Author Topic: food for thought...  (Read 3793 times)

Offline bluntworks

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food for thought...
« on: August 08, 2001, 01:08:20 AM »
Shall We Dance? - In Search of the Forgotten Beat
by Ian D. Elliott, a.k.a. Harmonika, a.k.a. re.son

So…if PULP magazine is any indication, Pinoy Indie Rock is doing just fine and dandy, thank you very much.  But what about the Electronic/Dance Music scene in The Philippines?  Many have been mourning its demise, few have actually discussed formulating a viable solution.  Most of the articles and interviews that I see related to the Dance Music scene in The Philippines are riddled with negativity and frustration, which would seem like an acceptable reaction given the indifference I see on the majority of the faces at various nightclubs and parties…but the fact is, these emotions rarely lend themselves to progression.  When interviewed, many of the key players in the world of Dance Music speak of the need for positivity (and even though my spell checker is telling me that’s not a word, it’s the one that fits), and unless the main players in the scene here are willing to return to that directive, things will continue to remain as they are.
I know for a fact that at one point and time, The Philippines had an expansive, vibrant and very vital Dance Music scene.  I wasn’t around for it (still living in Canada at the time), but I’ve seen video footage from the mid to late nineties that tells a very different story from the one being portrayed today.  Parties with two to three thousand in attendance, ravers dressed in a mind-boggling array of funky, original outfits – fun fur, flared pants, tons of glitter and shiny fabrics, girls dressing like boys, boys dressing like aliens from another galaxy.  People who were being interviewed for the camera all had a similar expression to their voices and look on their faces – one of pure excitement.  The crowd shots still raise the hairs on the back of my neck – smiling faces, the sounds of cheering and the sight of ecstatically raised hands in the air.  There were still signs of all this when I first arrived here at the very end of 1999, right up until I left in March of 2000.  I played at well-attended parties and clubnights where the vibe was a thick as anything that I have experienced playing in North America – it seemed to me that The Philippines truly had it goin’ on.  When I landed back in Manila, one year and one day after I first touched down, something had definitely changed.
Granted, the recent political and economic strife the country has been experiencing has put an obvious damper on the mood of the people – it’s especially sad that it has affected those who are most important to any music scene, the youth.  On the other hand, it is a well known fact that Pinoys have a deep-rooted love of music, dancing and partying – if they didn’t, Boracay probably wouldn’t exist.  It is also true that you don’t necessarily need money to have a good time.  So given (or better, ignoring) the current state of the nation, the question now arises, what can be done to bring The Philippines’ Dance Music scene to its former glory – or even better, what can be done to raise it to an entirely new state of being, possibly surpassing what has been achieved in the past?
I often hear of the need to “educate” partiers when it comes to Dance Music.  I have used the word myself many times.  When we think of education, we think of sitting in the classroom while our teacher prattles on and on about formulas, events that occurred in the past, or what Shakespeare meant when he said, “A rose by any other name…”.  When I was in University one of my courses was Art History.  It was held in a huge lecture hall, with almost three hundred students, most of whom were desperately trying to stay awake while the professor droned on in a monotone voice about Gothic, Byzantine and Corinthian structures.  He was so boring, that a classmate and I used to share headphones on her walkman and pretend that he was performing ballet to the music we were listening to (the grandiose sweeping motions that he made with his hands while pointing at various slides definitely lent to the effect).
Education is what the educator makes it, and right now, the education that partiers in The Philippines are receiving isn’t very exciting.  The best teachers always bring life to their particular subject – they make learning interesting and fun.  If we relate this to Dance Music and the parties and club nights that surround it, it means showing people that the scene isn’t “just about the music”.  A solid Dance Music scene in any country consists of many elements – fashion, literature, community, originality, individuality and of course the music, and most importantly the people that are involved – from the organizers to those who attend the party.  We can never lose sight of that word – party – worldwide, it is what makes the Dance Music scene what it is.  When giving away shampoo or deodorant samples, cellular phones and other corporate goodies takes precedent over encouraging people to create the vibe themselves, then the party is bound to suffer as a result.  

The best teachers will show their students how to use their minds to the utmost of their capabilities, they will impart the importance of thinking for oneself.  The educators in the scene here need to remember this when they plan their events.  When promoters create parties that encourage a playground-like environment, where people can feel free to cut loose the restraints that routine, everyday life imposes on them, and forget about their problems from the time they come through the entrance to the time they drag their tired yet contented bodies to the exit, they accomplish something that is normally very special and difficult to achieve.  They will have provided education through fun.  Great music, with a carnival (and sometimes sideshow) atmosphere, along with a real sense of community and belonging, are elements that will ensure that those in attendance will learn from the experience and return to learn more, time and time again.

