Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Musicians lend voice to the search for missing activist Jonas Burgos

New recording of songs for the disappeared released

Adding their voice to the growing campaign against enforced disappearances, local Filipino musicians released today Huling Balita: Songs for the Disappeared, a collection of songs confronting the very serious issue of enforced disappearances in the country.

The album launching today (April 28, 2008) at Newsdesk Bar in Quezon City coincides with the first anniversary of the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos, son of the late journalist and press freedom icon Jose Burgos.

“This project came about because musicians, who have heard about the disappearance not just of Jonas but many other political activists over the years, wanted to make a collective stand on the issue. We wanted to make a contribution to the campaign on the desaparecidos and we realized that the best way we can help is in communicating the issue of the disappearances, the stories of the disappeared and their families, in ways that are more accessible to the public” says poet and singer-songwriter Jess Santiago, one of the coordinators of the project.

“We wanted people to make the issue of the disappearances a personal issue, and the search for them a personal crusade” adds Santiago.

Produced on a shoe-string budget by the Free Jonas Burgos Movement (FJBM), Huling Balita, features ten songs that draw inspiration and offer insights into the issue of enforced disappearances. Eight of the songs featured in the album were recorded live during the Huling Balita Concert in UP Diliman in December 2007. Two bonus tracks were recorded in the studio.

The song Huling Balita, from which the album’s title is derived, by Jess Santiago, kicks off the recording and immediately sets the tone for the whole collection. A song written in the late 70’s at the height of Martial law, Huling Balita is a heart wrenching narrative of agony, of a wife’s search for her lost husband and the incessant questioning of a child yearning for her father’s return. The re-telling of the story about the disappearance is meant to spread the news, hoping to jolt people out of their apathy and indifference and inspire and move them to take a stand.

A range of emotions and themes resonate through out the album. Feelings of restlessness and longing are captured in Noel Cabangon’s “Awit ng Naghahanap” (Naghihintay, umaasa, Ika’y aming nadarama, Tibok ng yong puso’t hininga Larawan mo’y sumisilip, sa aming alaala ) and “Nasan Ka” by the Village Idiots (Nasan ka? Nasan ka? Hanap ka ng isip kong balisa, Buo kong katawan, nangungulila, Di masanay sa iyong pagkawala.). Yet feelings are not allowed to sink into despair and hopelessness as the victims transform their sadness into strength and muster the courage to continue the search against all odds, against continuing political repression and threats to their own lives.

Vigilance and defiance is another common message expressed through the songs. Granada’s song “Defiant” calls on the listener to “confront and defy” the forces that “bleed us dry” and attempt to silence the opposition. Einstein Chakras and Radio Active Sago Projects warn those in power of impending retribution and the judgment of history -- (Aagawin ng mga bata ang gobyernong di kanila, tatahiin ang napunit na bahagi ng isa, ang ibay isusumpa nitong yaring kasaysayan, na noong panahon nya’y binaliwala’t pinabayaan, Ayan na! from Ayan Na by Einstein Chakras) (Dahil balang araw, ang nagpapahirap ang pahihirapan Ang agpapakasarap ay kumunoy ang patutunguhan Ang naghahari ay magiging alipin Balang araw, mababasag din ang salamin from Radio Active Sago Project’s "Kung ano ang Meron").

The other contributions are from Bobby Balingit (Entrada), the free-style rap group Tribu, Anak ni Aling Juana (Naglaho), and Ms. Cookie Chua of Color it Red, doing an a capela version of “Saan” a song by Jess Santiago and Rene Villanueva.

“The artists, the songwriters and the singers featured in the recording, as well as the photographers and visual artists, whose works add life to the album, have all been so generous in contributing their talents and their time to this project” says JL Burgos, brother of Jonas and FJBM coordinator.

“We are of course hopeful that one day, and we hope very soon, that Jonas will be re-united with us again. In the meantime, the search continues for Jonas and many other missing activists” adds JL.