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] Date Posted:12:00:11 06/18/04 Fri Author Host/IP: 4-185-adsl.dial-pool.digitelone.com/126.96.36.199
Music and the man
By Dina Sta. Maria
The Philippine Star 06/13/2004
From catchy, toe-tapping ditties to sweeping, soaring cantatas, Ryan Cayabyab has emerged as the man of Philippine music today. Now, as executive and artistic director of the San Miguel Foundation for the Performing Arts (smfpa), Mr. C is on a crusade to champion Filipino music.
It is every artist’s dream: to start a project with a full kitty, and the name of the country’s largest corporation behind it. Three years ago this month, the smfpa was formed, under the auspices of the country’s largest food and beverage conglomerate, San Miguel Corporation. Soon after it gave birth to the San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra (smpo) and the San Miguel Master Chorale (smmc), luring musicians and singers from other, less well-endowed orchestras and choral groups. There was a full set of instruments–and more on order; also rehearsal studios, practise rooms, a full office (in the basement of San Miguel corporate headquarters in Ortigas Center) and support staff.
Its vision and mission are lofty, smacking of what some critics–and there are critics–say is pure hubris. Its vision: to become "the premier performing arts organization in the Philippines, serving as an illuminating and inspiring model of artistic vision, innovation and excellence in arts management and administration. The San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra and The San Miguel Master Chorale will bring honor and pride to the Philippines by becoming the best all-Filipino orchestra and choir in the country and in Asia; and one of the best in the world."
It aims to pursue a five-pronged mission: "To nurture excellence and innovation in the performing arts... To foster a deep appreciation of and interest in the performing arts... To promote Filipino music of the highest quality... To develop Filipino music for the future... To preserve our Filipino heritage..."
Whether it was coincidence, perfect timing, an offer he couldn’t refuse or all of the above–and maybe more–Cayabyab shelved a much-publicized and controversial plan to migrate to the U.S. on an H1B "specialty occupation" visa and took on the helm of the foundation.
He comes with impressive credentials indeed: composer, conductor, singer, arranger, producer, professor, television host, music director. His awards list is a pretty long one, starting with a 2001 Onassis International Cultural Competition award for original music composition for dance for his Misa 2000, to add to three previous international awards in song festivals in Seoul, Tokyo and Kazakhstan. Locally, there are 11 movie score awards, three best theme song prizes, 21 awards as composer/arranger/producer, and three lifetime achievement awards, etcetera etcetera etcetera.
While he may be most known for popular hits like Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika and Paraiso, his body of work goes a lot deeper, to include orchestral pieces, sacred choral works, the classic ballet Rama Hari, musicales like Magnificat (which has logged over 200 performances), Katy, Larawan, Alikabok and the acclaimed Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, the latter two having toured Malaysia and Japan, with a special NHK broadcast. Even in the pop genre he has stretched the borders, with his a capella albums starting with One, featuring 16 voices...all of them his.
He has literally performed before presidents, kings and princes, celebrities and common folk in halls and theaters all over the world.
And to think that his mother, an opera singer, had given a very stern warning to his father before she died: "Huwag na huwag mong papasukin sa music ang kahit na sino sa mga anak natin (Don’t let any of our children go into music)." Despite an early inclination fueled by a home full of music (they had 10 borders, all music students) he enrolled in accounting at the University of the Philippines. But the muses had other ideas, and a stint with the UP Madrigal Singers linked him up with Cocoy Laurel, whose parents former Vice President Salvador and theater actress Celia were sufficiently impressed with his music to offer him a scholarship.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree and for two decades taught full-time at the UP Department of Composition and Music Theory, while composing some of the songs that have become standards in the Philippine music repertoire.
Having passed a personal milestone (he turned 50 last month), Cayabyab is now focusing his sights on Filipino music–promoting it, performing it, creating it.
"For so long now, Filipinos have been regarded as the minstrels of Asia," he says. "This means that we’re being hired to play abroad in bars, hotels, lounges. But we never play our own music there. We just play Western, contemporary, popular tunes. In other words, we only do covers. Musicians in other countries perpetuate their own music and we don’t. Dito talaga tayo talo. We always think that we are the best musicians around. The truth is we are good. I used to share the belief that we were the best pero not anymore.
