Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bay2LA Beatrock Music Dec. 17th

An evening of music and art; with live performances from the Beatrock Music family and a photo portrait series of Beatrock Music artists by Leo Docuyanan

Saturday, December 17, 2011

@ 2150 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

ages 18 and up. Please bring photo id.
$12 door
*cash-only bar*


Prometheus Brown & Bambu are The Bar
Otayo Dubb
Rocky Rivera
Power Struggle
DJ Phatrick on the turntables

Video by Tony Rain (

Monday, November 28, 2011

Global Jologs Style: Pacquiao's flexible meanings in the Filipino diaspora

After a recent controversial win over his long-time foe Juan Manuel Marquez and a looming Floyd Mayweather showdown closer than ever (Money announced today a proposed May 5, 2012 fight date), Manny Pacquiao's notoriety shows no sign of waning, even though critics argue that his fighting ability is on the decline. As a congressman in Sarangani Province, the globally popular Filipino icon has had to juggle between his political responsibilities and his sports career.  Was this juggling the cause of his uncompelling and indecisive win over Marquez?

Filipinos in the U.S. and around the world cheered for their champ, with some making the holy pilgrimage to Las Vegas to simply be within Pacman's orbit.  And for Filipinos in the Philippines, waking up early and missing holy mass was a legitimate excuse for the sake of a Pacquiao fight.  The whole world watches when the athlete once featured in Time Magazine's "most influential people" list steps in the ring. 

And the whole world also wears him.

Nike's "Team Pacquiao" brand has become recognizable to many non-Filipinos, with the Philippine flag colors becoming synonymous with the boxer.  For sure, Pacquiao gear (and also Philippine flag-themed gear) has set its place at the table of Filipino American fashion sensibilities. 

Blue Scholars don't mind the jologs
But do the meanings of Pacquiao's image, especially through Pacman fashion, remain the same for all Filipinos around the world? 

I was surprised to learn that in the Philippines, many Filipinos regard Pacquiao as symbolizing "jologs," which roughly translates to "ghetto" or "kitsch." Yes, the heroic Filipino icon represents more dimensions than mass admiration.  But that's just it.  "Jologs" operates as a disparaging marker for people who are seen as mindless and naive (think people who wear too much Steelers or Lakers paraphernalia).  Hip hop too in the Philippines, as I try to show in my film Lyrical Empire: Hip Hop in Metro Manila (also viewable in the right column), represents for a certain segment of Filipinos a supposedly "uneducated" "jologs" spirit.      

For Filipino Americans, Pacquiao is an emblem of Filipino pride, identity, masculinity, and power. Even for non-Filipinos, as Davey D argues, Pacquiao has become a "People's Champion" because of his pro-common people values. 

But there is an undeniable phenomenon among many Filipinos in the Philippines in which they will happily watch the Pacquiao fights, but will refuse to wear Team Pacquiao clothing.  I wouldn't be surprised if the Team Pacquiao merchandise sold in the Philippines was mostly purchased by Filipino balikbayan tourists. 

For some reason, Pacquiao in the Philippines and Pacquiao in the Filipino diaspora isn't the same person.

Certainly a major explanation is class (and the specter of class aspirations).  Since Nike's takeover of Pacquiao merchandise, it has been much more difficult for poorer people in the Philippines to buy expensive Nike-brand Pacman shirts, hence the noticeable (and ironic) lack of Pacquiao clothing among the masa in the islands.  But the middle classes aren't sporting it either.  The real market, it seems, are those Filipinos "out there" across the globe who are unaware of the cultural politics in the mother land, who are oblivious to "baduy," "bakya," or "jologs"--epithets that describe the cultural tastes of the masa.

When Pacquiao makes his post-fight interviews, we might flinch and chuckle.  In the Philippines, the "jologs"-induced cringing moment could not be stronger.  As a major political figure who has little education, limited English (compared to more-educated citizens), and a manic masa following, Pacquiao exemplifies at best an ambivalent figure for many Filipinos in the Philippines, especially among those who have been critiquing civil society and are engaged in the political process, a process in which the champ has quickly assumed a degree of leverage and power (think Erap).    

When Pacquiao sings Karaoke songs on Jimmy Kimmel Live, many Filipinos in the diaspora embrace him for his levity and charm.  Without the "jologs" factor in their vocabulary of Filipino cultural politics, Manny remains harmless.  He might seem as simple as the poor people who sing on variety shows like Wowowee, but he is excused for his pronunciation and grammar "errors" because he is a winner--a masculine embodiment of Philippine nationhood.  

But in the Philippines, the complex and often contradictory cultural politics of everyday life manifests itself when the boxer-legislator appears on the TV screen.  In a poor country, "being" Filipino means much more than wearing the three colors.  When Pacquiao fights his opponents in the ring while also fighting key legislation such as the Reproductive Health bill, the cultural consciousnesses of Filipinos around the world become strangers.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Filipino American Dance Culture in Suburbia: The Story of Funki Junction

Our project Empire of Funk: Filipino Americans in the Cipher of Hip Hop is continuing to grow. Please check out this compelling article written by Cerritos-native Cheryl Cambay. It time stamps a very critical moment in the development of Filipino American culture in the 1980s and early 1990s. Great work, Cheryl! 

Also, as a reminder, we are taking submissions for poetry, fiction, photography, and visual art for publication on the website until November 28th. Visit our website for more information.


Filipino American Dance Culture in Suburbia: The Story of Funki Junction

by Cheryl Cambay

"...I remember rehearsals well – we’d end up at someone’s house and practice in the garages, front yard or the street. At one of girls’ houses - without the mirrors like you see in dance studios, the way we viewed our progress was literally to video tape rehearsals on a camera that was propped up on a tripod and view the footage and make adjustments, corrections, blocking as needed. When we rehearsed at Emil’s house I remember his mother had a glass-mirrored closet that we used to rehearse in front of and it was small so you couldn’t see the whole group from the reflection! Oh the joy of practices at our parents’ houses after school! And whenever we needed to rehearse or perform at a gig we literally had to call each other at home (no cell phones or email) or page each other to make sure we scheduled rehearsals and made ourselves available for the gigs we were asked to perform at. We also went shopping for performance outfits, which consisted throughout the years of overalls, paisley shirts, timberland boots, embroidered hats, parachute pants – what we considered cool and hip at the time!..." [continue]


Friday, October 28, 2011

Multigeneration Fil-Am Cipher at D-Cypher!

