The Local Outsider #22: Reneé Dominique, Rizza Cabrera… and a few more thoughts

A couple of months ago Stephen Colbert had Jerry Seinfeld on for an interview – the latter was promoting his Netflix special, and who wouldn’t resist the opportunity to see two top comedians riff off each other? But the conversation went to inspirations (inevitably, as said Netflix special revolves around Jerry’s time before he had his big break in comedy) and then it went to Bill Cosby, the comedian who is accused of sexual abuse by several women.

“Can you still listen to his comedy?” Stephen asked.

“Oh yeah,” Jerry answered.

“I think he saved my life,” Stephen responded, “and yet I can’t listen to it now. I can’t separate it.”

That’s not the whole exchange, really. Jerry argued about how you can’t take away Bill’s achievements in comedy, but after the ad break he realized that he will not be able to listen to the fallen giant’s material without thinking of all the women he has victimized along the way. It’s a fascinating exchange between two comedians dealing with what they now know about one of their role models.

I was thinking of that as I watched, from a hotel room in Hong Kong, the noise that enveloped local music, and particularly Manila indie, last week. I have already given my take on it, but that’s from the perspective of a straight male who’s trying to figure things out in light of new realizations and conclusions. As a so-called music blogger who’s trying to cover more local music with the least effort possible (that’s me being self-deprecating, by the way) I have to get to grips with the fact that I have written about some of the bands entangled in these allegations. (One of the acts I once considered for this column has split up because of those allegations.) Then again, I write from the comforts of my desk: I don’t have first-hand knowledge of any of these allegations, or even second-hand knowledge, not until the past week. Ignorance is not an excuse, sure, but I don’t think I should just write about anything I have no idea about. So, how do I respond? How do I deal with this? Can I separate the art from the artist? Should I separate the art from the artist?

Well, that one’s tricky, isn’t it? There’s no easy answer to that. It may be easier for some but not for others. It may be easier with some acts but not for others. I acknowledge that sexual abuse is never a good thing, but I don’t want to think about whether this musician I’m writing about – local or otherwise – is up to no good every single time. It’s not because I’m running away from how I am supposed to act as a human being, but because this is just so tricky. There are no fixed rules, the same time there are no simple responses. We’ve seen that the past week, as some demanded heads roll, whether for improper behavior or for failing to act on said allegations. Sometimes that’s the best response – but sometimes is not all the time.

So, this outsider will play it by the chin. When it comes, we’ll deal with it again. And now I’ve written all that out, it’s time to get on with the column.

 

What do you mean I don’t have space anymore? I can still… all right, I’ll just write about two. Someone who’s long been on the long list is Reneé Dominique: a YouTuber, a girl on a ukulele… whenever I check my list of local musicians I couldn’t escape her, so I made that mental note and consistently forgot about it. Listening to “Seasons” I was surprised by her voice. Yeah, it’s the sort of thing I’d like – a bit Rachael Yamagata, but that is not the best comparison – but still, I’m surprised to hear that considering the unassuming visual. Also interesting that she’s with Star Magic: I’m wondering how their big-marquee style can work well with her intimate sound. (You know television.) I don’t see it as a disaster, though. I think it can work. I hope it does. But, for now, we watch.

 

Speaking of television, Anne Curtis got married, and while I don’t really care about showbiz, I care that Jason Magbanua has tapped another one of the singer-songwriters we follow to write a song for the wedding video. This time it’s Rizza Cabrera, whose “One” captures her at her best: that mix of vulnerable and headstrong, of romantic and real, that you hear in her voice and sense in her lyrics. Also, a personal disclaimer here: in my really few (I can count them with my fingers) interactions with people in local indie, Rizza is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I don’t know why I deserved a hug when we bumped into each other somewhere a few years ago, but that went a way to making forever-tense me feel a bit better about my surroundings. So, well, I couldn’t be happier for this (and how it managed to go viral, at least under Spotify’s definition of that word). Also, not much of an outsider now, eh, Niko? We’ll see you all next year. [NB]

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