Sweet baby Jesus, it's hot. And I have no aircon. So the Fil Am funk is truly festering.
I think when the the city is burning it is appropriate to feature a steamy music video that has been out for a few months already. "Mainit" features Q-York (Knowa Lazarus and Flava Matikz), and Kenjhons and Chelo Aestrid of the Philippine Allstars. The music video was produced by Jerome B. Smooth, who is an on-air personality at Wave 89.1 in Manila.
Ang init-init naman!
In July, I had the privilege of interviewing two members of the Philippine Allstars, Lema Diaz and Chelo Aestrid, who will be highlighted in today's artist spotlight. They share the story of the success of the world-famous Philippine Allstars, the growth of hip hop dance in the Philippines, and the conversations Philippine dancers have with Fil Am dancers.
On a side note, while I was in Metro Manila, I also interviewed Jerome B. Smooth and Knowa Lazarus, so keep a look out for those also and a bigger project to come (wink-wink). For now, let's give a spotlight to the Philippine Allstars who lost in a controversial upset against France in the 8th Annual World Hip Hop Dance Championships in July.
Lema Diaz: Hi, I’m Lema Diaz from the Philippine Allstars. I’m currently the managing and artistic director of the group. Allstars started in 2005 as a bunch of—it’s just a hobby for us when we first started. And then we heard about the World Championships in Los Angeles, 2005. So we gathered everyone together and to see if we can represent our country. And then when we went there we competed against 26 countries. The first time we placed 6th. And then, 2006 we won the first gold medal here in the Philippines. And then after that, when we went back in 2007 we won the bronze medal. And in 2008 we won the championship again.
Chelo Aestrid: Hello, I’m Chelo Aestrid from the Philippine Allstars.
MV: How did you get involved with the Allstars?
Chelo: So basically, these guys were all my friends since ’01. I moved to the Philippines in ’01 and they were the people that I first met and got along with. So, we would always go out and dance the night away. And then when we heard about representing for the Philippines in L.A. back in ’05, we were like “let’s do it.” So, that’s when we started the group pretty much.
MV: Do your choreographers have formal training in dancing?
Chelo: Some of us do have formal training, like Lema here she used to be in a group called Hotlegs. They’re called Hotlegs because their legs are pretty hot [laughs]. Naw, but they were really good with jazz, ballroom, and Latin dancing.
Chelo: Everything pretty much. And then some of us—
Chelo: Regan also, he was part of Air Dance. But a lot of us pretty much—oh, and Kyxz was part of the national team for gymnastics in the Philippines. But the rest of us were from street—different teams, just learning through friends, and going to the club.
Lema: That’s how we first met, dancing in the clubs. We’d just see each other, like someone is just dancing on their own at the club. And that’s how we started getting to know each other. You’d see them dancing at the corner. So that’s how everyone started.
MV: What do you think about the scene now? Because I went to an event at Empire Club and they had different colleges battle. Is that something that’s getting bigger and bigger?
Lema: Yeah, definitely. Four years ago, it wasn’t like that. But since after hearing that the Philippines won the World Championships in L.A., I think it’s a matter of breaking through. When people heard about it, like everyone got inspired to do their own thing. Before, dance wasn’t that much here, it was very underground. And hip hop was underground. But now everything is just picking up.
It’s really good. A lot of dancers are coming from the U.S. teaching. A lot of dancers are going to classes now. And more competitions are happening left and right, like big competitions going through Araneta [Coliseum]. It’s definitely getting bigger and bigger every year.
MV: When you said that people from the States come here, were they Fil Ams? Has that been a conversation occurring across the ocean?
Chelo: Definitely. I think the local—the Filipinos here in the Philippines are getting inspired by not just Allstars, but also like JabbaWockeez, Kaba Modern. So many Filipinos internationally are representing for Filipinos. And now Filipinos here are inspired to push themselves harder. And now the Fil Ams are coming back and they’re realizing, “Hey, we should reach out to our Kababayans and teach them what we know.” Because a lot of them know knowledge of dance, of hip hop dance. Like the old school stuff that the local dancers wouldn’t be able to get here without their help.
So, I think that’s definitely getting stronger. You know, people just come here on their own and teach free workshops, not just workshops to make money or anything. They’re actually teaching for free and giving knowledge and spreading love for free. So that’s something we’ve witnesses recently that’s really amazing.