Filipina singer-songwriter Yeng Constantino is in Abu Dhabi this Friday as part of the ASAP Pinoy Champs tour at Du Forum. Tabloid caught up with the star following her whirlwind success of her latest album ‘Lapit’ to discuss the importance of originality in a culture increasingly obsessed with foreign covers and TV talent shows, a forum from which Constantino herself ironically emerged. Ahead of her fifth album out in January, on which Constantino has been working with Raimund Marasigan, the legendary vocalist of Sandwich and drummer of Eraseheads, Constantino had this to say about continuing the rich wave of original, urban and creative Filipino music in the face of popularist adversities.
Q. More musicians are emerging through TV talent shows in the Philippines. Is this killing traditional methods of getting into the industry?
A. No, actually TV talent shows gave the artists another venue to showcase their talents. For me methods don’t really matter, the real question is how far would you go to pursue your dreams? It’s really about the passion of the artist. You could achieve your dreams through the traditional method or try something new. For me, we are just like every artist who started from the bottom. And I am really glad that I am living my dream now. TV talent shows may have changed the music scene but I don’t think that it is a danger for originality. It’s really up to the artist to stand for what they want to impart to their listeners. As for me, I chose to write songs; others chose to sing remakes, but I respect them. But, I dream to see this generation produce good original music, I even say that to my self all the time: “Produce good music Yeng”. I want the next generation to listen to our music and say “that music era rocks”.
Q. How would you describe the Filipino music industry at present?
A. I think the music industry in the Philippines now is striving to go up. Maybe a little confused or torn from “taking a risk” through producing original music or “just be safe” through producing remake songs, but striving. I’m glad that we have people from the industry like Sir Ryan Cayabyab and Sir Raimund Marasigan who encourage us artists to just continue to write music. It really puts confidence in us that the seed that we are planting right now will reap a harvest someday. Actually I am going to the songwriters camp of Mr. Ryan Cayabyab. I admire Sir Ryan for initiating an event like this. I love that he uses his time to teach and impart his knowledge and talent to the young musicians like me.
Q. Does the wave of cover music also have a detrimental effect on originality? Is it healthy?
A. Of course it has a detrimental effect on originality. I think artists choose to cover/remake songs because they see that it is the one that works/sells. Imagine if artists would see that original music also works -- it’ll be like a virus, I think it’ll be healthy. And that’s what I chose to be. I commit myself on writing music hoping to inspire other musicians to jump into it and enjoy it.
Q. Is it illegal downloads that’s killing the industry more than the commercialisation of music?
A. What kills the industry is the division. We need unity. We need one heart. Though that is like a far-fetched dream, it’s still a good dream and worth fighting for. Unity in educating the musicians and the listeners that Original Filipino Music is awesome. If we believe it, then we must spread it.
Q. The Philippines has a rich culture of its own that goes hand-in-hand with colonial inspirations from America to Spain, but do you fear over-Westernisation?
A. Fear? No. Saddened, yes, I am saddened with the thought that it could happen. But as long as there are people who are fighting for their roots and know the worth of where they come from it will not prevail. Though I believe that the majority of the musicians are listening also to other nation’s music and that’s not bad. Influence is good, just do not lose who you really are.
Q. Is it important to sing in Tagalog and promote Filipino values over pandering to pop?
A. It’s important to sing in Tagalog and promote Filipino values and we could use pop music to spread that. I am also a pop artist and I do not see anything wrong about playing or writing pop songs. Actually it’s automatic to me when I write songs that’s just how it flows. And I love it. It’s easy to understand though other people say that my lyrics are deep. But I say it’s honest.