Witness this multigenerational cipher of Fil Am dancers from the D-Cypher event at the Liwanag Cultural Center! 


Big shout out to JDB Creativity for the dance footage. Please check out for more info.

D-Cypher was a discussion with some of the most influential Filipino Street dancers from the San Francisco Bay Area. The organizers bridged their personal histories, discussed how the scene was back in the day, and learned about Filipino contributions to street dance, Hip Hop, and Filipino/Fil-Am Kulture. Learn and hear stories about the local dance scene!


- Don Boogaloo
- OG Smurf (Master City Breakers)
- Finesse (Master City Breakers)
- J Krush (Star City Crew)
- Andre (Star City Crew)
- Gizmo (Renegade Rockers, Knuckle Neck Tribe)
- Chaz (GroovMekanex, Zulu Nation, Natural Elements Crew(DC))
- G Boogz (Knuckle Neck Tribe)
- wish1 (Jughead Tribe, Jedi Clan, Mindtricks, Groovaloos, Jabbawockeez, Sub Ren,
- Sha Boogie (Renegades, Mind Over Matter, MPM, Tribe)
- Dennis (GroovMekanex, MuthaFunkers)
- Delrokz (Break for Tots, Zulu Nation)
Moderated by Alan Mar David
Edited by Will Kong
Sponsored by Liwanag Kultural Center, Kalayaan School for Equity, North County Peninsula Partnerships, and Rock the School Bells

Monday, October 17, 2011

Empire of Funk: Filipino American in the Cipher of Hip Hop is taking submissions for publication on our website! Deadline for submissions is on Monday, November 28th.  This is an exciting project me and DJ Kuttin Kandi have been formulating for some time now.  Big ups to all our contributors (who include DJ Icy Ice, DJ Niel Armstrong, Kimmy Maniquis of Kaba Modern, DJ Nasty Nes, literary award winner Patrick Rosal, and many, many others!) and supporters for being with us the whole way. Can't wait to see everyone's submissions! Here we go!

Description of Empire of Funk:
Empire of Funk: Filipino Americans in the Cipher of Hip Hop is a project that seeks to highlight the history and talent of Filipino Americans in hip hop. Long overdue, this endeavor attempts to demonstrate the intimate and meaningful link between the Filipino American experience and hip hop. Sometimes seen as a culture separate from the Filipino American experience, Empire of Funk provides a forum to foreground the exact opposite: hip hop culture has been integral to the Filipino American community, functioning as a legitimate part of the Filipino American experience well before hip hop gained mainstream popularity.

Furthermore, we believe that rather than spreading negative "pathology," hip hop provides a cultural medium for spreading knowledge and exploring cultural consciousness.

Empire of Funk serves as an artistic and literary canvas, gathering the talent of multiple generations of artists, writers, performers, photographers, scholars, educators, and activists.

We want your talent! We will be reviewing visual art, photography, fiction, and poetry submissions to be published on our website.

The theme for submitting original work is: Knowledge of self. Priority will be given to work that relates to Filipino American experiences in hip hop.

Submission procedure:

1. Email a jpg (less than 5MB) sample of your piece or a word document of your writing to EmpireofFunk [at]
2.Type Art Submission and your name in the Subject of line of your email.
3. Include your name, email, location, and website (if available) in the body of your email.
4. Submit your work by Monday, November 28th.

Although we are eager to review all submissions, we cannot guarantee acceptance of your work on our website or in future publications. Please note that artists whose work we accept and publish will retain ownership of their material.

In addition, we are looking for eager and talented minds to join us in the planning and growth of Empire of Funk, including web designers, print designers, and publication liaisons. Please contact us if you are interested.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Entry into "Official" Filipino American History?

It has always been history in the making.  On Thursday, October 13th--in observance of Filipino American History Month--the event Built from Skratch: Rediscovering the Pin@ay DJ Scene(s) in Daly City will be held at the Liwanag Kultural Center in Daly City (San Francisco area).  Once written (or even dismissed) as "contemporary" or "modern" Filipino American culture (and therefore supposedly less important than "real" history) Filipino American popular music culture (i.e. hip hop forms) is more and more being archived along with "official" Filipino American history.

At the same time that Filipino American hip hop performances are legitimized and historicized under the auspices of researchers (check out OW's article "Unlimited Creations" in the Atlantic), educators, and community institutions, a younger generation of Filipino American who seem to feel distant from the Filipino American hip hop experience of the 1980s and 1990s (up to the 2000s for the very young) are now afforded the opportunity to learn more about the cultural contributions of their kuyas, ates, titos, titas, and parents.   

Then, on Monday, October 17th, Liwanag is also hosting an event on Filipino American dancers called D-Cypher: Dialogue with Bay Area Filipino Street Dancers.

I'm hoping that these "cyphers" of knowledge will be constructive for "old school" practitioners and younger people alike so that the culture can continue building and expanding boundaries.  In addition, I hope that these sessions will avoid bashing the existing state of hip hop that young people may identify with while glorifying the "golden age" of so-and-so decade.  Whatever the case, this is a wonderful and promising start to future dialogues, hopefully in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"The Learning" and the teaching: Episodes of education

Class is in session at UC Berkeley
Filipino students become indoctrinated

Yesterday was a day packed with education.

