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Can P-Pop become the next K-Pop?

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 21, 2021 4:00 pm

Do you have a unique Filipino song to sing? Do you play an indigenous instrument, or have a knack for mashing up musical styles? Kanto Canta might be for you.

This is the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ open online band competition, a vehicle to discover grassroots talent from all over the Philippines.

Accepting submissions until March 20, the contest is the first part of a larger CCP initiative, Kanto Kultura, a brainchild of CCP Board of Trustees’ Nikki Junia, Stanley Seludo and Dr. Jaime Laya with the support of CCP president Arsenio J. Lizaso, meant to celebrate and cultivate Filipino artistic talent nationwide in all fields, in a way that safely meets the challenges of our home-based ECQ lives.

 CCP board chairwoman Margie Moran-Floirendo (top-left), CCP trustees Nikki Junia and Stanley Seludo, and CCP information officer Michele Logarta launched Kanto Kultura, along with CCP president Arsenio Lizaso (not shown).

As Lizaso puts it, Kanto Kultura “seeks to encourage Filipino talents to create artistic content that showcases innovation and creativity, providing avenues for artistic expression in music, broadcast, film, literature, theater, dance and visual arts.”

It begins with an online music competition, Kanto Canta, to reach young “amateur Filipino talents” from far-flung regions of the country.

The goal: be as creative and innovative as you can. Express the Filipino identity as vibrantly as possible. Because the global stage awaits. Just look at what Korea did.

“Through Kanto Canta, we hope to discover our Pinoy sound that can parallel the phenomenon of K-pop,” says Junia, though clarifying it doesn’t mean they hope to “emulate” Korea’s method or sound — just its huge, worldwide success. 

 Local R&B band BRWN performing their battlecry song, Bangon!

Acknowledging that the Korean government played a big role in nurturing a factory system to develop popular pop acts for a global stage, “We at CCP, in our miniscule capacity, would like to jump-start this journey through Kanto Kultura,” she says.

First stop is Kanto Canta, in which fledgling Pinoy musicians are challenged to develop new songs, integrating indigenous musical instruments, and present their compositions in homegrown videos they can upload for entry. “The sound may be a blend of old and new, or even a fusion of different musical genres,” says Junia.

Kanto Canta could be a “stepping stone” in finding something as uniquely Pinoy as the K-pop phenomena was for South Korea. Call it “P-Pop.” Musician Seludo says it aims to discover “grassroots talents” and launch them, hopefully, to the global stage.

With the cessation of live performances during the pandemic, the project provides opportunities to showcase amateur talents, unsigned artists and the like amid a highly competitive digital space.

Here are the contest mechanics:

  • Submission period for this first contest is Feb. 20 to March 20, 2021.
  • Participants must be native Filipino, 18 years old or above, with no existing professional or commercial entertainment contracts; either solo or up to seven-member groups, with live instrumentation on the video (no minus one!).
  • Must enter an original song written in Filipino or other native Philippine language, or mixture of both.
  • Song must integrate at least one indigenous instrument (examples: gamelan, gabbang, agung, kulitang, tongali, bandurria, octavina, etc.)
  • Entries must contain a music performance video shot in any Pinoy “kanto” (area) with a minimum video quality of 720MP. Videos will be uploaded to a designated YouTube page.
  • Top 15 finalists will be awarded prizes “worth P150,000” (the specifics of how this breaks down among finalists was not announced), possible publishing contracts and “local and international opportunities with the CCP.” Announcement of initial quarter-finalists will be April 3.

The kind of mash-up Kanto Canta might have in mind was featured in a video by the band BRWN, who performed the song Bangon! integrating a gabbang (wooden xylophone) into the sound, as well as the Philippine Harmonic Orchestra.

It was shot inside the CCP Main Theater, with barongs supplied by Bench and designer Joey Samson — though, of course, our “grassroots talents” will have to settle for whatever locale is available nearby for their shoot.

Kanto Canta could be a 'stepping stone' in finding something as uniquely Pinoy as the K-pop phenomena was for South Korea.

Junia and Seludo acknowledged it also might be a challenge for young musical talents to get hold of indigenous instruments, given lack of funds — but they’re widely available in markets around the country, and Filipinos are known for innovative solutions. (Seludo noted the entrants can even “sample” native instruments for use in the song, but it would have to be played live for performances.)

Most importantly, Junia, Seludo, president Lizaso and CCP board chairwoman Margie Moran-Floirendo emphasize that Kanto Canta is to be a journey of discovery, hopefully educating the young generation about the richness of Filipino culture, however creatively they choose to express it.

“The Philippine population has an average age of 25, most of them born after 1995,” notes Junia. “Unfortunately, that has given them limited appreciation of symphonies, ballets, operas and folk dances and kundimans.” They’re more familiar with Netflix and milk tea.

At the same time, COVID-19 has forced more digital methods to enlist the interest — and talent — of young people. Kanto Canta is a response to that — an opening salvo in the challenge to bring young Pinoys onboard to local culture.

Says Moran-Floirendo: “We’re looking for something authentically Filipino, yet contemporary and modern, which will bring us to the next level, nationally and internationally.” If anybody can achieve that, it’s the untapped Filipino talent out there, waiting to be discovered.

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Visit or other social media pages, @kantokultura, contact the CCP Marketing Department at (02) 8832-1125 local 1409/1800 or email ([email protected]) for inquiries and more information about Kanto Canta guidelines and Kanto Kultura.