Rockestra: A fusion of band and orchestra music

DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda -
In the magnificent world of art where rules hardly exist and co-existence of paradoxes flies! Yes! In fact, fusions deemed avant garde or cutting edge are encouraged, even applauded. After all, how would art remain credible if disciples do not keep pushing the envelope so people continue to think, marvel then accept beyond what is? What is art without adventure?

This is the whole point of Rockestra, a concert slated tonight at the Folk Arts Theater that brings together today’s hottest bands and the Manila Symphony Orchestra. Although not a fresh tandem (their playing alongside each other doing the same songs), it happens once in a blue moon, and therefore, it’s much awaited.

Donna Lina, producer of the one-night affair, had to start working on this year’s Rockestra right after the first one staged last year which her fledgling company, Ube Media, also bankrolled. Since they only get top bands (in the line-up this year are The Dawn, Hale, 6Cyclemind, Itchyworms, Urbandub and Up Dharma Down), they had to be booked early.

"We just can’t settle on so-so bands because that would defeat the purpose," she says. "The whole point is to introduce the youth into appreciating orchestra music by casting it in a medium popular to them. The bands have to be big enough to persuade our market to at least give the whole thing a try."

Expectedly, the bands jumped at the idea. Why wouldn’t they when it’s not every day rebellious rock meets refined classical? These bands even lowered their fees and have been very cooperative attending the rehearsals.

"Which is the most important part of preparation," says Donna. "Unlike in rock shows where bands can just jam by, letting all out as they please at any point, here they have to work with an orchestra used to music being written down. Deviate from what’s on paper and everything collapses."

The orchestra, meanwhile, is learning about spontaneity and flexibility. In the two-and-half-hour show, the Manila Symphony Orchestra junks Bach, Mozart, Ravel, etc. for pop music. Why, they’d even dress the part by appearing on stage not in the usual starched coat and tie but in casual wear.

"It’s also a way for them to be in touch with today’s music," says Donna. "Who knows how many of them have only recently heard of The Dawn’s Salamat or Hale’s The Day You Said Goodnight?" Beneficiary of the show is The Philippine Research for Developing Instrumental Soloists (PREDIS), an organization which supports driven and talented kids and enables them to fulfill their potential as classical musicians.

"We’ve always prided ourselves to be top exporters of teachers and nurses abroad that we forget our musicians have been conquering foreign shores long before other professionals," says Donna. "Go to any club, bar, hotel in Bangkok, Europe, Hong Kong, wherever, and chances are, their top draws are Filipino musicians."

She also laments that though our musicians are world-class talents, the compensation they get here is, at best, laughable. Hence, her high regard for Prof. Toti Molina who brandishes baton when the Manila Symphony Orchestra is in session.

"He trained in the most prestigious music schools abroad but he chooses to stay here to help train budding classical musicians," says Donna. "But he can’t do it alone. He and the rest of our talents need our help."

And who would have thought a big chunk of the assistance would come from OPM’s rebel yells, our rock bands? The Dawn is one of the longest reigning rock bands in the scene. Led by multi-talented Jett Pangan, its unique sound bordering on New Wave has given us hits that define a generation including the group’s biggest Enveloped Ideas, Salamat and Iisang Bangka Tayo.

The hottest band to emerge from the rock scene last year was Hale. The band’s mixture of heartfelt emotions and melodious vocals have resulted in a Triple Platinum award for its debut album and spawned several smash hits like The Day You Said Goodnight, Kung Wala Ka and Broken Sonnet.

After releasing its debut album Permission To Shine a couple of years ago, 6cyclemind got its stride down pat last year with its second album that has been producing several chart-busters in succession and without let up. These alternative-pop crossover ditties are I, Sandalan and Trip Mo, Trip Ko.

Talk about witty lyrics and bouncy musical style and you’re probably talking about Itchyworms. The band’s biggest hit to date is its most recent, Akin Ka Na Lang. The song has won Itchyworms nominations and trophies from music award-giving bodies.

A good way to judge a band is by looking at how strong a following it has. Urbandub, with a genesis from Davao, can lay claim to such credibly. They’ve released three albums so far and with each subsequent album, they’ve managed to evolve into a tight ensemble also garnering attention from lovers of rock music in Manila.

Who has not heard of Up Dharma Down? I, for one, haven’t – but only because I don’t keep my ears to the ground. Those in the know in the underground music scene swear, however, that its fusion of jazz, rock, neo-soul and electronica is one of the best things to happen in the OPM scene in years. The band currently has a song on radio entitled Oo.

Now, think of its music recast orchestrally. See the picture? Can’t?

To hear is to believe.











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