Local goes global as Chilean-born Juan Muñoz , a senior lecturer in music at Rhodes University, and Grahamstown-based pianist Mariel Ilusorio present a programme of works for solo piano, voice and violin.
Music of the Philippines is the third instalment of the “Juan, Mariel and Friends” series which initiates projects to keep classical music alive.
“What I feel people know about the Philippines is too little and what they do know doesn’t touch on Filipino music,” Ilusorio says.
“I feel one can get a good taste of a particular culture by listening to their music. This tells more about the character of the people, the way they express themselves, their creativity, and how they develop their potential. I want to share this music with non-Filipinos so they can learn more about our culture, and also to have the music performed by non- Filipinos is a thrilling experience,” she continues.
Ilusorio’s interest in the Philippines in particular is un¬surprising. “I was born in the Philippines and though I left at the early age of 14 to study abroad, I am strongly rooted in the Filipino culture. I was also able to do outreach concert tours of the country which made me learn more about where I am from,” she says.
Ilusorio uses her heritage to inform her musical career. “As a musician living abroad, I include Filipino pieces in my programme whenever I can. Focusing on music from the Philippines is therapeutic in the way that it makes me experience my roots more as I explore the repertoire.”
Ilusorio will certainly be feeling rather restored after this year’s fully Philippine performance.
Audiences can look forward to music with diverse influences that still “comes straight from the heart”.
“Philippine music is quite varied,” Ilusorio says. “Being very far from the West and with limited resources, there are limitations to the training the people have received.”
However, Ilusorio says: “You will hear influ¬ences from the great Romantic composers, oriental sounds, use of many folk tunes. The people are extremely romantic, emotional and sentimental and this is reflected in much of the music. People also love kuwentos (stories), and much of Philippine music is program¬matic. What they have produced is a reflection of both their times and their struggles.”
Ilusorio says that this emotional connection to music is endemic to a large portion of the population: “Filipinos were born with song and dance in their blood, most of them anyway.
They are natural enter¬tainers and love to communicate. Especially those coming from the countryside grow up with a strong tradition of folk music. I have witnessed how naturally musically talented the Filipinos are in music competitions in the Philippines, where I saw how far the students could come with very limited re¬sources. Filipino entertainers work in all parts of the world.”
And now South Africa is for¬tunate to play host to these or¬ganic orchestrations. The recital is partially funded by the Embassy of the Philippines and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
“The proposal for our project came directly from the Philippine Embassy. I believe this helped secure a place at the Main Programme, which we are very honoured to be a part of,” Ilusorio says. “Since I first came to South Africa in 2004, the Philippine Ambassador to South Africa (Virgilio Reyes Jnr) has been most supportive in organising con¬certs and giving me opportunities to share my art. He invited me and my husband to perform a concert for peace in Pretoria last year, and then suggested the Philippines could have a place at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival.”
Ilusorio describes Reyes as “a strong advocate of the arts” who has been to the Festival many times. “We thought it would be great to invite South African singers to sing Filipino songs,” she says.
Unfortunately, the Ambassador was forced to dash back to the Philippines, and was unavailable to contribute his own sentiments of enthusiasm this time.
The Embassy of the Philippines has also sponsored an overview of Philippine cinema on the Main Film programme. Guest script¬writer Clodualdo del Mundo Jnr, writer of Lino Brocka’s classic 1974 production Manila in the Claws of Darkness, introduced the seven screenings, the last of which will be shown today.
Foster Child (2007) portrays a day in the life of a woman who lives in a Manila slum where she cares for abandoned children.
She and her family prepare for the adoption of young John-John by wealthy Americans staying in a luxury city hotel; the meeting between the foster mother and the parents-to-be is fraught with searing emotions.
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