Underground, watch this space

UPDATED (25 September 2016): Overhauled this post.

It was in 2011 when a gig organizer told me in an interview about an organization called the UP Underground Music Community, whose gig series was initially meant to showcase bands from that group. It turns out that I had an encounter with some of their folk even before that, thanks largely to singer/songwriter nights when one or two of their members would play. But I did know a bit about Ang Bandang Shirley, one of their bigger acts.

During what I call the 2012 Research Intensive in Independent Music with music researcher Monika Schoop, I became aware of that generation of UP Underground members who would play a role in my life beyond music. There, I met some people whom I would consider inspirations and friends.

I cannot really claim to be an expert on who the UP Underground Music Community is, or what they are really about. I can only see the effects of the work they’ve fostered on me and on many others. However, I will speak about the three things they value as an organization, and how I have seen them lived out for myself.

The first is respect. It shows in how they acknowledge the diversity of each other’s music, interests, and personalities. It is clear in how they value time and make sure other people’s time is respected, especially in the way they organize their gigs.

As an excursus, I can surmise that the community, or at least some of them, are aware of the roles different people play in the music scene. As the literature notes, these roles are not only those of musicians and audiences. Their Shoot Lo-Fi competition incorporates the work of young filmmakers whose work has become vital in putting local music in newer contexts. And their extensive work as event and gig organizers puts them in another key place in any music scene.

Brotherhood, or to use a French word, fraternite, has to do with how they relate to each other within that community. The ties that form between different generations of members is noticeable. But I have also seen this as being a leaven for fostering camaraderie not only within their circles but also beyond, a force for making connections between people possible.

I placed music last because it is what stands out. Their relative diversity, given the resources to which they have access as musicians, is what has impressed me. From the indie pop sensibilities of Shirley, to the urban electronic work of Arigato, Hato, to the folk and new country-inspired sounds of Ourselves the Elves and The Sun Manager, and to many others I’ve seen or heard, they have been able to express some of their passions and stories, some of which resonate with my own.

As their anniversary approaches, I am grateful to them for being that place where I could see the nexus between art and friendship, as a force drawing people together. I was glad to visit UP Underground Music Community’s anniversary event last Saturday, 24 September 2016, and was once again reminded of how these values were lived out. It is my hope that they will continue to grow and thrive as their fifteenth full year begins.

One long footnote

I have been out of commission for a week so I must apologize for the lack of updates. But it did allow me some time to go back and look at what happened the last two weeks.

1. Perhaps Rina was on to something when she offered that tip about approaching art with more selectivity and reflective engagement, especially in big events like an art fair. One reflection that did get some circulation was from a visual artist who felt some unease about how people were treating the art at the last fair and what another, reposting to a social network, commented about a sense of the sacred that was slowly being lost while leaving the question of a cause for it open.

I have a very small circle of people who are concerned about such things–I mean, the loss of a sacred sense–and we tend to be interested in things like liturgy, mostly of the kind that has been around for centuries. Whenever such a topic comes up, I begin to understand why we are drawn, for example, to Western plainchant or the warm solemnity of a Coptic Eucharistic liturgy, or even Eastern Christian iconography. What these bear, between them, is the weight of a sense of the sacred that some cultures, including our urban one, need to rediscover. But this rediscovery might  come with a shift, perhaps a backlash, against abstraction for abstraction’s sake. Perhaps it might follow that art must, for it to be connected to a sense of the sacred, should be part of a common vocabulary that, as Gadamer suggests, must forge a sense of continuity with the past and a responsibility for the future. In short, a sense of tradition.

2. On a more practical note, I honestly wonder whether Art Fair Philippines should increase its entrance fees for next year to cover the costs of insurance against damage from visitors. I’d be willing to pay those fees now, and I think it may be necessary to help people understand that despite its commercial purpose, such an affair is distinguished by an explicit attention to quality which, in our current economic paradigm, requires a premium.

3. Meanwhile I must say that despite the challenges, doing a Fringe event with a very good group of people was better than I expected. Now for all the next steps…