I had the privilege and honor to appear via video chat for Professor Griff Rollefson's music class "Planet Rap: Global Hip Hop and Postcolonial Perspectives" at the University of California, Berkeley.  The students were assigned my article "Hip hop over homework: Filipino Americans 'failing'?" and my documentary Lyrical Empire: Hip Hop in Metro Manila.   

In a bizarre performance of pedagogy through technology (I'm picturing my 20 ft. talking head lighting up an auditorium), I had the opportunity to answer student questions about the article and the film. The questions were a great exercise in thinking through the value of studying the topic of Filipino Americans and hip hop culture, and the urgency (if any) with which to approach political projects involving hip hop. Some of the questions were quite provocative, including the following:

-"What is the usefulness of postcolonial studies when studying hip hop?" In other words, why should we study hip hop using the same lens that we use to view the contexts of formerly colonized nations?

-"How can one make sense of hip hop if it is both an expression of radical politics globally, but it is also an object of global commodity capitalism?"

-"Are there possibilities of Asian American and African American collaborations with which hip hop plays a role?"

-"Do you see Filipino Americans seeking 'stability' as the goal of 'success'? And why should Filipino Americans gain consciousness about the Philippines?"

Thanks for the opportunity to "appear" for yall's class. Hopefully I gave sufficient responses to some tough questions. I hope to do something like this again in the future.

Angel, a Filipina teacher recruited by Baltimore's school district, performs Pandango sa Ilaw with her students.
Later on that evening, I was able to catch the PBS premiere of Ramona Diaz's documentary The Learning, which documents one year in the lives of four Filipina contracted teachers recruited by the Baltimore school district.

So while I am teaching U.S. college students to critically study the historical formation of the Philippines and criticizing the Asian Journal article's definition of "success" (see my article "Hip hop over homework"), Filipina teachers make a geographical trek to the U.S. in order to teach fundamentals of survival and life skills. They are facilitators of "success", and I pray students and school districts value their contributions.

Dorothea teaches a science lab to her high schoolers.
At a time when many school districts around the nation are in crisis because of a dearth of math, science, and special education teachers, Filipina sojourners have taken up the calling to fill the gaps. Leaving their family and students behind in order to enter a version of America they do not know from TV or books, these women enter the battlefield of education in black and brown communities across the U.S.

The Learning gives an intimate portrait of the bravery, sacrifice, and love of these four teachers, who represent a small slice of the thousands of Filipino/a teachers imported to provide low-cost labor in neglected school districts. The documentary points out that the "tides have turned" on U.S. colonial programs in the Philippines--which inaugurated U.S.-style instruction to Filipino students beginning in the early 1900s--with Filipino teachers fluent in American English coming to the U.S. to teach American students.  In Baltimore alone, 10% of teachers (or 600 total) are recruited from the Philippines.

One Filipina student in the UC Berkeley music class asked me what I thought about Filipino Americans becoming conscious of the Philippines.  I think The Learning is a testament to the importance of critically analyzing the historical condition in the Philippines, where the "tides have turned" in a way, where First World nations are seeking Filipino/a workers--who are fluent in English and other valued skill sets--to compensate for First World labor voids. As Filipino Americans, having a critical look at the Philippines means understanding that "we are here" because "they were there."  

As Filipino Americans, the battlefield is not only in geographic districts where many of us attend crumbling schools.  The battlefield is also in our minds; of reclaiming our own histories and debunking the myths that continue to disparage our lives and bodies.  


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Bad about You" video

The Good Sin can't shake that something "bad about you"

Seattle emcee The Good Sin brings you his love/lust tribulation video "Bad about You", which can be heard in his EP Late that came out early this year.  Produced by our dear friend 10.4 Rog, Late provides you with that laid back rap. "Bad about You" is a good mix of relateable romantic quandary complete with a singable chorus, Phonte-like crooning, electronic quirkiness, and a measured and deliberate beat. 10.4 Rog peppers Late with haunting and lingering prologues and epilogues to songs, like the one in "Bad about you." This makes for a more complete-sounding song.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday Cipher: Shakespeare swag?

Philippine theatre group go hip hop
From BBC News (Sept. 1, 2011): 

"A theatre group in Philippines takes a modern twist on Shakespeare, re-working the classics into a modern rap musical.

The aim is to help young people to understand the playwright.

"William" shows real life problems encountered by real students when it comes to learning Shakespearean masterpieces.

Marek Pruszewicz reports."


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DJ E-Man honored at 20th Anniversary of FPAC

DJ E-Man of Power 106 talks about being honored at the 20th Anniversary of the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture

Long Beach, CA native DJ E-Man will be honored with the FilAm ARTS Media Award at the 20th Anniversary of the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (FPAC) on Sunday, September 11.  The weekend-long festival will begin on Saturday, September 10thDJ E-Man, a veteran in the hip hop game who developed his skills in the Southern California party promotion scene and eventually rose-up as one of those Fil Am luminaries in the top-ranks of the media industry, will share the award stage with multi-award winning singer and actress Lea Solanga

We are proud of E-Man as he receives this prestigious award and reflect on the impact he has made for many Fil Ams and beyond!  Learn more about E-Man at BakitWhy.

In other FPAC news, Bambu and Kiwi reunite (again) this year as Native Guns on Sunday of the festival.  Also, Joe Bataan will be returning to the festival on Saturday! Yes, its time to boogaloo to the King of Latin Soul in Point Fermin Park! Great programming work by the good folks at FilAm ARTS!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Another dimension! Out of this world with Hopie

Hopie's ephemeral dimensionality at Los Angeles' Blu Monkey

"Space Case" (featuring Del the Funky Homosapien) video premiered at Blu Monkey last week

For those who can't get enough of Ancient Aliens and Through the Wormhole, Hopie distorts your sense reality in "Space Case"!

Be sure to look out for Hopie Spitshard's new album, Raw Gems out soon! Scoop her EP, Dulce Vita, out now!


Friday, August 19, 2011

Mega Manila styles! Revaluing Filipino popular culture

Are you Cubao X hip?

