Sunday, June 23, 2013

JOEY AYALA’S SOCIAL ARTISTRY (Second of four parts) (June 10, 2013)

Joey Ayala (right) with his mom, poet Tita Lacambra Ayala, whose book Tala Mundi won in the last National Book Awards for Poetry in English

Vim Nadera: Did your artist parents encourage to love art?
Joey Ayala: Not really. They just let me be, and left things lying around (typewriter, paper, things to read), and did nothing to prevent my explorations. I think this was a fine, non-invasive sort of natural encouragement.

VN: Why did you take up Economics in college?
JA: Upon my father's advice. I wanted to do Music but there was no such course in Ateneo de Davao in the 70s. He said I was already a writer and already a musician so I didn't have to study those. He asked "what was your lowest grade in high school?" and that happened to be Economics. "So, study that!" he said.

VN: How did that influence your music?
JA: I think it was more my thinking and lyric-writing rather than the music per se that was influenced. I became more aware of systems, how parts of them interact, how their limits and sensitivities to everything.

VN: How did the “Joey Ayala Sound” evolve?
JA: The wide range of music I was exposed to in childhood PLUS exposure to real live Mindanao musicians during college days = the Joey Ayala sound.

VN: How did the environment in general, or ethnolinguistic groups, get into your system?
JA: “Environment” was always there. As a child I played in it. I spent hours up in trees. Hours playing with insects. This was my playground. So when I started writing songs my attention was quite naturally “nature”. Ethnolinguistic groups – when I first met and listened to Mindanao musicians (agong, kubing, hegalong, kulintang, etc.) my thinking was “how come we know so much foreign music and practically nothing about living virtuosi in our own country?” I felt this overwhelming desire to change this situation.

VN: Now that you are based in Metro Manila, did you notice the change in your music? Or is it unconscious?
JA: My move to Manila was like leaving the production place (Davao) and camping out in the marketplace where what was produced was now to be sold. In 1991 I thought I would stay in Manila only two years. Turns out cash flow is not easy to leave behind. How has this affected my songwriting? I spend more energy attending to performing than when I was in Davao. I’ve written a lot less here in Manila where there is more external and psychological noise. I’ve also learned to write upon the request of clients. In Davao the motivation was always internal.

VN: What is Organik Muzik?
JA: I became the chairperson of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ music committee in 2008. Organik Muzik was the title of our committee’s contribution to the annual celebration of National Arts Month (Ani ng Sining).

The general idea was to feature musical tradition and fusion “organic music” – on the same stage. You were part of the Manila leg of the first Organik Muzik. If you remember, one of the main sections was the Balagtasan meets Rap – with you as Lakandiwa as well as the mambabalagtas Teo Antonio and Mike Coroza in a poetic joust against Shielbert Manuel and other Tribu rappers from Tondo!

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