Music in our souls

Willie Nelson lights up.

By JoeAm

Music is to people what howling is to wolves, I’d guess, an expression of that which is difficult to convey without rhythm. We go through musical passages as we get older and have new experiences. Some head off to rock and roll, others to classical, others to blues or hip hop or just a little pop.

I imagine the anthem for Duterte backers to be some dark satanic throbbing, themed in red.

My own musical progression was from Western music (“Red River Valley”) through the Mickey Mouse Club opening jingle (whilst ogling Annette Funicello), then folk in my teens which morphed into war protest songs. This trio and that, Joan Baez, Nobel Prize awardee Bob Dylan (for the literature of his music, like “Lay Lady Lay” I suppose). Along came rock, wrapped in the parentheses of Elvis Presley through the Rolling Stones and off into Queen and places I dare not go, for not grasping the meanings of the rhythms. The parentheses have not yet been closed.

I was taken along the way into classical by one of the more cultured ex-wives in my retinue of musical accompaniment. The Los Angeles Music Center was our habitat, and the Hollywood Bowl where we drank wine and picnicked along with 17,000 other souls whilst listening to the LA Philharmonic under the starlight. Another companion took me into the roots of rock and roll in New York. Woodstock years later, and blues, Keb’ Mo’ and west to Chicago’s Muddy Waters, which inspired my rounds of the jazz clubs of Los Angeles. And nothing’s better than bouncing to the beats of George Benson under the open skies of the Greek Theater, impelled to the ozone by reefers being passed up and down the rows.

Today, I listen to all of those except it is my kid listening to some new concoction of the Mickey Mouse Club theme song.

Drugs are a big part of music, if you think about it. Drugs killed a bunch of artists and inspired others. The haze at Woodstock was a huge cloud of marijuana smoke and now it’s medicine. Willie Nelson was stoned on stage much of the time, as was Janis Joplin who died young. Bonnie Raitt would drink whisky before going on stage because it loosened her vocal cords so she could reach the low notes. Eric Clapton, my all-time favorite guitarist, went through his passages and tragedies. He’s older now, and better than ever.

When an entertainer dies, we don’t hear much about drug lords. People see the tragedy of the performer, holding him or her accountable for his own descent into pain and relief. No one identifies people to go on a list for a police kill program.

I wonder how it is that druggies in the Philippines become killing fodder for the cops. And their fellow citizens cheer the killings on, thinking they rid the nation of crime.

As if murder were not a crime.

Music, booze, drugs. Sex. Online addictions.

People do them.

Some have more control than most. Others get out of hand.

So do sober people and people who sing karaoke off key.

The drug war is a farce. It is cruel. It is murderous. It undermines the ethics of police being public servants. Rather, they behave like gestapo killers. It is ruthless persecution of the disadvantaged. It is a horror.

That’s why I turn my music up loud.

So I can get away from the nasty rhythms and grating off-key notes of a violent Philippine government and its ruthless law enforcers.


48 Responses to “Music in our souls”
  1. edgar lores says:

    1. Ah, music.

    2. We use music in different and sometimes contradictory ways — to soothe, to arouse; to concentrate, to distract; to learn, to teach; to communicate with others, to communicate with the inner self; for work, and for play.

    3. There were a lot of protest songs during martial law. I imagine there are some now but I am not current.

    3.1. One of the greatest reversals of all-time is Freddie Aguilar whose rendering of “Bayan Ko” was a — if not, the — battle hymn of the anti-dictatorship movement.

    3.2. It is said that political activism has been reduced in our times to clicktivism — limiting our social protest participation to clicking likes and emojis on social media.

    4. I have made several recent discoveries on YouTube but two are worth taking note of:

    o Cesaria Evora — “Besame Mucho”
    o Danish National Symphony Orchestra — Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western soundtracks in particular “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”

    5. The teamwork in the rendering of these musical masterpieces is something to behold. If we were able to apply these harmonious efforts in our national undertakings, what might we not achieve?

    • 5. That’s true, isn’t it? If the Philippine political scene were mature and earnest, President Aquino would have accomplished even more and the nation today would be well on the way to respect and prosperity. Now it is immature, the notes grate, and it is a nation going backward.

