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Who killed OPM?

Or is it dead? It is time to talk about the current state of our country’s music industry

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By Terence Repelente

We hear and read it everywhere—posted all over Twitter and Facebook, within the comment section of Eraserheads music videos on Youtube, and randomly in the middle of conversations with friends over beer. While some steadfastly disagree, many seem to have been resigned to it—Original Pilipino Music (OPM) is dead.

But almost all of the industry’s established artists like Chito Miranda, Rico Blanco, Jay Contreras, Kitchie Nadal, and even Noel Cabangon will say otherwise. With fervor, they’ll tell you “OPM is not dead, it’s very much alive.”

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 Technological Advancement

We don’t listen to music like we used to anymore or, should I say, we don’t consume music like we used to anymore. If what they mean by the death of OPM is its disappearance on the FM radio and the evident drop of CD sales then yes, OPM, as a nostalgic piece of cultural medium, is dead. The number one suspect—technology.

Music, along with other cultural practices, has evolved in medium and moved through various platforms in a series of economic transformation. OPM has survived this transformation.

While we no longer see long lines of fans outside record stores, we are now witnessing local artists getting hundreds and thousands of views on their Youtube channels, Facebook videos, Spotify playlists, and Soundcloud accounts. The CD sales have shifted to online purchases on iTunes and Bandcamp. We live in a fast and downloadable world—the age of the Internet. And OPM’s adaptation to our current medium further proves it’s still around morphing into the new world.

 Musical Imperialism

Our biggest mistake as enthustasts of the local music scene is pitting mainstream and independent O`M against each other. While both have wide differences in sound, content, and audience, they have one thing in common—their foreign competitors.

Remember when Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” became our national anthem? Or the brief time when you would hear PSY’s “Gangnam Style” at almost all of the parties you’ve attended? These are only few examples of why foreign music is one of the reasons for the claimed demise of OPM. There’s nothing wrong with listening to international sounds. Everybody does it—even the illustrious Eraserheads got some of their early inspirations from the English rock band The Beatles. But our country’s extreme obsession with foreign music is gravely alarming. It is undeniably a monolithic enemy that devours OPM and makes it even harder for local artists to reestablish themselves in the scene. It’s fairly easy to say that OPM is dead when all you listen to is Korean pop music or some European boyband.

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 Rising Talents

Whenever I hear someone say “OPM is dead,” I ask them if they’ve ever spent a night at Route 196, Saguijo, ‘70s Bistro, 19 East, or B-Side, if they’ve attended any musical festivals featuring Filipino bands and artists, or if they’ve watched local singing contests such as The Voice Philippines. OPM is not dead; it is flourishing. The rise of talented artists of different genres, both mainstream and independent, is a monumental testament to this.

Every Filipino should know the electrifying feeling of listening to alternative rock band Autotelic live and dance to all the upbeat electronic songs in their enticing Papunta Pabalik album.

Ang Bandang Shirley is probably the biggest Filipino band you haven’t heard of. They teach you how to fall in love and, at the same time, break your heart with their intimate and nostalgic anthems. If you haven’t yet heard their iconic song “Nakauwi Na” you’re really missing out.

With his critically acclaimed debut album Gatilyo, rapper BLKD offers a different and strong taste of rap music. His subversive messages delivered through clever lyricism is a reflection to the country’s societal crises such as corruption and landlessness.

Who doesn’t know the lyrics to SUD’s recent hit “Sila”? It’s impossible not to sing along when this alternative soul band plays that song. Their passionate and soulful music will absolutely make you sweat. Sing it with me, “Walang sagot sa tanong kung bakit ka mahalaga.”

A bright and promising rising star striding in the mainstream, Iñigo Pascual takes a slightly different route from his father, Piolo. Iñigo is making a name through his original songs that are infused with catchy lyrics, cheerful tunes, and romantic concepts.

Oh, Flamingo! takes you on an endless summer craze with their one-of-a-kind vibe. A combination of the familiar and the oddly unfamiliar, their music is armed with melodic hooks and an idiosyncratic approach to songwriting.

December Avenue’s fresh and soothing music will pull you into a world of alternative indie rock. Each guitar strum and drum beat—in tune with its vocalist’s unique voice and songwriting—lets you rest on its sides and drive you into your own sound haven.

TJ Monterde serenades his audience with his heartwarming voice and relatable songs that express both the pain and pleasure of love. Known as the new acoustic pop balladeer, TJ changes the game by combining his soulful voice and incredible guitar playing with immersive storytelling.

Hip and feisty, BP Valenzuela, is OPM’s own aesthetic of local independent electronic pop genre. Best known by her self-produced, homespun synth-pop music and firm stand against sexism, BP embodies a Millennial’s artistic taste through her dreamy music videos.

Certainly, the industry has no shortage of talent. What it lacks is support and attention. OPM is only dead when we ignore it.

And this is where it needs us. OPM needs our ears to hear their songs, our bodies to be present at their gigs and concerts, and our involvement to tell other Filipinos about their new albums and singles.

Local music is waiting for you to hear its beautiful tunes and lyrics. They’re probably inside a bar steps away from your home, on a music website or application just clicks away, or in a singing contest on television one channel away.

OPM lives on.

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