Today is Independence Day in the Philippines, a commemoration of the country’s liberation from Spain in 1898. Government offices and majority of private offices are closed, and the Philippine flag is prominently displayed in the streets.
But the country’s current political climate doesn’t really give much to celebrate. Last month, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency called for a hip-hop song to be banned because of its allegedly controversial lyrical content. To Live & Die in Manila , a 17-minute documentary produced by Boiler Room in 2018, placed the spotlight on Manila-born artists living in the Duterte administration. In the documentary, one of the artists recounted how two of his friends were gunned down because of the administration’s push for extrajudicial killings.
Tropical Diskoral is a new initiative born out of the same politically-charged atmosphere. Created by Filipina Belgian-based producer DJ UNOS, Manila-based experimental musician similarobjects, and research outfit Tropical Futures Institute, Tropical Diskoral is a compilation of tracks showcasing electronic music artists in the Philippines and its wider diaspora. The project aims to encourage other artists to create music on their own terms, while also celebrating the Filipino identity.
“As I have been working for the past few years on my musical growth, I’ve realised I wanted to learn more about my cultural roots,” DJ UNOS said. “While discovering about the Filipino electronic music scene, I understood the lack of its representation in Belgium and worldwide. That’s when I came across the idea to promote electronic artists who are based in the Philippines, allowing their music to be heard on a global platform.”
The project is called a “network of sounds” that attributes its arrival to a “time of paradoxes” where communities grow in the face of stifled artistic expression. For these artists in the Philippines, it’s also an attempt to capture a renewed sense of identity to represent in the global stage.
If you’re keen on listening, they’ve released the first volume of the compilation online right on Independence Day. Tropical Diskoral Vol. 1 features eight tracks by both young and veteran Philippine-based electronic artists, including Tarsius, Pamcy, and similarobjects himself.