  2. Zen wolff says:

    Your essay is up my street Joe. Music and drugs is almost inseparable to some. For many though music is their drug and mine is classical and it brings me to a high, it seems I only could ever contemplate. Thanks for this insightful piece, I wish I were this good in my musings.

    • It was rather fun to muse on the musical passages. There’s a lot I didn’t write about, as the main point was the arbitrary cruelty of the Philippine drug war. You are always welcome to muse here no matter what form it may take.

  3. madlanglupa says:

    I still have this. My personal favorite for relaxing.

  4. Grace Lim Reyes says:

    I have collected hundreds of music albums in a variety of genres so that my son could have them and enjoy them as much as I have.

    Music communicates and spans generations. Speaking for myself, we are into hunting old vinyls with the eager participation of my 12 year old. He is both curious and interested about the music played on the phonograph. The pleasure of playing and listening to old LPs on a phonograph is lost among the youth today.

    We use music to bridge the generation gap and find common interests. My son is more familiar with classical, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, old Kundimans, and 70s and 80s OPM music than the current ones available today. he particularly likes Harry Belafonte, Tom Jones, Men at Work, Loggins and Messina, It is unfortunate that piracy completely destroyed the music industry. Today, we can only hear a handful of artists worth our attention.

    Although musicians have been associated with substance abuse, we cannot deny that the songs or music they create often go up the charts and become classics because we listen to them. Their music inspires and enables us to reminisce about the past.

    Music is also identity. We associate sambas with Brazil, reggae with Jamaica, rock n roll with US and UK, and so forth. It also defines an era or generation (ie., rock n roll (50s-60s); Vietnam War , Civil Rights Movement (60s-70s)).

    Although Filipinos are musically inclined, I don’t think we have something that we could identify as our own. We are more likely to mimic western music than pursue our own musical and lyrical paths. Maybe that explains why it is difficult to unite an already fragmented nation.

    • edgar lores says:


      Yes, vinyl has made a comeback. It is one area where analog is perhaps better than digital,

      On that last paragraph — kundiman would be considered native?

    • Ah, yes. My New York friend had a room full of vinyl including one with her playing base guitar in a girl-band opening for some famous band or another. Or maybe Neil Diamond, I don’t recall. I hope your 12 year-old starts collecting. When I was roaming New York we were visiting music stores hunting for rare or special records. It’s a good reason to travel 🙂

    • @Grace: Meron akong nakatabi sa bodega na mga LPs. Baka nasa 20 piraso yun. Ang problema, sobrang dumi na dahil nababad sa tubig na maputik noong bahain kami noon at nasira na ang mga jacket at labels. Pero pwede pa naman sigurong pagtiyagaang linisin. Magaganda ang mga collection kong yun. Napabayaan na nga lang dahil pati yung aking QUADROSONIC na AKAI ay nababad din at natunaw ang kaha.

  5. andrewlim8 says:

    Is it possible to have great, enduring, universally acclaimed art in any form – music, visual, performing, etc that sprung from dictatorial, totalitarian, extremist, violent regimes and supportive of it?

    Impossible, I think.

    I think art demands authenticity and an adherence to universal values as to what is good, aside from aesthetic beauty.

    Which is why today’s protest art seems to be more enduring and impactful, compared to say, Ted Nugent or Brillante Mendoza’s work. (that shot of Duterte from below in his first SONA looked like an EJK victim’s view in his dying moments while lying on the floor)

    Which is why censorhip is rejected soundly by true artists, and govt communications is derided as propaganda.

    (by the way, that Probinsiyano censorship issue was floated to distract from the special treatment of Imelda Marcos, for which the PNP had no answer)

  6. karlgarcia says:

    There was a stage in my life were I binged on vinyls from 1986 to 88 until I decided to give them all to my friend who was a music lover until his passing few years ago.
    I collected new wave and disco music of the 80s.
    Now I am contended with listening to youtube videos of old songs.

    • Grace Lim Reyes says:

      Wow! Sayang! New wave, punk or disco music is a bit expensive today. Pre-loved one (good ones with no scratches) could be had 1K up.

