Monday, January 16, 2006

I'm an ordinary guy, burning down the house

Former Talking Heads front man David Byrne has very interesting stories about his recent visit to Manila, in preparation for an Imelda musical on which he is currently working. I always find it very fascinating to read foreigner accounts of Philippine culture, especially one as intelligent as Byrne's. And this wasn't just some tourist talking about (to quote Madame herself) "the true, the good, and the beautiful"; Byrne bikes around Binondo, finds himself in a brothel in Laoaog, and visits Imelda's shrine in Leyte.

Being a musician, Byrne notes the ubiquity of karaoke in Philippine life, and even notes:

TVK/Video karaoke clubs are everywhere and come in all shapes and for all incomes. Maybe it’s a way for everyone to sing — singing is therapeutic and fun to do, I know this from experience even though I was a party pooper at the karaoke club. They sing western pop songs here — and some Filipino pop songs too, many of which are in English. Singing western pop songs here is not like singing a foreign song — western pop, especially U.S. pop, was such a part of Filipino culture that they feel it is their own. And it is, in a way. Who can own the experience you have when you hear a song?

There’s even a karaoke TV channel. Endless cheap corny videos with music playing and scrolling lyrics. You can stay at home and sing along with your television. Like some kind of radical conceptual art piece — but super popular.

My favorite part was when he goes to a karaoke party with a friend, and someone keys in "Burning Down the House" expecting him to sing, but he doesn't. That would have been too much, I guess.

He also has some very nice words for the showbands plying their trade along Baywalk:

As rumored, the bands are all surprisingly good — if by good you mean amazingly faithful in their ability to reproduce well known songs. The singing and playing is uniformly competent and professional, though of course unoriginal, which is by design. One man sings on a little stage with glowing plastic Santas on either side of him. I wonder if I should reconsider using one of these bands or these singers for HLL (Here Lies Love, his Imelda project)?



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