Mega Manila

One of the most startling facts that became obvious during my recent trip to Metro Manila was the magnitude in size of the metropolis. Upon returning to the States, I looked up the population of the Metro compared to large West Coast cities in the United States. Here is the breakdown:

In 2008, Metro Manila was home to 11,553,427 registered residents. But in 2011, estimates reach up to 21,295,000 for the greater urban area of Manila. Not surprising, given the divergent ways of measuring population, including geographic limits and the underestimation of people "under the radar."

In comparison, in 2010, Los Angeles boasted 9,818,605 residents, nearly 2 million less than Metro Manila's lower estimate. The same year, the San Francisco Bay Area
(including Oakland and San Jose) reached 7.5 million.

Spectrum Entertainment birthday party in Chula Vista, San Diego. From my film Legend.

Why does this matter?

Considering the notable amount of Filipino American popular culture emanating from LA and SF over the past 25+ years (almost a century if one considers the dance culture among Pinoy migrant workers during U.S. colonialism)--such as turntablism, R&B, freestyle, and dance--what about Pin@y popular culture originating from the Filipino "center"? Can Metro Manila and the Philippines be seen as a producer (not just a consumer) of global culture?

Crate diggers at the Vinyl Swap Meet in Cubao X. From SoulSonic TV.

Cubao X is just one example of the many pockets of popular culture dotting Metro Manila. Yes, hip hop is strong at Cubao X, but so is rock, punk, electronica, reggae, and gay culture, all of which merge together. Filled with bars, restaurants, hip shops, and performance space, it is a unique niche unknown to tourists, and it surely isn't a flashy shopping mall that describes much of public space in the Metro. Interestingly, similar descriptions can be said about other urban locales such as Baguio, Davao, and Cebu who flaunt their own creative communities.

Legitimizing Popular Music

For some reason Filipinos do not like to archive their own popular culture. Perhaps its a privileging of the ephemeral or the lack of material resources (I'm leaning towards the latter). Like Philippine cinema or Philippine basketball, popular music is at risk of evaporating into

In her essay "Pepot and the Archive: Cinephilia and the Archive Crisis of Philippine Cinema", Bliss Cua Lim writes about the bleak state of archiving early Philippine films. Sometimes found stacked and decaying in abandoned basketball courts, classic film reels have no home in the Philippines. Some films can only be bought elsewhere, such as France or Taiwan.

Similarly, in Pacific Rims, Rafe Bartholomew recounts digging up legendary pictures and newsclips of Philippine basketball heroes at a flea market. Basically, he was organizing a (sadly) not-yet existing archive of Philippine basketball as he wrote Pacific Rims in the mid 2000s. Philippine basketball's century-long history, like Philippine cinema, seemed to be rotting in the tropical sun.

But what of popular music? With only a single handful of writers dedicated to Philippine popular music (peep my pal Justin Breathes), is the genre doomed to deterioration within Filipinos' collective memory? Will it take an American Fulbright scholar like Bartholomew to archive its history a century in the future?

What if we revalue Filipino popular culture? Why do we need laws to compel Philippine radio stations to play original Filipino music?

What if we looked at the Philippines not as a nation of mimicry and/or devoid of culture, but as a source of clever style and originality? What if we saw the Philippines not as representing a dearth of culture, but as overflowing with it? How can we position Metro Manila as a global center of talent and not dismiss it as urban chaos en route to the beach resort?

More Than Meets the Eye

For many Filipino Americans, we see the Philippines only through the globally-syndicated The Filipino Channel (TFC), a satellite/cable channel aimed at the Filipino diaspora (and is ironically not available for Filipinos in the Philippines). The depictions of cover bands, imitative starlets, and robotic dance moves on Filipino variety shows remains a predominant imaginary of Philippine popular culture for many Filipino Americans.

Unless they have a bit of capital to travel to the Philippines and interact with people outside their family, Fil Ams will rarely be exposed to the country's pockets of popular music. For those who visit the Metro, its non-centeredness, traffic, pollution, and congestion may be a turn off to excavating the gems beneath the mess.

Today's Metro Manila is not your Lola's Manila. It is a sprawling cosmopolitan global city that once represented urbane Asia. It remains a megalopolis of the world, home to a diversity of classes--not just a uniform, monolithic mass of poverty topped with a minuscule class of the rich.

People from an array of classes are creating vibrant culture. Much to the surprise of Fil Ams who may imagine a simple two-tiered social structure, the gray area in between "sosyal" (bourgeois) and slum is actually A LOT of people given the immensity of the greater urban area of Manila (and beyond). This diversity of classes makes for an interesting mix of style and creativity.

How can Fil Ams who are not exposed to hidden layers of the Philippine society connect with pockets of creativity not shown on TFC? Instead of bypassing a seemingly hollow Metro Manila for the picturesqueness of the beach, how can they be overwhelmed by the city's cultural abundance?

Special thanks: Nex Benas, Justin Gabriel, Mike Gonzales, and Carlos Celdran

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Philippine Hip Hop’s Golden Age?

JOLO, Jazze, and Mary rock the crowd at Battle of the Beats (Photo credit: Rica Phonics)

Philippine Hip Hop’s Golden Age?
Battle of the Beats seeks competition and cooperation to reignite hip hop

By Mark V.


“I’m a-I’m a Filipino til I die, til I die,” the “bad” voice repeats as Genius Ears of Paro Paro Beats steps away from the controls and stomps hard at the front of the stage. He dangles his arms and head at the lull of the beat and flexes his neck at the snare in a krump gesture. Children unclasp tiny grips on mothers to commence dance floor bouncing.

At this moment
, Genius is the preacher and the audience the eager congregation. On the opposite side of the Battle of the Beats stage, B-Roc with baseball cap low grins and exchanges daps with Genius as the beat flourishes and annunciates like an inspiring sermon.

But tonight is not really a battle. Tonight is a jubilant communion of the faithful.