      • karlgarcia says:

        Sayang it was all charged to experience.
        Grace, nice to know that you are a music lover, collector, and have extensive knowledge of music, may your 12 year old continue your passion.

        • Grace Lim Reyes says:

          Music keeps me sane while writing or doing design work. A leftover habit from college days, when I had to stay up all night and all day cramming my submissions.

  7. distant observer says:

    Speaking of music and drugs, this is still the only “War on drugs” that I fully endorse:

  8. josephivo says:

    Music, drugs and meditation, the only ways to switch of your thinking brain, to shut up the little internal voice continuously addressing problems surrounding us, things we don’t have or things we might lose in rational or emotional ways… And then some part of the brain taking over, carried away by music on a dance floor or in a church.

    Drugs, except for alcohol, scared me too much. Meditation, I keep trying, but it is so difficult to silence this little me-man behind my eyes.

    Your list opens up many memories, covers so well my own experiences. What I would add is Russian church music, I play loud, stretched out on the floor when I’m sad or need to cry, the dark sky’s of thundering basses with hopeful sun rays of angelic sopranos.

  9. “When an entertainer dies, we don’t hear much about drug lords. People see the tragedy of the performer, holding him or her accountable for his own descent into pain and relief. No one identifies people to go on a list for a police kill program.”

    I like this blog, Joe; I like the whole music and killing and where the drugs fits exactly.

    When cocaine got out of hand in Miami, in the early 80s, Pres. Reagan and the Federal gov’t upped their game; in the 70s I believe it was heroine straight from the Golden Triangle, but I don’t quite remember War on Drugs then, War on Drugs (the American kind) started in Miami;

    then cocaine became scarce (at least for blacks) and crack started popping up, the epicenter for crack was L.A. in the mid -80s, crack was just cocaine adulterated with other stuff, ie. more profit for what was visibly less quality. The Feds again got involved.

    Mind you, the American gov’t never really resulted to killing its own, though Hispanics and blacks were rounded up dragnet to jail. And the War on Drugs did actually mean war in far off lands, ie. unnecessary deaths.

    Now w/ Trump its the Opioids epidemic , the boogeymen are MS-13, instead of the thousands of doctors that write prescriptions for pain relief. Meth is still big but that’s soooo 10 yrs ago. It’s all about the flavour of the month. it’s shabu over there.

    Meth used to be big in college campuses here; now its all about Aderrall. Where Meth was coffee on steroids, caused you to wake up all night, Aderrall not only does that but actually makes you smarter.

    NOOTROPICs , it’s all about cognitive enhancers now.

    As for music, I’m partial to Arabic oldies & the Oud, listen to this,

    As for killing, its the killing season period, part of global warming part of overpopulation, don’t make sense of the senseless, it’s simply an excuse to exterminate, arbitrarily the Philippines could’ve gone Pol Pot and just got rid of rich and smart people; or all midgets; or anyone under 3.5 feet.

    If I won the lottery, I’d give all the prostitutes and taxi drivers in the Philippines all NOOTROPICs. I’m sure within a generation (if climate change doesn’t get us first) the Philippines will be the next super power. Get smart or die.

    Addendum: There’s the affects of shabu on the individual; and there’s the effects of shabu on the community . The first is dependent on the individual mind, when a mind takes to a certain drug it latches on to it (like a missing puzzle piece); in a community, since not every mind w/in the community is addictive, the drug (and the particular industry giving it life) is treated not as a missing piece but instead as a cancerous growth.

    Solutions for cancer:

    1. No treatment

    2. Chemo/clinical trials

    3. Herbal/natural

    No matter which you choose, when you hit a tipping point,

    You die.

    Read Job Chapter 38, nothing else will sooth you better (ideally with Oud playing in the background, with some Nootropics).

    • Very nice musical cut, thanks. I’m reminded of the Alhambra in Spain, with its cross-cultural architecture and stringed instruments that echo one another.

      I’m totally out of the drug arena so know little about it, and want to know nothing about it. I too much like to be in control of my faculties. I don’t take half the medicines recommended here by the pill doctors after I read up on the side effects. I’d rather let my body take care of little pains and ailments.

