Monday, April 11, 2005

Ocho-Ocho Na Naman!

I have a three-year old niece who happens to be very cute and cuddly. She is the quintessential bibo – blabbering about, biting people, sticking out her tongue to a crowd, endlessly repeating a favorite incomprehensible phrase and dancing to the tune of Chocoleit, Ocho-Ocho and Ispageti. What a stunning contrast to the chill out dance tunes I rave about for weeks on end! But boy is she great in mimicking the afternoon dancers as they dance the songs by Bayani Agbayani and the Sex Bomb Girls!

There seems to be a resurgence in Pinoy novelty songs lately – those funny gibberish songs meant to please and amuse people, particularly the masa, coupled with dance steps by girls in skimpy clothes and dance contests by Eat Bulaga or Wowowie. And the tradition of songs like such stretches further back, earlier than the Porkchop Duo and Yoyoy Villame’s Abutsikik. Novelty songs these days have been so popular and have gained so much airplay that Ocho-Ocho is more recognizable to the youth than any other traditional Filipino song, next, sadly, to the Philippine anthem, with matching body jerks!

There, then, goes the rub. I fully understand that one of the reasons of the resilience of the Pinoy spirit despite tremendous odds is our sense of humor and happiness and penchant for comedy, including all the Filipino values such as persistence and perseverance, inherent therein. But Ocho-ocho has pushed the threshold a little bit too far. A year after its release in the airwaves, it is still being danced on television with matching music video, played on the YES FM and Love Radio and even on school gatherings! And my niece, who’s only three years old, knows the steps already! This phenomena says a lot of the culture that the masses adhere to and cherish; the songs they sing and dance to, radio stations they listen to, and the kind of lives they all lead. And it is a stupefying experience. It is an addiction that makes the watch-your-car kid along Quezon Avenue happy whenever he sees someone dancing it. It makes the lolo and the lola(my parents) excited when they see my niece do the body jerks. It makes the passengers of an FX taxi tuned to Kailangan pa bang Imemorize Yan YES FM forget their troubles at work, if at all, they’re employed. It makes the audience of the urban poor barangay’s gay beauty pageant jeer with glee when the gay manikurista shakes his booty during the talent portion. The song is creating zombies out of the people, leaving them dumb in their enjoyment.

While it is true that no song can change the world, but Ocho-ocho and others are the new opium of the masses. It makes them forget the backwardness of their lives, the contradictions of their situation. It desensitizes them from feeling how deeply enmeshed they are in the quagmire of poverty and ignorance. A culture, then, that permits this is a culture without conscience, a way of life without meaning. It turns the people into drones detaching from them their capacity for intelligent social critique and struggle.

Who then stands to gain from a people seduced by an irresponsible popular culture? Who else but the reactionary ruling class, doing all means to quell the ever growing struggle of the people, from armed force to low-intensity conflicts such as penetrating the elements of mass culture. It is an elaborate schema. As they strangle the people in their misery, songs like such serve as the perennial morphine to take the pain away for a little while; as the people start rotting in their wretched conditions brought forth by the contradictions in the relations of production.

The makes them forget the conflicts in which their class has always been the exploited one. It makes them turn to short-term solutions to age-old problems such as joining the afternoon variety show contests for its daily prizes and entering charismatic groups to create a quasi-power center for the forever marginalized people. Though the song puts smiles on the faces of our impoverished people, it does not destroy the structures that rendered them ignorant and disempowered in the first place. Songs like these does not liberate the people from their chains. The kind of happiness they know now is too temporary and too transient.

It obliterates the urgency of struggle.

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