The Battle of the Beats showcase at Teatrino in Greenhills, Metro Manila on July 15th is intended to exhibit a certain standard of sound, but instead of listening like passive spectators, the crowd hollers out for Genius Ears in his moment of ecstasy.

B-Roc and Genius Ears catch the spirit

According to Battle of the Beats organizers Chill and Sam Rhansum of the event production group Red Alert Entertainment, the salvo—a showcase of twelve top-notch Philippine-based beat producers—represents a turning point for Philippine hip hop, which is often seen as dead to the ears of the Philippine public. Tonight, Filipino hip hop believers testify with hands raised.

The Renaissance

When he arrived in the Philippines, Sam Rhansum could not believe it. It is common to hear music echoing in public areas around the islands, but the hip hop music blaring from a corner store had special meaning for Rhansum because he produced the beat and spits the last verse. “From the Far East to the ATL” rings the chorus in the club banger “The Shining” by the Filipino megacrew The Renaissance. As he listened to the knock, Atlanta-based Rhansum—who has made music for BET and MTV—knew the Philippines had a unique place in the continuing story of hip hop.

“The Philippines has a very musical culture,” Rhansum reflects as we chat together with Chill at a café in one of Metro Manila’s ubiquitous shopping malls. His shaved head, tinted shades, white tee, and dangling chain marks a certain American Southern hip hop style, but his white skin marks his seemingly “outsider” status within the fabric of the Philippines’ social landscape. Nonetheless, he expresses his faith in a Philippine musical turn-around of which he wishes to contribute. He gleams excitedly: “The Philippines has the potential to blow up with hip hop.”

For Chill, the Philippines’ musical soundscape does not come as a surprise. As a pioneer in the hip hop movement in the Philippines in the 1990s, she already knows the impressive reach of a Filipino hip hop audience. As a teenager, she signed with Sony Music and demonstrated her dynamism by producing her own beats. Chill collaborated with popular Philippine artists such as the hip hop group Sun Valley Crew. At a time when hip hop and rock were seen as musical enemies in the Philippines, she performed alongside big rock acts such as Wolfgang, Razorback, Eraserheads, Greyhoundz, RiverMaya, and Sandwich to name a few. Filipino hip hoppers will know her feel-good anthems, such as “Party All Night.”

For Chill, hip hop has seen brighter days. After a hiatus of which included fashion school in the United States, she is back in Manila with a mission to reignite Philippine hip hop’s popularity. “We want to put the eye back on the ‘urban scene’ once again,” she describes the purpose of Red Alert.

Wiser with experience and willing to take risks, Chill understands the changes that have occurred since the 1990s. For one, hip hop never disappeared completely but actually blossomed into a serious, disciplined craft for many Filipino performers in the “underground.” Different regions of Metro Manila—from the South in Las Pinas to the North in Quezon City and all places in between and beyond—have developed their own hip hop musical “sounds.” Other regions of the Philippines outside of Metro Manila now boast their own crucibles of hip hop.

The biggest change, it seems, is that hip hop artists no longer monetize like they used to. Without industry support—especially from record companies and live show venues—hip hop has lost material capital. “If there is no place for hip hop, make one. You need to show and prove,” Chill states defiantly.

As a teenager, she proved how defiance can produce results. When skeptical industry heads would not sign her, she did what any smart businesswoman would do: she gathered the type of rappers that appealed to record labels, made their beats, and signed them to the same labels that rejected her. This arrangement proved lucrative as these acts soon blew up and garnered a steady audience. She produced their live shows, where she performed a quick set of her own. “The industry people saw I had my own following at these shows, so they signed me.” Sony Music released her first album Chill in 1997.

Hip Hop Cosmopolitan, Hip Hop Jologs

But 2011 isn’t 1997. The notorious “jologs” stigma that has always been attached to hip hop in the Philippines since the genre emerged in the country has morphed into different—often contradictory—forms. In the 1990s when hip hop monetized, “jologs”—which roughly translates as “ghetto,” uncultured, or kitsch—was complemented by hip hop’s newness and cosmopolitan flair.

In the early 1990s, MTV had arrived in the Philippines in the guise of MTV Asia and access to hip hop became easier than ever before. Franchesca Casauay, director of the Akei Popular Music Working Group at the University of the Philippines and radio personality at Sari-Sari Sounds Radio, remembers when hip hop popularized: “I used to stay up until 3:00 am everyday and tuned into MTV and watched videos and discovered new artists and music genres.”

Many Filipino American expatriates to the “motherland” benefited from hip hop’s cosmopolitan qualities. MastaPlann made it big in the Philippine music industry after signing with Universal Records. After migrating to the Philippines in 1992 from California, the crew soon became one of the most successful hip hop groups in the country, partly due to their English-speaking lyrics that remains associated with a more cosmopolitan crowd.

At the same time, record producers demanded a brand of hip hop “jologs” in Tagalog they believed would sell among the larger lower class in the country.

But this harmony would not last. When rock bands became the golden staple of the music industry and Philippine hip hop became strongly connoted with the much-maligned “jologs” stigma, the metaphoric “eye” turned away from Philippine hip hop artists. Industry stakeholders withdrew their faith in the capitalizing power of hip hop and invested in “safer” live band acts.

As capital’s fickle affection committed itself to rock bands, MastaPlann decided to leave the Philippine music scene only to return last year—thirteen years later—for a reunion concert where they were celebrated as living legends of Philippine hip hop.

If one counts the early influences of Francis M and other Filipino hip hop pioneers in the 1980s, the Philippines has more than two decades of hip hop culture pulsating through its veins. Given the Philippines’ tortuous relationship to the culture, is the country ready to put the “eye” on hip hop once again?