      Death is a common practice around the world, I understand. heh heh

  10. madlanglupa says:

    OT: how strongly symbolic.

    • I think it is not going to be received well by a lot of Filipinos who are wary of China.

      • NHerrera says:

        Yes, I believe so, too — even by those who rationalized or are otherwise silent on the EJKs. The deceitful behavior of China on the WPS does not help, to state the obvious. There are different emotions involved in the two items.

      • NHerrera says:

        To put another important nuance to the current sub-thread on Xi’s visit, we have the recently published SWS September Survey results on Filipinos response to questions posed by SWS:

      • NHerrera says:

        One more on China

        The 2018 APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea reportedly was not a satisfactory event for Xi as he hoped it will be, especially after the drubbing China got from the 27-minute speech of US Vice President Pence which speech followed that of Xi. During that speech, Pence also announced a tri-lateral partnership among PNG, US and Australia involving the development of a deep-sea base at PNG’s Manus Island — a strategic location.

        The visit of Xi to the Philippines will at least help massage his ego by the other partner to the bromance.

        • The Deal Maker in Chief of the United States used his loyal VP to ramp up the pressure on China ahead of the President’s meeting with Xi. Also, US ships are sailing the seas and training exercises are being done in contested seas. It is getting a little tense. A military assessment said the US could easily lose a tactical war. I dunno.

      • NHerrera says:

        But what is this?

        PNG police attack Parliament because of news that they would not be paid for work done during last week’s APEC Summit, according to Police Chief Superintendent Dominic Kakas. That on top of the news that many were particularly enraged by the government’s purchase of 40 custom-made Maserati cars — which were flown in from Italy — for leaders to use while they were in Port Moresby. Which like the PH begs the question, who gets to have these cars after the Summit?

        I hope the following opinion is not unfair: that may be the reason that major powers, including China, US are on their wooing best with this poorest of the APEC countries.

        • Sounds a little like the wild west. Wow. I presume the top leaders will get the nice souvenirs.

          • NHerrera says:

            Three Maserati car models:

            Maserati GranTurismo $134,300
            Maserati Quattroporte $107,680
            Maserati Ghibli $74,980

            Note: Maserati Ghibli is a scaled-down Maserati Quattroporte: smaller in size, smaller in price, etc.

            Check out Maserati Ghibli for the 40 Maserati cars ordered. The model probably was at least the Maserati Quattroporte kind considering that some APEC member representatives are certainly six plus in height (the towering Singaporean PM, for example).

            But I will settle for Maserati Ghibli; thank you. 🙂

            • Hahahaha, I’d take a Mustang with a sunroof and a freeway.

              • NHerrera says:

                Hahaha, I missed the autobahn part: Maserati Ghibli but caught in traffic after a few hundred meters. You got me; not critically thinking today. But if I were young again, won’t the girls admire the car, if not me? But I digress.

              • popoy says:

                now to yabang the nth time, been there, done this, done that in PNG to become a Wantok (same language- one talk) for twelve years starting as Sr Lecturer in Local govt in ADCOL later PNGIPA (like a Civil Service Academy) ending as Public Admin Adviser of Oro Province. When I came it was One Kina equals 1.15 USD. PNG has larger land area and MUCH richer natural resources than the Philippines.When I went finished as OFW the exchange rate was One Kina equals 34 US CENTS. From my CV I could spin interesting tales for an interesting book about my stay there but can’t and don’t have the time. Em Tasol. Mi Lukim Ya. (That’s all folks; See you).

              • edgar lores says:

                Thank you for correcting my impression that Papua New Guinea is a small island, much smaller than the Philippines. I have only looked at the island in relation to the Australian continent, and it seemed small in comparison. Another delusion shattered.

              • NHerrera says:

                That is news to me too.


                Papua New Guinea: Land area 462,840 km2; population (2018) 8.5M

                Philippines: Land area 300,000 km2; population (2018) 106M

              • Thanks. Next up, how New Guinea played a key role in WWII, casualties, and other comparisons with the Philippines. I’m getting interested . . .

