liberation and is variously termed alternative, protest, progressive or people’s music. (ex. Joey Ayala’s Wala Nang Tao Sa Santa Filomena and Heber Bartolome’s Tagulaylay).

The music of this genre has always been in the process of experimentation, change, and growth, since the American period when socialistic ideas began to emerge in Filipino society. It is being actively shaped today by socially committed poet-musicians who are consciously using songs as a force for social liberation, advocacy of social justice, and in the struggle for human rights. It harnesses music as an instrument of social criticism and change, taking up the issues of injustice and oppression, neocolonialism, cultural erosion due to globalization, plight of indigenous peoples, and other social causes.

Music is used as an instrument for social criticism and change, and a vehicle of proposals for more humane attitudes and values, an equitable social order, cultural creativity and diversity, sustainable development, a heightened ecological awareness, and alternative ideas and lifestyles.

Some of the well-known artists who have creatively contributed to this tradition are Asin, Patatag, Inang Laya, Heber Bartolome, Joey Ayala, Grace Nono, Kontragapi, Pinikpikan, Buklod, and recently, the Makiling Ensemble.

Nicanor Abelardo was one of the earliest musicians to compose music for social criticism in the song Kenkoy, with words by Romualdo Ramos. Kenkoy was composed in the 1930s to satirize the first generation of Filipinos who began aping American ways in superficial and ridiculous ways, often at the expense of their self-respect and dignity. It was inspired by Kenkoy, a whacky character created by Tony Velasquez in 1926, who is a colorful embodiment of “veneration without understanding.”