Iron Sharpens Iron

Red Alert Entertainment hopes to recapture the industry’s attention. Dotting the crowd at the July 15th event were representatives from Viva Records, MCA/Universal, Audio Clef, and Hit Productions, just to name a few. These special guests were treated to some of the Philippines’ finest acts. Accompanying the quality sound of Metro Manila’s premiere beat makers were rap and R&B performances by Q-York, Mike Kosa, and The Renaissance (JOLO, Mary, Jazze, Pikaso, Rhansum, Ron Thug and Gene Roca) to top off the “standard” of hip hop music Red Alert Entertainment seeks to set.

With the mostly English-speaking emcees and singers and a cohort of Fil Ams among the beat makers (Pikaso, who is originally from California, says he represents “Philafornia”), it appears Red Alert is formulating a “standard” that leans more towards a once successful cosmopolitan hip hop sound.

With the stage now set, Rhansum believes hungry producers will be urged to pump out more quality beats, which Red Alert considers to be the backbone of hip hop. To be clear, Battle of the Beats is not limited to just one night. The showcase “battlers” of July 15th will serve as judges for the bona fide battles that are programmed twice a month for the next six months. “Competition breeds quality,” recites Rhansum.

Chill and Sam Rhansum (Photo credit: Jon Morgan)

Sam Rhansum and Chill share a laugh during our interview

The winner of the entire tournament will receive a complete set of professional studio equipment and an official introduction to networks within the Philippine music industry. “Instead of fighting over crumbs, we can all work together to make cake,” Rhansum comments on the way Philippine hip hop artists have been scrounging for compensation for the past decade. Battle of the Beats aspires to be a powerful medium to bring the best together to become better together. “Iron sharpens iron.”

“Labels aren’t slighting artists because they are hip hop. It’s because they are not making money,” Chill remarks. “Red Alert seeks to conglomerize artists. We have a phrase in the Philippines, ‘kami-kami lang’ (only our small group). But, there is strength in numbers.” “Instead of having artists separated, we are trying to build recognition through numbers and have the industry come to us,” seconds Rhansum.

What Rhansum calls a “swapmeet for beats and emcees,” Battle of the Beats aims to be a forum to bring together music agents from record labels, TV, radio, and cinema together with hip hop artists. Chill states, “We want the same kind of mentality for hip hop artists as for rock bands. We want people to pay for a hip hop show like they do for rock bands. We want people to pay hip hop artists.”

But Red Alert is about more than simply monetizing artists, according to Rhansum. Artist education and professionalization is key, with compensation as the bi-product. “We want to provide a community to teach artists how to perform at lives shows and to know about licensing their work.”

To demonstrate the group’s commitment to the “masa” (everyday people), Red Alert is programming Battle of the Beats amateurs’ edition at SM Mall, where an aspiring producer who may not have the resources can create a beat using software and equipment supplied by the mall. The “diamond in the rough” winner will then have a chance to compete in the bigger Battle of the Beats series. “In hip hop, it’s the hustle mentality I admire,” Chill reflects.

Mass Celebration

MastaPlann’s reunion concert last year convinced Sam Rhansum to settle in the Philippines. He performed a set at the concert and received so much love from the Filipino audience. With an obvious mass of “underground” hip hop enthusiasts hungry for more music from its Philippine-based artists, Battle of the Beats became more and more realistic. In the early 1990s, MastaPlann opened a space for a captive hip hop audience; the group now inspires dreams of reigniting hip hop’s glory days. “I think hip hop’s golden age is now,” Rhansum declares passionately.

B-Roc raises it up (Photo credit: Rica Phonics)

The Philippines in the 1990s had a hip hop scene few Filipino Americans know about. While Fil Ams in the Bay Area were big on Freestyle and R&B music (think Kai, Jocelyn Enriquez, or Buffy), their kindred in the Philippines were making major moves in the hip hop industry. Fil Am emcees may have risen in popularity in the mid-2000s (think Blue Scholars, Native Guns, Deep Foundation, or Rocky Rivera), but Filipinos in the Philippines a decade prior have proven that Filipino emcees could magnetize a paying audience.

Today, despite a lack of monetary compensation, hip hop is alive in the Philippines, with patches of hip hop scenes dotting the archipelago caught up in the hustle over scarce resources. The culture survives despite the hunger, but the future of its artists remains uncertain.

Battle of the Beats was a congregation of some of Philippine hip hop’s most devoted. But filling the choir seats is not enough to celebrate mass. “Kami-kami lang” has no place in Red Alert’s vision for hip hop in the Philippines. Perhaps Battle of the Beats is a beginning for bigger things to come, where hip hop unbelievers and apostles, the lay and the anointed can worship at the alter of quality music, and celebrate hip hop together.

Special thanks to Chill, Sam Rhansum, Megan Villanueva, Franchesca Casauay, and Justin Gabriel.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cipher of Styles presentation at Univ. of the Philippines!

MusiKolokya- Informal Talk
Cipher of Styles: Exploring the Filipino Hip-Hop Diaspora
Friday, July 22, 2011 @ 5:30pm
University of the Philippines-Diliman
Instramantaryo Asyano- Abelardo Hall, College of Music

Thanks to Nex and Chex for organizing this event. I hope to meet some interesting scholars, music lovers, and artists and also re-unite with some old friends! Tara na!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Guest Article: Battle of the Beats is a battle for hearts

Chill aka the Queen of Hip Hop in the Philippines
and Red Alert Entertainment brings you the first ever
Battle of the Beats- Philippines

Battle of the Beats
Friday, July 15, 2011 @ 8:00pm
Teatrino in Green Hills


Battle of the Beats is a battle for hearts
by Megan Villanueva

“Hip hop is dead in the Philippines” is a common saying among hip hop heads here.

To Fil Ams like myself who have had the privilege of experiencing the hip hop scene in the Metro Manila, that statement proves to be false. With films like Lyrical Empire and Youtube hits like FlipTop, the world has witnessed the flourishing of hip hop in the Philippines. The nation, mostly known for their ballads and masa sound, has a lot of little-known quality music hiding in the "urban" scene. Upon arriving in the Philippines, when U.S.-based producer/artist Sam Rhansum heard the common saying above, he vowed to be a part of the ongoing struggle to change that perception.

