Then and Now

The musical landscape has changed, but the term OPM has endured

In over four decades, the fluid territory defined by OPM (Original Pilipino Music) has expanded. While OPM was dominated by rock, folk, and ballad music in the 1970s, it now also encompasses jazz, ska, R&B, rap, dance, and novelty music. And while rock has waned in North America and Europe, it continues to be strong locally.  

OPM was once known as music composed locally but the Filipino diaspora has created OPM roots outside the country. OFW Rolly Amaranto released his album “Awit Abroad” in 2001 and last year, another OFW Reymar Cascara earned a slot in a local music festival, “A Song of Praise,” for his composition. Canada-based Elise Estrada and Los Angeles-based Low Leaf have released songs that have attracted critical attention. 

Japh Dolls, a 5-member group of half-Japanese, half-Pinoy girls established in 2017 sing their songs in both Tagalog and Japanese and set their music videos in both countries. Other ‘Japinoy’ girl groups (Unione, Bananalemon) are also active. One Pinoy singer in Jakarta whose name escapes me sings both Filipino and Bahasa versions of his songs.

Although OPM is still dominated by songs in Tagalog and English, regional languages have made recent inroads. Karencitta is a Cebuano rapper. Jerika Teodorico is popularizing Visayan pop. Tres Marias is popularizing Ilocano songs. Enrique Gil has used Chavacano in his dance songs. Davey Langit’s rap song “Idjay” is sung in Ilocano and Tagalog.

Finally, ethnic sounds are being incorporated in mainstream OPM. Joey Ayala blazed this trail. Rivermaya’s “Awit ng Kabataaan” and Imago’s “Rainsong” also did this. More recently, Daluyong, a six-piece band from UP and St. Benilde, was organized to spice up contemporary OPM with indigenous sounds using traditional and modern instruments. 

The musical landscape has changed, but the term OPM has endured. Songwriters and cultural critics now need to rethink “OPM” given these considerations. Many millennials, unaware of what OPM means, already use a competing term, P-pop (for Philippine pop), following the success of K-pop from South Korea. Maybe we should also learn how K-pop has turned into a global phenomenon. 




About the Author
Mr. Oscar F. Picazo is a retired specialist in health systems, health economics, and social policy. He has worked in 24 countries for the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and as an independent consultant. He returned to the Philippines in 2009 and became a senior research consultant for the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
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