It’s been three days since the Quirino Grandstand gig and I am just physically recovering from it. I wasn’t able to properly thank the artists who played that night, I wish I had the chance though. Anyway, today I decided to write a bit on the surrounding story of our Independence Day gig involvement.
Several years ago I asked my good friend Arnold Arre if animating a music video for our National Anthem interested him and the idea was tossed back and forth. A lot of things happened since then, typhoons, deaths of friends, weddings, other projects and etc, so the idea lay fallow. When our group (Rock Ed) got a partnership with the National Historical Commission as initiated by former Director Ambeth Ocampo, we embraced the partnership because we knew that it was going to come with a lot of learning and a good chance for concrete contributions.
Independence Day this year found us in charge of a concert and within the context of that concert was a chance to produce a music video. So I called Arnold again.
On the phone I told him about the idea and asked him if he was interested. He immediately started asking questions. “Should it be literal? Should I depict every line on the anthem?” I had to pause because I wasn’t sure if the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines stipulated anything on an endeavor like this. (I eventually checked, there was none.) As we tossed out possible elements that should be mandatory in the video, I realized that it would be best if I just let Arnold explore where his creativity takes him when it comes to the national anthem. He grew up in the Philippines, he sang the national anthem almost weekly as a young student, he is married here and his family has roots here. He should know what to do. Besides – he had the hand.
So I told him to do whatever he wants with it, let him go where the music takes him. What has he always pictured this video to be, no it doesn’t have to be frame per frame literal, it doesn’t have to be in visual sync with the lyrics, I told him what every artist (in his right heart) would like to hear. “Bahala ka, interpretation mo ang importante.” [I leave everything up to you, your interpretation is what’s important.] Arnold Arre, as expected, did not disappoint. (far from it!) He worked on the video diligently. He beat our deadline. He submitted way ahead of time, asking for revisions if we had any to impose on him. None of those, I said. We commissioned you to do it and with full trust we proceed.
When we asked Radioactive Sago Project to render the “Lupang Hinirang” I sensed no hesitation. Only a bit of apprehension from their chief arranger, Francis de Veyra on how rigid the tempo should be. It is in 2/4. A marching beat. Now this band is known for its propensity for slips and slides and improv and consonant dissonance, so I imagined that this experience will be a bit different. BUT it turns out, the gentlemen of the horn section of Sago play the “Lupang Hinirang” for city hall ceremonies occasionally! What luck. So this funk/groove supergiant successfully went off-character for a day or two, recording the national anthem in perfect cadence to the Flag and Heraldic Code. Bravo.
When an artist who has discipline and an endurance and love for his craft is given absolute freedom, he enjoys his work and when he enjoys his work, he is happy. And when an artist is happy, we, the audience, must be prepared to be blown away.
What an honor to be the one to commission Arnold Arre and Radioactive Sago Project to do this collaboration. What a lesson in both artist and benefactor and manager. If all parties have discipline, endurance, and the propensity to keep their word – any deal is possible. Let the artist go, I say. Let them go. Leave them be. Let them be artists! Then sit back and enjoy the show, or in this case – stand up and sing along.
PS: A special thank you, too to
- Pete Canzon
- Jes Bartolome
- Gary Perez
- Bong Sotto
- Wally Gonzales
- Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Band
- Manila Police District (MPD) Band…for making the gig more meaningful as they started out the night in high gear. 🙂