Chill, the Queen of Hip Hop in the Philippines and Sam Rhansum (together with Atlanta-based producer Billy Hume) comprise Red Alert Entertainment. Red Alert has organized the Philippines' first ever Battle of the Beats, which parallels (and in many way exceeds) beat battles in Atlanta, New York and L.A. Premiering Friday, this event will bring a level of competition and long-awaited exposure to a multitude of talented producers of the Philippines. Representing the whole spectrum of urban music, the Battle of the Beats will bring you electronic mixes from Funk Avy to Chrizo’s boom bap hip hop beats to show the diversity among the nation's producers.

Battle of the Beats isn’t just a showcase, it is also an attempt to bridge the unfortunate gaps that prevent unity among artists. As an ongoing program that doesn't stop at Friday's premiere at Teatrino, the event will connect talented producers with aspiring artists and emcees with fellow DJ’s to collaborate and create great music. As an ongoing series, Battle of the Beats will become the platform for media and labels to seek quality beats and talented artists. Furthermore, the much anticipated educational component of the series sets it apart from any other beat battle program as it strives to educate amateur producers--who may lack resources and experience--in enhancing the quality of their production.

To say the least, Battle of the Beats has burdened itself with a lot of responsibility to follow through with these goals. Although, because of the demonstrated support so far its success looks promising.

You are invited to witness the country’s top producers showcase their talents and become a part of this milestone for the industry this Friday, July 15th at Teatrino in Green Hills at 8pm. For tickets call 6334034 or 09174090509.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Live and Direct from Metro Manila, 2011 Edition!

Cutting-edge and multitalented group Los Indios Bravos wreck shop for a punk audience this past Sunday in Timog!

Fil Am emcees perform a freshly-written jam at the Festival of People's Struggles at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. L to R: Eric Tandoc (not pictured), Rogue Pinay, Nomi, and Pele. Get em dawg!

FlipTop exhibition performances on Saturday in Timog. The crowd can't get enough!

Come see the first ever Philippine Battle of the Beats, featuring FilAm Funk friends B-Roc, Chrizo, Flavamatiks, BoJam, and many more! More of this story to come...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Uh Puerto Rico...Woh!! Obama 'erupts' the colony

On Tuesday, the island had a visitor from the continent, and it ain't Frankie Cutlass.

Like the Puerto Rican dancers on America's Best Dance Crew, the islands erupted on the American mainstage once again with an official presidential visit from Barack Obama. In past articles, I've talked about the curious cultural position inhabited by members of U.S. island colonies: the Filipino/Puerto Rican brutha Bruno Mars, Puerto Ricans in Florida, Pacquiao vs. Cotto, Puerto Rican and Filipino representation on America's Best Dance Crew (here and here), and the newly confirmed Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Still, questions remain about how Puerto Rico continues to configure in the national imagination of the U.S. Instead of dancing, singing, or boxing, the President's visit makes the island visible for a "mainstream" audience through political pomp and election skrilla snatching (he raised $1 million at a fundraiser).

Mr. Obama's home state of Hawai'i stands as an example of another island colony, which is at once "different" because of its exotic appeal yet "domestic" because it's the 50th state (hey a nice round number means national completeness, right?). Hence the twisted irony of Obama's visit: he used to rep a Pacific island colony (turned state) and now reps hard for the "mainland" on a visit to the Caribbean island colony.

The 50 state nation is purportedly "complete" in God's eyes, at least according to the kind folks at American Family Association who are sponsoring a "prayer event" in August with Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry. According to rhetoric of this group, the shape of the nation is set by God.

But what exactly is the shape of the nation? And how do we determine its borders? The U.S.-dominated islands (the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, Hawai'i, and others) prove the complexity of these questions. The islands trouble the nations legal, geographic, and cultural contiguity.

Enter Obama on a visit to the literal margins of America. How can the emergence of Puerto Rico in the U.S. imagination bring to light the sin of U.S. imperialism? Where does Puerto Rico, as a non-voting colony of the U.S., configure within the "ideal" of Americana?

As a territory under federal authority (especially military) but limited "voice" in federal governance, Puerto Rico's incongruity to an American ideal is a problem. And the people of Puerto Rico have much to be concerned about. Like the Philippines, Puerto Rico is experiencing a "brain drain" of skilled Puerto Ricans migrating to the continent. The island has more boricuas living on the continent (who interestingly can vote for president) than on the island itself. Much like the rest of the nation (only magnified), the island has been experiencing unprecedented unemployment and poverty. And like the rest of the nation, higher education is one of the first priorities on the fiscal chopping block, resulting in an uprising by students who are subsequently denied "voice". Freedom of speech in some instances has been banned in Puerto Rico, where student protesters who are increasingly unable to attend school because of rising fees are punished for exercising a fundamental American right. Liberty and justice...for some?

From the New York Times. Student protests meet roadblocks in Puerto Rican universities.

During his visit to the island, President Obama declared his support for the decision the colony makes regarding statehood (51st?) or independence: “When the people of Puerto Rico make a clear decision, my administration will stand by you…. We want Puerto Rico to have a shot at the dream that we all have.”

As an afterthought to the "main" U.S. agenda, Puerto Rico's future is becoming increasingly dismal. As members of a supposed critical "Hispanic" (continental) voting bloc, the President finds Puerto Ricans a valuable demographic. But how valuable is the President to Puerto Ricans?

As the author of the article "Obama's Puerto Rico Pit Stop" in The Nation writes, "The perception is that Puerto Rico is not a part of the 'national conversation,' but rather a colonial outpost in which identity politics, language and nationalism have residents mired in a perennial identity crisis."