When you read publications such as Mixmag, Jockey Slut, et al, the coverage given to scenes in different cities usually goes to great lengths to point out what makes them unique.  Toronto is well known for its Drum and Bass pioneers, who have gained worldwide respect, even from the music’s originating city, London.  Tokyo is praised for its eclecticism, Ibiza for its all-out hedonism, Berlin for its subtle and tasteful blend of music, art and culture.  The Philippines Dance Music scene needs an identity, one that is unique to this country, one that will encourage its participants to forge their own paths, rather than follow ones that already exist.  Copying another city’s formula will only produce a shadow of the potential that the scene here is capable of achieving.  Pinoy Indie Rock is successful because it is just that – 100% pure Pinoy.  Sure, many of the country’s most successful bands may sound like some of their North American counterparts, but they all add ingredients that identify them as being distinctly Filipino.  If those involved with Dance Music in The Philippines take the time to determine what can be done to make the scene here unique (and there are some that already are), then they will be doing themselves and everyone involved a great favour.
With the Peso devalued to half the amount that it stood at in 1997 (according to my friend’s Lonely Planet guide), spending large sums to import big-name international acts makes little sense, especially when there is a veritable treasure trove of local d.j.s and PAs who are not receiving the acclaim (or paycheques) they’re due.  Good promoters treat the artists they book like the talent is doing them a favour - smart d.j.s and live PAs reciprocate in kind, and everyone ends up coming out on top.  Disparity in pay between local artists and touring international talent is an issue in every country, but it doesn’t mean it has to be the norm.  One of the wisest people I know, a street-tough d.j. from Chicago named Traxx, told me a long time ago to “take care of home first”.  When other aspiring artists (the many “bedroom d.j.s” and producers that exist in the country) see their peers “making it” locally, it fosters hopes and aspirations, and creates a cycle of creativity that is virtually limitless.  Promoting local talent that truly deserves the exposure strengthens the industry at its foundation and teaches partiers that you need only step outside your own doorstep to find what you’re looking for...
God Bless!!!

Offline bluntworks

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« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2001, 01:10:20 AM »
The basis for the original “Raver Manifesto” is that of PLUR, which is an acronym for Peace, Love, Unity and Respect.  Many who are immersed in the Dance Music scene (including myself in the past) have derided this mindset, mostly due to the fact that although a lot of people in the scene may preach PLUR, very few are actually capable of following it.  Sadly, politics have always been the norm in almost every facet of the music industry, with Dance Music it usually goes something like – “Promoter X said something about Promoter Y, who then slagged off Promoter Z’s d.j. lineup for their upcoming party, and now none of them are talking to each other and refuse to attend each others’ events”.  Whether there is any truth to this sort of chain of rumour is often a different story altogether.  While this sort of behavior may be suitable for recess-time at public school, it’s hardly conducive to maintaining a healthy Dance Music scene.  Every so often, we need to remind ourselves why we’re in this in the first place – love of the music, love of a good time, and for most of us, the want to avoid the drudgery of sitting in an office for eight to twelve hours a day, five to six days a week.  If the scene here is to rise from its current standing, it’s time for everyone to be big enough to drop the shields and start working together.  This means recognition and acceptance of each other’s music (regardless of whether you think it’s good or not, it’s still going to exist), strengths and talent.  Some of the most memorable parties I’ve played at have showcased the rosters of several promoters - House and Techno in one room, Trance or Drum and Bass in another and an Ambient/Dub chill-out space – those in attendance who already knew what they liked partied in their respective rooms and often roamed to the others to see what was going on, those who didn’t had ample opportunity to explore.  It’s even better for the special few who find they like it all – when this happens, the promoters can truly congratulate themselves for a job well-done.

