[Live blog now up and running after the cut.] Let’s just say it: I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Jam 88.3 in the past couple of years. I should be a fan of the station, considering how we share similar musical sensibilities – and, for a few years, when it assumed the format K-Lite had before it became Max FM, I was. Then things changed and I listened less and less, and now I avoid it, either because they’ve gotten more juvenile or I’ve grown up and moved on. Have I been unfair to the station, now perhaps the only one in the Philippines to wave the flag for alternative music? Perhaps, so today, I’ll be listening to it and live-blogging the whole thing. I don’t know what will happen after today, but I hope it’s enlightening, in one way or another. [NB]
Ten years ago, Filipino music was everywhere, and a wide range of it, too. There was a resurgence of alternative acts, from veterans such as Rivermaya and Bamboo, to (then) up-and-comers such as Sponge Cola and Hale. Pop acts such as MYMP, riding the acoustic wave, and Jay-R, who represented the R&B front, dominated the charts. The indie scene had groups like Up Dharma Down waving the flag. And, of course, the usual pop acts were still there. The slow rise from the beginning of the noughties, to its peak sometime around 2006 – it was, indeed, a good time for local music.
When I first got wind of Jam 88.3’s new student DJ program – specifically, the fact that to join, you have to submit a minute-long audition video – I first thought, “are they starting a TV channel or something?” It’s the sort of thing that makes sense if you’re a radio station looking to give a little more effort in being visible elsewhere – say, pushing more content on YouTube. The plugs, however, say nothing about that, perhaps understandably. The plugs, also, say that to be chosen, you have to “look good and sound even better”. So that’s what we’re doing now, huh? To be a radio DJ, you have to look good. Sure, they’re looking for people who know their music and are pretty opinionated, but the whole point of doing video auditions suggests that the premium is on looks – and that is one big step backwards for radio, and in particular, FM radio. Why should looks matter more? Why should having a model’s face be more important than being able to say something in a way that is compelling and thought-provoking? I know there’s no longer such a thing as a “face for radio”, but it seems communicators are no longer important in radio – marketers are. More than ever, radio being just a tool to sell things (most important being its listeners) has become more blatant. It shouldn’t be a problem, but then again, the most marketable radio personalities are also good communicators. The boys of Boys’ Night Out get a lot of these ad deals because they have many listeners, and they have many listeners because they do their job properly. Do your homework, both in front of the mic and behind it, and the rest will come. But then again, Jam sounds self-obsessed on air – and so should their next bunch of jocks, right? [NB]
In the past few years we’ve seen more relatively out-of-mainstream acts perform in Manila. Gone, it seems, are the times when the only foreign artists who would stop here are 60s and 70s bands targeting baby boomers, or the obviously big pop acts. Now we’ve had visits from Grimes, the xx and Tegan and Sara. We’ve had the Wanderland Festival last April, an attempt at bringing summer festival culture to the Philippines (albeit with half of the line-up being Aussie acts with, likely, a very small following). And, of course, there were the bigger acts, like Joss Stone at Malasimbo (which has been going on for a while and has been, so far, mostly under the radar) and, last month, the Killers.
Good Times with Mo, as a show, was always teetering on the brink of suspensions, sanctions and lawsuits. They were successful and were raking in ratings with funny and oftentimes offensive segments like Forbidden Questions, Yabang Mo, Chick Republic and Showbiz Bro so everything was good.