Puerto Rico plays an important role in bringing knowledge to American imperial history (and future?). Where Obama's Hawai'i became "domesticated" and the Philippines became "independent", Puerto Rico--home to 4 million American subjects and whose migrated people constitute a coveted voting bloc on the continent--remains a major player in the quest for U.S. border-defining. Can residents of the "colonial outpost" challenge the notion of American imperial innocence? Or will America's island subjects remain the way they always have been? That is, invisible.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Another Allstars Victory!

On to the next one!

The Philippine Allstars are back and keep on winning! On Saturday, June 11, 2011, the group took 1st place at the Dance2Dance "World Street Dance Showcase Competition" in Zurich, Switzerland. After a few years hiatus, these national dance heroes are making a strong comeback. With a killer combination of hip hop foundation, theatrical spectacularity, power moves, and freaky "spear" freezes, the Allstars' hunger still proves stuff of champions.

Still, the Allstars faced tough competition, especially from USA's Mos Wanted (who seem to have Filipino American members of their own!). These America's Best Dance Crew competitors, who won 2nd place at the Dance2Dance event, showed perfect on-beat (and on-lyric!) execution with impressive repertoire of dance styles (house set is awesome!).

We welcome back the Allstars to the world stage. As winners of back-to-back Gold in 2006 at the International Hip-Hop Open d'Italia in Italy and the World Hip-Hop Dance Championships (WHHDC) in Los Angeles, Gold in 2008 at the WHHDC in Las Vegas, and another Gold in 2009 at the Malta Guiness Streetdance Africa competition, the Allstars have given a funky vision of Filipinos to dazzle the world!


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lyrical Empire Movie

"The movie serves as an eye-opener as to the struggle of Filipinos involved in Hip Hop in the Philippines. A must see movie..." -Jerome B. Smooth (Manila radio voice)

Lyrical Empire: Hip Hop in Metro Manila
(2010, 23 mins., Philippines/USA)

Take a glimpse into the lives of hip hop artists from a country where hip hop culture is under constant scrutiny from a skeptical public. What will it take for these artists to prove their skills? Will hip hop become big in the Philippines, or will it be forever discarded as "jologs," underclass, and uncultured? These hardworking hip hop heads show you the passion and style they bring to the game where lyrical boundaries blur and innovation is prized.

I'm honored to have worked with such amazing artists and visionaries for this film. Please visit the Lyrical Empire label for more information about this project, including past screenings. Screenings and discussions are continuing in classrooms all over the country!

Check out my Evil Monito Magazine article on Philippine hip hop here.

View more FilAm Funk Productions projects and become a fan on Facebook.

Keep rising!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday Throwback: Stuff Fil Am People Like

This is a real old throwback (here for original) when the website Stuff White People Like was really popular. I'm glad yall took it real light-hearted.


In the great tradition of the popular blog "Stuff White People Like" and its spawn "Stuff Educated Black People Like," and inspired by "Ask A Filipino", here is a critical, serious, and scientific list of stuff Fil Am people like (not in any particular order).

#1 Sushi
This satisfies the Asian part for Fil Ams. The rice and soy sauce are natural ingredients they are used to. Just add pork, grease, and vinegar and it'd be a barrio fiesta for them.

#2 Picture taking
Fil Ams love taking pictures of each other, even redundantly in the dance club. This custom dates back to when white people took pictures of them a century ago.

#3 Free sandwiches. Not this.
Fil Ams will gather around free food in general, so be cautious if your multicultural org's resources are limited.

#4 Latino Culture
This usually comes in the form of salsa dancing. Move out the way when "Esa Morena" is played at one of their debuts.

#5 Hawai'i (Yes, that is Jasmine Trias)
This satisfies Fil Ams claim to be Pacific Islander (minus the whole genocide thing, of course).

#6 Afro-American culture
Fil Ams' fascination with Afro-American culture goes way back when David Fagen and African American Buffalo Soldiers helped Filipinos fight against American colonizers. They honor him through corn rows and sporadic copula absence.

#7 Sportin dark colors

#8 Rockin big shades (sorry Krish)

#9 Sportin bright colors

#10 Choreographed Dancing
These Fil Am dance troupes usually consist of an absurd amount of dancers, moving uniformly. Uncle Sam says: "You're easy to control. Yet, oh so funky."

#11 Pageants
Through consent or coercion, Fil Ams are socialized to participate in extravagant pageants. This relates to #2 and #14.

#12 New York
When you ask a Fil Am where they are going to vacation, they will usually tell you "I really want to go to New York" if Hawaii is not an option. This relates to #6 because of New York's connotation with hip hop culture. Coming largely from the suburbs, Fil Ams will grab any opportunity to be urban.

#13 Basketball (5'10" and under bringin the thunder)

#14 All-you-can eat buffets
Fil Ams tend to gravitate to all-you-can-eat buffets. This phenomenon relates to American consumer influence in the Philippines, like indulging in choice, variety, and extravagance (and endless cheddar-bay biscuits).

#15 Extended college life
But likely not this.

#16 Being late
Fil Ams are always late, even for job interviews. At some Filipino masses, you will notice church starts at fifteen after the hour. Too bad it doesn't end fifteen minutes early, when Fil Ams tend to leave after bread time.

#17 Head wraps and Kufi caps
This is a gesture to their Muslim and African affinities. This kind of relates to #6.

#18 The idea of revolution
Fil Ams love proclaiming the need for revolution (while wearing dark or bright colors and a head wrap). Actual revolution, however, is kind of scary.

#19 The sound of vinyl scratching
Wicky wicky wicky. Got your attention (like a dog whistle)?

#20 Loitering in large groups

This is especially true after a Fil Am youth group or club meetin and usually takes place in parking lots. This phenomenon is related to #10, with less body movements.

#21 A Tribe Called Quest
When "Scenario" comes on in the club, you betta duck cuz Fil Ams will bug out. Why do Fil Ams like ATCQ? It might be Ali Shaheed Muhammad's fresh beats or the resonating, non-threatening Afrohumanist rhymes. Or maybe its because they are a "tribe."

Any more?