              • New Guinea is a large island off the continent of Australia. It is the world’s second-largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 785,753 km2 (303,381 sq mi), and the largest wholly or partly within the Southern Hemisphere and Oceania.

                The eastern half of the island is the major land mass of the independent state of Papua New Guinea. The western half, referred to as Western New Guinea or West Papua or simply Papua, formerly a Dutch colony, was annexed by Indonesia in 1962 and has been administered by it since then.

                Takeaway: Only the eastern half is independent as “Papau New Guinea”.

                World War II: Netherlands New Guinea and the Australian territories were invaded in 1942 by the Japanese. The Australian territories were put under military administration and were known simply as New Guinea. The highlands, northern and eastern parts of the island became key battlefields in the South West Pacific Theatre of World War II. Papuans often gave vital assistance to the Allies, fighting alongside Australian troops, and carrying equipment and injured men across New Guinea. Approximately 216,000 Japanese, Australian and U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen died during the New Guinea Campaign.

                The New Guinea campaign of the Pacific War lasted from January 1942 until the end of the war in August 1945. During the initial phase in early 1942, the Empire of Japan invaded the Australian-administered territories of the New Guinea Mandate (23 January) and Papua (8 March) and overran western New Guinea (beginning 29/30 March), which was a part of the Netherlands East Indies. During the second phase, lasting from late 1942 until the Japanese surrender, the Allies—consisting primarily of Australian and US forces—cleared the Japanese first from Papua, then the Mandate and finally from the Dutch colony.

                The campaign resulted in a crushing defeat and very heavy losses for the Empire of Japan.

                Takeaway: General Douglas MacArthur was a key leader of US Army troops in the allied force.

                The Japanese drive to conquer all of New Guinea had been decisively stopped. MacArthur was now determined to liberate the island as a stepping-stone to the reconquest of the Philippines.

                Takeaway: MacArthur was full of himself.

                Excerpts from Wiki. Opinions entirely my own. JA

  11. NHerrera says:


    Some people get their entertainment from listening to Xi speeches and others today. I find my entertainment somewhere else.

    Chris Wallace, who I label as the Un-Hannity of Fox News, is one tough cookie in his interview of Trump. If one has never heard Trump speak, I sincerely believe he has managed to – awe World Leaders and lesser mortals such as I am in that one interview. [Instead of seeking another word, I simply placed that symbol in front of the word; lazy me.]

    I thought for a while that Trump, in the aftermath of that Interview, may do a Jim Acosta on Chris Wallace. But even Trump knows better.

    It seems to me like someone making a perfect parody of Trump than Trump himself. Goodness.

    • popoy says:

      2 tsoh 20 1118

      I was informed that the piece below will be on page 8 of BALITA Toronto (largest circulation local newspaper) December 1 – 15 issue with slight modifications. Posting this was triggered by watching the Fox News interview link courtesy of NH. The interview was a brilliant subliminal portrayal of seemingly personalized hate journalism against a national leader disliked (hated?) by practitioners of press freedom because press freedom was being singularly used against them.
      Ang Epekto ng Resulta ng Eleksyon sa Merika

      Nakagaganyak talakayin ang resulta ng bawat eleksyong local o pambansa man. Lalong palaisipan talakayin ang possibleng epekto ng resulta ng bawat eleksyon na ang basehan ay mga nangyari matapos ang mahabang panahon sumunod sa bawat eleksyon.

      Katatapos lang ng eleksyon sa Amerika, para sa Senado, Kongreso at mga Gobernador ng mga 50 estados. Mangyayari pa lang ang eleksyon sa Filipinas sa mga puwestong pinagbotohan sa Amerika. Meron katuturan bulatlatin ang mga eleksyon. Ang tanong ay: meron bang kabutihan epekto nagagawa ang eleksyon sa bansa at karaniwang mamamayan? Nagkaroon ba ng positibong pagbabago sa buhay ng mga mahirap at mayaman? Nabawasan ba o nadagdagan ang korapsyon o dambuhalang nakawan sa kaban ng bayan. Bakit? Bakit nga ba tila palpak ang resulta ng bawat eleksyon. Ano ba ang mga dahilan habang iniiwasan akusahan o pagbintangan o nombrahan ang mga may kasalanan sa paulit-ulit na kapalpakan ng pamahalaan?

