Written by Sam Jacoba
for Yahoo! Southeast Asia
The 1st Elements National Songwriting Camp was overflowing with the talent of its campers—up-and-coming songwriters, established artists, and music industry stalwarts. The event, which was organized by 7101 Music Nation, allowed 60 participants to talk shop with some of the music industry’s most respected players, who served as their mentors.
The mentors did not just commune with the campers, but they jammed the night away night after night in the camp.
Then again, the star of the five-day event, which was held from November 14 to 18, was not any of the celebrated artists who flew in to share their expertise. The spotlight was on music itself.
The campers discussed the crucial role of songwriters in using music to shape people, culture, and the country as a whole.
“Music is the purest expression of our mind and soul, and it was never meant to be kept to ourselves,” said singer-songwriter Gary Valenciano. “Songwriters always say something and we want people to listen to what we say.”
The greatest challenge for today’s songwriters is to be heard. It’s still a problem—even with radio, TV, as well as the added creative platforms on the Net, the ubiquity of the iPod, and cell phones that can play music.
“Songwriters should not be worried about being heard or not. It took me several years to go mainstream,” said Noel Cabangon. “At 45, I have become a pop artist.” Cabangon’s “Mabuting Pilipino,” written in 1997, became one of the “anthems” of President Noynoy Aquino when he campaigned last May.
“More than ninety percent of the songs that I write won’t be heard. I do not write for commercial purposes,” shared Gary Granada, who delivered one of the most moving presentations in the camp.
Granada also encouraged the campers to write music with a passion. “You cannot write something that you don’t know anything about. Be a subject matter expert in things that you write,” he said.
Granada’s statement was echoed by Jim Paredes who encouraged campers to rise above the rest by mastering their craft. He emphasized: “Good artistry is an elite experience. You should be a cut above the rest. Turning ordinary into extraordinary is what it’s all about.”
Jun Sy, CEO of 7101 Music Nation, can certainly attest that music can change lives. “If music can change a person, specifically, entrepreneurs like me, then I believe that music can change a nation,” he said. He then revealed that John Lennon’s “Imagine” was one of the songs that inspired him and has influenced how he manages TAO Corporation, the mother firm of 7101 Music Nation.
Sy envisioned the camp together with composer Ryan Cayabyab, and 7101 Music Nation COO Twinky Lagdameo. Their goal was to create platforms that would bring together Filipino songwriters, musicians, and artists from various genres or disciplines to celebrate the country’s musical diversity.
To stimulate collaborative work, campers were divided into 12 groups. Each group was tasked to come up with one song that would be presented in the camp. Three of the songs were reportedly signed up by MCA Music Inc. and Star Records.
MCA Music Inc. general manager Ricky Ilacad encouraged the campers to continue writing music. He also gave them tips on how to create hits. “The important thing is for you to keep on writing songs. Your song will be a hit with the right timing. Consumers have certain moods, and these moods follow a certain cycle, and it could be months or years for your songs to become a hit,” he said.
For his part, Joey Ayala told the campers to break new grounds and to take risks. “Expose yourself to the possibilities of doing something great by always pushing it. The major, major things that happen in your lives are all black swans,” he said, referring to ultra rare occurrences of runaway breakthroughs.
The event also highlighted the concerns of the music industry.
Angeli Valenciano, president of Manila Genesis Entertainment & Management, Inc., stated that “the respect for music” should be brought back first. “Why do we allow those who cannot carry a tune to sing on TV?” she asked. She said that the whole education system should also be improved end-to-end specifically for music to progress and prosper. She also discussed the possibility of establishing a radio station dedicated to Filipino music.
Rico Blanco, on the other hand, said, “The major TV and radio networks should become proactive partners of the OPM industry.” He added that media people should help build a positive image of local musicians. He then reiterated the need to eliminate piracy.
Debbie Gaite, general manager of the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Inc. (Filscap), explained the importance of managing their copyright. She related, “Freddie Aguilar wrote ‘Anak,’ but he did not know that he already have given its copyright to a record label, so even he was restricted from using it.”
Gaite revealed that the publishing rights fees Filscap collected for its members has been growing consistently since 2005. Gaite expects Filscap revenues to hit P83M in 2011.
“We are very satisfied with the results of the camp,” said Cayabyab. “We selected mentors whom we believe will be selfless and share their experiences. What we did not anticipate is how the mentors have affected each other through their sharing.”
Sy sees the camp evolving into a music festival that will begin an unprecedented music movement, not just in Dumaguete, but the whole country.
Camper Bullet Dumas, who was encouraged by his girlfriend to join the qualifying stage for the camp, shared how the camp has strengthened his dream to write music. Similarly, Dani Zamar, who hails from Dumaguete and was encouraged by her parents to try out for the camp, has resolved to further hone her music skills. Already a registered nurse, Zamar is now a music freshman at Silliman University.
“The camp did not just impact the campers but the mentors as well,” revealed Ebe Dancel, lead singer of Sugarfree. This sentiment was also shared by the other mentors such as Top Suzara, Chito Miranda, Gabby Alipe, Yael Yuzon, Jay Durias, and Rico Blanco, among others. “The goal is always to write good songs,” Dancel added. “My passion for song writing was reignited by this event.”
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