Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

A songwriter’s heaven

Posted on June 09, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – June 9, 2019 – 12:00am

Last Monday to Wednesday, I was in Club Balai Isabel in Talisay, Batangas. I was one of the coaches invited to help 29 kids from all over the Philippines who were invited to join the Philpop 2019 Boot Camp. Philpop Musicfest Foundation has held six songwriting festivals. And this is their fifth boot camp. The first four were held in different places around the country.

The aim of every boot camp is to help promising songwriters better their skills. These “fellows,” as they are called, auditioned to get in. Their transportation, board and lodging were paid for by Philpop. They were there to learn songwriting and life lessons from coaches like Ryan Caybabyab, Noel Cabangon, Trina Belamide, Gary Granada, Lara Maigue, Jungee Marcelo, Yumi Lacsamana, Marlon Barnuevo, Jek Buenafe, Davey Langit and yours truly.

The kids were eager to learn. Seminars were prepared by coaches with topics ranging from how to begin writing a song, how to be creative for life, arranging songs, how to write a musical, and so many more. Prior to getting there, they were already given assignments to prepare so that they would already hit the ground running when they got there.

One assignment was to put a melody to a set of lyrics given to them days before. When they presented their songs, we readily noticed how diverse the attendees were. Some leaned towards the blues, others liked rock ‘n’ roll. There were those who liked pop, soul, ballads, dance music, etc. There were those who played the guitar, ukelele and piano. Some came so prepared that their songs were already arranged on their laptops with drums and rhythm sections. But whatever style they chose, most of them were quite bold in presenting their studies.

It is quite important to present songs with energy. Ryan Cayabyab pointed this out — emphatically. Without that boldness and energy, listeners will lose interest within 15 seconds. So it is important to sing loud and make the songs as interesting to your audience as possible.

I gave a talk on how to be creative for life. As someone who has been doing creative work in many disciplines for years now, I gave them a few tips on how to keep creating (not just music) on a regular basis. I taught them how to access inspiration which, in truth, is already inside them. They just need to tap into it. I taught them how to go past the literal level and find enchantment, and write about it. Every time I give this particular talk, I feel I connect to my audience quite personally.

In camps such as these, the kids are given a few hours to create songs and present them to everyone. One specific assignment was to write a song for the 500th year anniversary of the defense of Lapu-Lapu against Magellan’s attack of Mactan. This idea was broached to Philpop by the head of Secretariat of the National Quincentenial Commission Ian Alfonso who joined us and gave a briefing on the project. The commission wanted to introduce a new way of looking at our history by focusing on the Lapu-Lapu narrative over Magellan. They wanted a song that would commemorate this once-in-our-lifetime historical event.

We were expecting only a few of the fellows to submit songs, given that they had less than three hours to do it. Lo and behold, 25 songs were auditioned. Twenty-three wrote solo works while two were collaborations. Some of the songs were very promising. The kids wrote in different styles and approaches. Some even incorporated rap. Hopefully, one of those songs will be chosen to be the official theme.

A big part of any songwriting workshop happens after dinner. All the work for the day is done. People are relaxed. This is the time when coaches and fellows are encouraged to perform and share their music. On the night before I left, Ryan, Davey, Noel, Yumi, Gary Granada, Jek Buenafe, Marlon Barnuevo and I sang some of our biggest songs. We also jammed a few OPMs from the ‘80s which we felt really stood out then. Two such songs were You by Jerry Paraiso, and a song written by Boy Katindig called I Will Always Stay This Way in Love with You. Everyone was singing. I had to stand up. I was so high on the music. We soaked it all in — the music and all the positive vibes and memories that flashed back. What a great feeling!

Soon after, it was the fellows; turn to take over the stage and sing their hearts out. They soloed. They also did duets, and even formed groups as they sang onstage.

Throughout the boot camp, I felt happy for these fellows. They were so lucky to be here getting breaks from foundations like Philpop and learning from and interacting with coaches who have made their mark on the history of OPM. They could present their songs in front of an appreciative crowd. They were in songwriters’ heaven.

I don’t remember being as lucky when I was starting out. We had none of these breaks. We were pretty much on our own, carving our own path to success. Today, the kids have all the support from institutions and even have the gadgets to help them in their songwriting.

Every artist since the beginning of time until now has had to learn to overcome rejection and fear. It will be the same for these kids. That’s part of the struggle. It is painful when your song is rejected. It is painful when you keep writing songs but do not seem to be getting anywhere, career-wise. But at the same time, these negative experiences build character and an intense focus on how to improve your skills and make you ready when the break comes.

The fellows I met in this camp seem open to learning new things and determined to meet the challenges ahead. I could see that glint in their eyes. There are songs to be made, auditions to join, albums to record, festivals to compete in. I am quite sure that in the not-so-distant future, we will be hearing amazing songs from some of them.

I would like to end this by saying thank you to the Philpop organizing team members Dinah Remolacio, Nini Santos, Gab Cabangon, Jared Kuo, and Luisa Hermida. The OPM team was comprised of Barbie Quintela, Danica Villaflor, Red Denoso, Alvin de la Pena. They took care of the sound system and video support. Co-presenters of the workshop were Maynilad, Meralco, Smart, National Quincentennial Commission and National Commission for Culture and Arts.

If you are a songwriter, watch out for the next Philpop Boot Camp. You may be one of those lucky enough to get in and have an amazing four days of learning and — who knows? — a big break could happen in your career.

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