      To say in short (but not in translation) in English the above two paragraphs, it seems worth one’s while to think about the effects of the results of past elections for the positions of Senators, Congresspersons and Governors as it has already happened in the United States and soon to happen in the Philippines. Some questions beg for answers like: in past elections, are there if any, positive changes in the lives of the people? Changes like reducing corruption and massive thievery in government coffers? And the big Why? It is not who but what seems to be responsible, the causes of the effects of the results of every past election so that lessons are placed in bold relief for everybody to see and think about.

      Writers who write (this writer isn’t) for a living are masters of the H and 5 Ws (ie. How, who, what, when, where and why). In a democracy, an election is the prime way of people choosing WHO GOVERNS THEM? Those elected or appointed to govern the people MUST KNOW the answers to the H and remaining 4 Ws (how, what, when, where, and why) in furtherance of the public interest. Candidates are on their own as independents or are members of political parties with political platforms, and opportunist parties without political platforms in some third world countries.

      Political platforms have deeper rationale and principles embodied in isms or ideologies like conservatism as distinct from liberalism; the former hews closer to republican parties while the latter refers to liberal or democratic parties. Conservatism is the spectrum of values and principles lying on the right side of the political continuum while liberalism on the left side focuses more on tolerance and broad mindedness.

      These two ideologies or isms define the perimeter enclosing the domain of democracy; outside of which lies freakish governance like guided democracy, constitutional authoritarianism, smiling martial law and corrupt dictatorships.

      Election is a permanent trademark of democracy. True and genuine election is the hall mark of true democracy. This was shown and proven in free Europe (Great Britain, France etc.), the Balkans, Australia and countries in the South Pacific and of course in North America; where because of good governance resulting from useful elections, good governance become the driving force of progress over the years. However, some variations are found in Africa, Asia and South America where countries despite regular elections the people remain struggling for better living conditions.

      In the United States regular bi-annual elections and the resulting style of governance are always contested by two political parties, namely the Democratic and Republican parties, which had been observed in the past to have been won by a party in power for eight years, then replaced by the other political party.

      It seems a two-party political system party works very well in the USA. There is that chance to replace the other after what might be considered a trial period of four years renewable for another four years. An eight-year rule of mistakes for example by the Republicans are corrected by the Democrats and or vice versa. The experience it seems is that it is seldom or had never happened that one party had been in power for more than eight years.

      The doctrinal goals if highly simplified of the two political parties are quite clear. Republicans main thrust of Governance is about COUNTRY; the USA first and foremost by all means; while the Democrats main thrust is PEOPLE or AMERICANS FIRST. This is seen in Federal and State policies of each administration regarding war, foreign trade, immigration and military strength of and by the Republicans while policy concerns on world peace, human rights, immigrants and refugees and welfare priorities for the disadvantaged Americans seems to be priorities of the Democrats.

      To the American voter, it is quite clear what kind of policies or governance they will want for themselves. American voters have been identified as either Republicans or Democrats or Independents. What remains problematic is the doctrinal overlap of policies of country and people concerns. The results of the last US Election on policy concerns seems to reinforce or contradict each other and which in reality will be some kind of check and balance on the acts of governance by the four levels of government: The Presidency (Republican-Country), the Senate (Republican-Country), US Congress (Democrats-People predominantly) and Governors-Republicans). Congressmen and Governors are closer to the grassroots and should be People-oriented; while the President and the Senators are Federal and State should be more concern with Country issues.

      In what may be inadequate simplification, the results of the last interim US elections favors the country—US concerns as a lead country in a free world while at the same retaining power representation of the American people when the a Republican President campaign hard to have won a Senate Majority and State Governors, but Lost Congress to Democrats who represents the people. That’s political power mix, in a dynamic democratic boil.

      The interviewer did a superb role play demonstrating how Trump can be raked over the coals to give him a chance for an adroit cool response to criticisms MORE against his person than his administration.

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