Next up – drugs.  The presence of drugs in the Dance Music scene is an especially touchy issue, one that many would prefer to avoid altogether.  Promoters obviously have legal issues to deal with when it comes to drug consumption by those who attend their events, and many simply refuse to recognize the fact that it even occurs.  But in the end, it is more than well known that drugs and music have gone together since we first learned to stop dragging our hairy knuckles on the ground and started using hollow logs and sticks instead of banging rocks together.  It is also true that people are going to put whatever they want into their bodies, regardless of whether someone else tells them it’s good for them or not.  “Say No” is never as effective as “Say Know” – promoters that truly care about the people on the dancefloor will take steps to educate in regard to both the good and the bad aspects of taking drugs, and will do their best to encourage responsible behaviour from those who do choose to consume.  Of course on the other hand, irresponsible behaviour that puts others in danger or threatens the sanctity of the party is never acceptable – it’s a fine line, but one that still needs to be addressed, and not ignored.  (for more information, check out websites such as, which provide objective information about various party drugs, and is probably responsible for saving more than a few lives and braincells)

A thriving Dance Music scene is so much more than just parties and club nights – it is a multi-faceted industry that has the potential to employ thousands, from busboys and flyer distributors, to graphic artists, fashion designers and writers, to the records store owners, producers, d.j.s, PAs and promoters.  One of the complaints I often hear is that the people attending various events these days simply don’t care about what’s going on – if so, it’s only because they don’t have any real vested interest in what’s being offered to them, and its often because the individuals offering it to them have done little to show that they care back.  If the party people of The Philippines are offered a vision, if they can see the potential that lies far beyond the next rave or club night, then who knows how far things can go?  Detroit (a long-dead city, by most people’s standards) has its roots seated firmly in the underground, with renegade parties and shadowy d.j.s and producers that stretch back through the past three decades.  In the summer of 2000 they all got together, along with over one million people over three days attending the hugely successful Detroit Electronic Music Festival.  Of course, the city itself backed the festival wholeheartedly, as they fully realized the potential boost to the economy that such an endeavour could bring.  Think about it – it could all happen here.

So, back to the original question – what’s the solution?  Well, part of it has been outlined in this article.  Smaller, more meaningful parties without the obtrusive presence of corporate sponsors who only care about banners, units and dollars.  The pooling of resources in order to provide people with quality and choice.  A return to grassroots, with the emphasis being placed on fun for both the organizers and the party massif.  Education, acceptance, tolerance, honesty and responsibility.  And of course, the remembrance of what it’s like to be young.  Many have lamented to me recently that the Dance Music scene in The Philippines is at an all-time low, and have a hard time envisioning things getting better.  I prefer to look at its current condition as a fresh, blank slate. There exists the opportunity to create something substantial, with the promise of longevity, but it has to be done right, with motivations that are pure and unwavering. These strategies take a great deal of patience and effort to implement – it may not happen overnight, but it is possible.  In Toronto (my first d.j. home), the scene was started by a select few individuals whose hearts were in the right places.  Through  dedication and perseverance, by learning from both their successes and mistakes, they created something that eventually became the talk of the town – the town of course, being the world.  Mind you, there were times when things got incredibly rocky – infighting, ignorant politicians trying to infringe on people’s right to have a good time, snobbery and deceit – the negative aspects can never be completely eradicated and exist in every corner of the planet.  But those who stayed true to the cause, combined with fresh faces that thought along the same lines, managed to keep things afloat during even the most trying periods.  And they’re still at it…

I fell in love with the Dance Music scene in The Philippines when I first arrived here in 1999, and almost two years later, that love remains.  I’m not an authority on what goes on here, in fact relatively speaking, I’m still a beginner.  But I’ve been made to feel welcome and have decided that I’m in it for the long run - I’m here to contribute and assist, and I’ve brought with me some ideas that I’m hoping a few people will agree with, maybe even adding some of their own.  Concluding with some more wise words…

Share what you know, learn what you don’t.

Love like you’ve never been hurt and dance like no one’s watching.

…see you on the dancefloor.

(Ian Elliott is a rabid Techno d.j. and producer, aspiring writer and designer, and all-round sensible hedonist.  He hopes to open a d.j./record/clothing store in The Philippines, and would also like to start a low-budget Music and Culture magazine that will serve the party and nightclub community.  He is actively seeking investors who care about youth, music and success on all levels, and may be reached at
God Bless!!!

Offline bluntworks

  • Philmusicus Noobitus
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oh yeah...
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2001, 01:13:17 AM »
p.s.:  hi all...just so you know, this article was originally written for and will be submitted to PULP Magazine, since it's the only mass-produced, written forum available for this sort of thing right now.  if you enjoyed what you read, please feel free to pass it around - the more people that are in on the game, the more fun for all...
God Bless!!!

Offline pinoymusika

  • Philmusicus Addictus
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Great stuff
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2001, 01:43:54 PM »
Hey Ian, this is pretty damn good - can we reprint this piece on Might get your ideas more exposure!;)