"Somewhere down the line, masyado tayo naging mayabang in believing that we’re the best. But when you look at other countries you’ll realize that there are others more superior than us. For example, there are more classical musicians and well-known composers in neighboring countries like Japan and Taiwan. We’re being left behind.
"One example na talagang naunahan na tayo is when that Taiwanese composer won an Academy Award for best sound-track for the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. They’re on a different level na. I’m not saying that we can’t be on that level, but I don’t think we’re supporting our Filipino creative artists enough. I don’t think we’re helping them enough to excel."
He rues the current dearth of significant Filipino music. "Unfortunately, in the world of international music, wala tayong significant contribution. Of course, the works of people like (the late National Artist Jose) Maceda is something to be proud of because some of his works have been recognized in other countries. There are less musicians who have been composing new music in the last three years. And this is unfortunate because there was a time when the League of Filipino Composers together with other groups have been very active in composing, writing, and experimenting with new material. Pero bigla nalang nawala yun, eh. And to make things worse, most of the old kings, the ones who had pioneered Filipino music, have already died. Kaya nakakalungkot isipin na ang konti nalang ng mga natitira. And that’s why we really need young music writers. Gusto ko silang hamunin na kung sino ang kayang mag-contribute sa larangan ng Philippine music literature."
Toward this end, the smfpa will launch later in the year an orchestral and choral writing competition. Cayabyab explains: "The reason I want to push such a project is because one cannot create great music in an instant; it has to pass through a lot of time. Kung baga kailangan pang lutuin ng mabagal yan, kasi hindi mo pa alam ang kalalabasan. Maybe if we hold this competition annually or even once every couple of years, we might finally be able to collect new, original and fresh music from young writers and composers. Kasi may mga bata dyan na may mga bagong ideas na tunog pero ayaw lang nila sabihin kasi feeling nila hindi naman ilalabas, eh. I want to find that new sound."
On the other hand, there is also the need to keep alive and promote what Filipino music we do have. Thus, Cayabyab is re-commiting the orchestra and chorale to performing Filipino music. Last March, the smmc under conductor Eudenice Palaruan held the first of their "Kayumanggi" concerts, featuring works by Francisco Feliciano, Joy Tavas Nilo, Jerry Dadap, Dennis Suagrol and Cayabyab. This week-end, the orchestra and chorale perform in "Klasik Kayumanggi", which features Cayabyab’s arrangements of popular love songs, folk songs as well as fun songs.
"I’m really pushing for the Philippine orchestra to focus a whole lot more on Filipino music," he says. "Of course we can’t just ignore pop, jazz and the others because they’re standard styles. But what I’m planning is that once our orchestra has mastered other music genres, we shall spend more time in creating new, original and great music with that distinctive Filipino sound. I believe that’s the only way to go. Why? Because we should realize that we can never, never, never compete with something like the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. It just can’t be since we do not have the features that they have. But we can mold our own orchestra into something much better than what it is right now.
"Orchestra is global. This medium is global. And yet each country can still have its own distinct identity if they want it bad enough. What I’m trying to say here is that since we can never be at par with Americans in music, then we should create something else that they cannot duplicate. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of patience, a lot of rehearsing. But that’s the only way that we can pull ourselves up above the rest."
It’s a huge task, but it does not seem to daunt him. He followed his heart once before when he went to music school, and he’s following his heart once again. "Music is my passion and life." From Cayabyab, this statement comes as plain as day, as natural as breath. "Maraming nagsasabing mahirap ang buhay musiko (many say a life in music is hard) but I learned that one would really have to like what he’s doing and everything else will follow."
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Date Posted:12:03:43 06/18/04 Fri Author Host/IP: 4-185-adsl.dial-pool.digitelone.com/188.8.131.52
>Music and the man
>By Dina Sta. Maria
>The Philippine Star 06/13/2004
> From catchy, toe-tapping ditties to sweeping, soaring
>cantatas, Ryan Cayabyab has emerged as the man of
>Philippine music today. Now, as executive and artistic
>director of the San Miguel Foundation for the
>Performing Arts (smfpa), Mr. C is on a crusade to
>champion Filipino music.