Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Moro underground music Make love songs, not war

One of the vendors who keep Moro music alive
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 experiencing them.
Contemporary 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.
These music 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 chants.
The dance tunes, popular among the Muslim communities, are the pakiring, lulay and daling-daling. They’re sung by performers accompanied by an electronic organ and drums.
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 vernacular.
The kissa, 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.”

Although the 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.”
Julamri 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.”
Although he 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.”

Selling these cassette tapes may look like a breeze, but a longer process is involved.
“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.”
Julaidi’s 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.
Included in 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.
The Parang 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.
Kissa Kan 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.
However, those 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 Jalaidi.
More 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.
These chants 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.”?
Linda Bansil 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.
by Linda Bansil
Copyright 2006. All Rights Reserved
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