Thursday, April 3, 2008

My Family's Past = An American Present?

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"Iyer's own account of the uncanny Philippine affinity for American popular music is rich testimony to the global culture of the "hyper-real," for somehow Philippine renditions of American popular songs are more widespread in the Philippines, and more disturbingly faithful to their originals..."

Appadurai calls this "nostalgia without memory." Sorry, but I gotta call this flawed.

For one, many popular American artists have actually held concerts in the Philippines, even as far back as the 70s (my father recounts seeing Led Zeppelin as a college student). For two, the popularity of classic (and current) U.S. pop music isn't relegated to the Philippines - it's worldwide! Name someone who hasn't at least heard of the Beatles (due in no small part to, as Appadurai mentions, mediascapes which arose in the 60s. Their popularity transcends national boundaries, no?) Finally, the popularity of OPM - Original Pilipino Music - cannot be denied. It's accomplished everything from expanding the popularity of The Black Eyed Peas to placing a star on Broadway.

Still, the influence of Westernization can't be denied. The Spanish conquered, stuck a few Spanish cognates into our language (Tagalog), and Catholicized us. The United States took over, taught us English, and helped bring over aspects of music, movies, and capitalism. The Philippines is most certainly a mosaic - moreso than any other country I can think of - because somewhere between Latino-esque values on dancing, friends, food, faith, & the family, Tagalog-dubbed versions of Japanese animation, a radical Muslim faction, and the fact that a good portion of the country speaks English - I start to wonder where the original culture was. The Philippine mediascape, rather than making Filipinos think they are "actors" choosing to purchase certain goods and live a certain lifestyle, are extolling the values of not just the West, but also being caucasian - this is evident in two areas. First, the unabashed "lightness" of game show hosts, TV personalities, etc. in contrast to the common folk - many unabashedly dark. (Look at the audience.) Even worse, which is an issue I found personally reviling, is the popularity of skin-whitening products in the Philippines.

It's kinda sad.

Still, though, I myself am holding a nostalgia with no past. I haven't delved very deeply into issues of government. I don't speak Tagalog. I've never even been back to the Philippines. I am part of one of many imagined communities who show pride for their culture - yet relative to those who live in the country, have little authority to speak about it. Why is it that people always long for that which is not their own? Even people in the United States show a bit of Euro- & Afro-centricity; nothing's odder than a white kid listening to reggae who talks about "returning to Africa." You gotta ask yourself...

If new media hadn't proliferated, would stuff like this have happened at all?

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