the tempest over the national anthem in the wake of martin nievera’s relatively radical version is no small teacup thing. this is one question that every pinoy who grew up memorizing and singing lupang hinirang feels qualified to weigh in on. and i dare say that pinoys who hated it that martin played around with the beat and the endnotes outnumber pinoys who didn’t mind at all, whether they liked martin’s arrangement and/or rendition or not.
If only Martin Nievera listened to the advice of maestro Ryan Cayabyab, he would not be embroiled in national controversy.
The renowned musician said here that he warned Nievera not to change the melody of the National Anthem at the opening of Sunday’s Pacquiao-Hatton bout in Las Vegas.
“Martin, papatayin ka ng tao. Huwag mong papalitan yung huling part kasi delikado ka. (Martin, you will be crucified for that. Don’t change the last part or you’ll be in trouble),” Cayabyab recalled telling Nievera.
He said Nievera sent him a copy of his nontraditional rendition of the Lupang Hinirang five days before the fight.
Cayabyab, who’s fondly called by his friends and singers as Mr C, said that the country’s concert king first confided to him about his plan to jazz up the national anthem during ASAP, ABS-CBN’s Sunday noontime variety show.
He urged Nievera to sing Lupang Hinirang the regular way because other Filipinos would join him in singing.
Nievera, however, told Cayabyab that he would push through with his plan because he’s “doing it for the country.”
Still, Cayabyab insisted that he should not change the last part.
… Cayabyab said he would be open to join the debate on how the National Anthem be sung.
“As a musician, I will stick to the original because that is how the composer meant it to be,” he said.
the latest news is that martin has sort of apologized in the face of very negative feedback from the national historical institute and the threat of criminal charges being filed against him by a cavite congressman for violation of Republic Act 8491, or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.
“I do apologize only to the people afraid of progress and change, of course, the lawmakers and to whomever took offense to my interpretation of probably the most beautiful song I’ve ever come across,” Nievera said in a text message.
fighting words, for an apology. i suppose because martin has powerful backers from the palace right all the way to the partylist left, who are even hoping to amend the law to allow for freedom of expression and artistic license. big mistake.
bottom line the question is: do we hew to the traditional, the original, the classic, or do we bow to the the new, the fresh, the modern, the cool.
now i’m usually all for creativity and change, improvisation, breaking out of patterns, but in the matter of the national anthem i am all for the old-fashioned way. i am all for hewing to the traditional, the original, specially on big occasions here and abroad. because pinoys in the audience will be singing along. whether quietly or out loud we will be singing along, we will want to sing along, and there can be no singing along if singers are allowed to sing it any “creative” way they please. there can be no getting into the spirit of the anthem when the beat is unfamiliar, the phrasing unusual, the notes unpredictable, the singer self-indulgent.
Our anthem is march music borne out of a revolutionary struggle. It is the spirit of the anthem. Felipe composed the music as a march, commissioned by Emilio Aguinaldo for the proclamation of the Kawit Republic on June 12, 1898. It was originally titled “Marcha Filipina Magdalo,” and was first played by the San Francisco de Malabon Band. It was composed to fire up revolutionary spirit and resistance, to fight against all odds as the Kawit republic struggled for its life.
…Nievera said he was told by many, including Pacquiao, “not to sing it slow.” They wanted him “to sing it like a march, the way it was written.” Ignoring those warnings, Nievera interpreted the song the way he understood it. He said that “from the deepest part of my heart I sang for my country.” He explained that he tried “to inspire a nation-which was all I tried to do.”
Many Filipinos did not like what they heard. Many believed his tampering with or distortion of the arrangement of Felipe robbed the anthem of its martial context. The revolutionary spirit was lost in the alteration. It sounded as if the music was composed in a milieu of peace and tranquility when in reality it was composed amid one of the most turbulent periods of the Filipino people’s struggle for independence and national sovereignty. The period was the end of the Spanish empire and the advent of another colonial rule by the expansionist, imperial America.
Nievera’s explanations do not justify his alterations. Singers without a sense of history, who sing for their pleasure, strip historic musical themes of their meaning.
martin also said, to justify those radical end-notes:
“I have watched many of Manny’s fights, and whenever the national anthem is sung, I could never hear the most important line, ‘Ang mamatay nang dahil sa ‘yo (To die for you)!’ So I elected to end the song big, [the better to] be heard over the usual screams and boos, and … get the final message of the song across.”
hmm. how was the anthem sung ba in previous pacquiao fights. di ba’t iniba-iba rin ang interpretation every time? di ba’t iniangal ng nhi every time dahil hindi ayon sa orihinal? next time pacquiao should invite a singer who has nothing to prove except the ability to lead filipinos in song. with pacquiao’s pinoys singing along, i have no doubt that that most important line will resound for all the world, and martin, to hear.