Philippine National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab during the Filipino community's tribute for him on Saturday night. Image Credit: Kabayan Kamera Klub

Dubai: Philippine National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab urged Filipino performing artists in the UAE during his visit last week to not just use music as a form of expression but to further hone their craft by actively taking part in music literacy programmes.

A multi-awarded composer and songwriter, Cayabyab was conferred with the National Artist for Music award by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts in October last year.

Cayabyab has penned countless classics, musicals, and even pop songs during his five stellar decades in the industry. Among the most popular ones is ‘Paraiso’ and ‘The Coconut Nut’, which was also featured in a viral video of an American men’s choir that performed the song on-board an Emirates flight in July 2017.

Cayabyab was in Dubai as part of the culmination of the 121st Philippine Independence Day (PID) celebrations. The Filipino community gave him a tribute on Saturday night through a concert titled MusikAwitan, a soiree of songs and saga. The invite-only event, jointly organised by EmiratesNBD and BDO Unibank, was also held to honour the nearly 500 volunteers who worked tirelessly at the recently concluded PID celebrations headed by Josie Conlu and Jason Roi Bucton.

The concert featured Cayabyab’s classics performed by Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes, Arne Lubasan, the Christian Voices Chorale and an orchestra of different nationalities.

Meanwhile, during his meetings and workshops with the Filipino community over the weekend, Cayabyab encouraged performing artists to join in his advocacy to “write better songs and create better melodies” through proper training. Filipinos are generally known to have “music in our blood” but it should not stop there. “What we are doing is arming the Filipino creative artist with tools. Meaning, we are now training them how to write better songs, how to create better melodies, better concepts, better ideas and music. That’s our aim and I am part of that movement,” Cayabyab said.

Arne Lubasan (second from left) and Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes performing Cayabyab's greatest hits with the Christian Voices Chorale. Image Credit: Supplied

“What we’re trying to do is to hopefully prove that performing artists will have better opportunities and a brighter future if they ... have the tools.”

Cayabyab said Filipinos need to change their mindset about music as just being a form of expression but seeing music as a creative industry and economic driver.

As for Cortes, he is optimistic that the community here will have more collaborations with Cayabyab in the future.

“We would like to inspire a movement of a Filipino people who is unafraid to express himself in whatever field of art there is — music, theatre, dance, song, photography, visual art and so on — so that they become active contributors to a humanity that continues to improve its heritage all for the betterment of their lives,” Cortes said.

A music aficionado and a singer himself, Cortes for the past four years has been building up the arts community with his wife Dr Yasmin by giving them platforms for their talents. One of them was the ‘Dubai Dubai Musikahan’, a songwriting competition in the UAE that was named after Cayabyab’s weekly musical show in the 80s-90s ‘Ryan Ryan Musikahan’.

Asked what his top tip for these songwriters in Dubai would be, he said: “For them to stand out, they have to write personal experiences, let’s say, being an OFW or their experiences which are very unique and very specifically talking about their locale.”