By Ace Gangoso
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post honoring the start of Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Chamber Music Month. Today, I offer another blog entry as we find ourselves at month’s end. First, some exciting news: composer Lori Laitman’s newest album was released through Acis Productions this week, which features the quartet with Andrew Rosenblum and Maria Sumareva performing Are Women People? It is available to purchase, stream and download, and you will find more information at https://lorilaitman/hearnow.com.
I mentioned in my last post that kundiman songs of the Philippines are typically written to appear as songs of love and courtship while also carrying subtle undertones of Filipino pride in the face of Spanish colonization. The song “Bayan Ko” (My Country) is a bit of an exception in that its references are anything but subtle. In the opening line, the Philippines is called by name and is then likened to a bird in a cage longing to fly freely.
The song was written by Constancio de Guzman in 1929, over 30 years after the Spanish-American War which marked the end of Spain’s three-century-long occupation of the islands. While this may sound like a great triumph, this was ultimately a shady deal involving a staged “battle” in Manila where the Spanish agreed to transfer power to the US while totally excluding Philippine revolutionaries. Despite uprisings against further occupation, the US asserted and maintained their power by force. The Philippines would finally be granted independence in 1946, but not before going through another period of occupation by Japan during World War II.
The weight of this history still lingers today. You may sense the persistent heaviness present in these very pointed lyrics as well as the music, even after it modulates from D minor to D major. What begins as a lament becomes more and more martial, sounding just how one might expect a patriotic song to sound. Many consider “Bayan Ko” the second national anthem, and it continues to be used as a protest song in rallies and demonstrations. It is a song of immense pain and struggle, but also one of great hope and indomitable spirit.
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!
Hello, and welcome to the blog! We are Fourth Coast Ensemble, Chicago's classical vocal quartet. Join a different member of our ensemble each week for insights into our favorite art songs, links to archival and new recordings, and reflections on why we value and continue to come back to this musical medium. We proudly present, your weekly #artsongfix!