TO most residents of
Zamboanga City, the public market downtown is a place to buy food, barter goods
from Malaysia and dig through the ukay-ukay or thrift stores. Most do not know,
however, that the public market is also the home of fine musical treasures
deeply rooted in Tausug, Sama and Badjao cultures. While these ethnic groups’
literary traditions are usually found in books, music is a better way of
Moro music comes in three genres – love songs or ballads, dance music used
during weddings, graduation practices and other festivities, and the kissa
chants, which are narratives with historical, folkloric or religious themes that
often convey many life lessons.
compositions come in cassette tape format and are sold by vendors in the public
market for P35 each. The most saleable cassette tapes are the dance and kissa
tunes, popular among the Muslim communities, are the pakiring, lulay and
daling-daling. They’re sung by performers accompanied by an electronic organ and
And then there
are the love songs performed by Abdullah Daul (Sigaw ng Mindanao) Sidznie Band,
Sulaiman Group (Sigaw ng Zamboanga), to name a few. These are the favorite among
young Tausugs. Most of their songs are original compositions in the Tausug
meanwhile, “are like the stories of my ancestors,” says Wahab Abdullah, one of
four music vendors in the market. “It is accompanied by a gabbang or a biyula
(violin) instrument. People want to reminisce about the past; this provides them
with that kind of satisfaction.”
LANG PERO MAY DISCOUNT PA
tapes are affordable, Abdullah accommodates customers who ask for a discount. “I
give it for P30,” he says. He sells anywhere from “a few tapes” to “five to 10
tapes a day.”
He adds, “I do
this for a living. Also, this way we can let our children and grandchildren know
what famous stories of our time are.”
Jalaidi, another vendor, has been selling cassette tapes for 30 years now. “I
have been in this business since 1972 during martial law. Now I am old. When you
have not gone to school this is where you end up but as long as I have decent
work, I am happy.”
listens to kissa at home, “my grandchildren say that grandpa is making noise.”
Laughing, he adds, “They prefer to listen to the ‘Otso-Otso’ than this.”
BUYING THE RIGHTS TO THE MUSIC, DIY
cassette tapes may look like a breeze, but a longer process is
“I buy an
original tape from the musicians for P5,000 to P10,000 each, mostly by those who
are famous among our people and in demand,” Julaida explains. “After that, I buy
blank tapes and I re-record the work. Then, I xerox the original cover, cut them
to fit in the jacket and shade them with various colors. The color helps a lot
to make the cover attractive. When there is no color people hesitate to buy
because it lacks appeal. I color the cassette covers one by one. I don’t get
tired doing that.”
repertoire of kissa classics includes legends that trace back to the Spanish,
Japanese and American periods. He also has one about Martial Law, which he says
was banned before because it lifted the morale of the Bangsamoro mujaheedins
while it denigrated government soldiers in their battles.
ABOUT TRAGIC LOVE, MARTIAL LAW AND THE MNLF
his collection, too, is one of the Parang Sabil Kissa, which he says means sword
of honor. This is a tragic story about a foreigner taking a woman away as the
victimized man avenges the loss and kills himself in the end.
Sabil Kissa also narrates the Tausugs’ fight for freedom and independence from
foreign invaders. There is a kissa about the battle of Bud Dajo, a story rarely
found in historical writings but which can be relived by any willing listener
who owns a cassette player.
Anang sa Liya Iban in Ismael Budja is a story of lovers who lived apart because
the mother of the man did not favor the woman. The man died of loneliness in his
heart. There are many kissa about tragic love.
about religion are regarded as the best. The most popular are Niawa iban Jasad
(Adam and Eve and the story of Creation), the Ten Commandments, and the story of
Prophet Abraham’s sacrifice. The covers of religious kissa are dominated by
shades of green, applied patiently and devotedly by music sellers like
contemporary kissas are those about Martial Law, the exploits of the Moro
National Liberation Front leader Nur Misuari and Rizal Alih’s battle in Camp
Cawa-Cawa, Boulevard 17 years ago.
VENDORS KEEP MORO CULTURAL HERITAGE ALIVE
embody the rich oral traditions of the Tausug’s, Sama’s and Badjao’s historical
experiences with singers immortalizing the unforgettable moments of their common
past. The rugged, backyard music entrepreneurs play a big role in keeping this
cultural heritage alive, a source of pride and respect that, in a way, has to
compete with globalized Western culture.
So, while the
cassette format is accessible to most, it faces the danger of extinction by the
advent of new and better music technology like MP3s.
Jalaidi is not
bothered. “As long as people will want to listen to Tausug music, my business is
here to stay.”?
is a journalist in Zamboanga. Her story originally appeared in Peace Works, a
publication of Peace Advocates Zamboanga or PAZ, the interreligious arm of the
Archdiocese of Zamboanga.
Contact PAZ at
2/F San Luis & Sona Bldg., San Jose Road, Zamboanga Cit, Philippines.
Telefax (63.62) 992.3086.