Enlightenment from Nina Sandejas
About a month ago, in an album launch of some band, me and my friend ran into Nina Sandejas aka RosariOko. She’s a well-known music photojournalist from my side of the world. Seeing her at the launch and being able to talk to her then was already a privilege. I was at that album launch to practice shooting for my thesis but lo and behold, I was allowed an interview with her.
I couldn’t thank God enough for that.
Now, there’s something you need to know…
OPM. IT’S MUSIC.
1.) To you, what is the most important “thing” (could be intangible) to capture in taking photographs during live shows?
More than the technical aspect of a photograph, the goal should always be about emotion or the story a photograph presents.
2.) What techniques do you use in photographing musicians who are performing in places with very limited lighting?
Fast lenses. I like primes and 3 out of 4 of my lenses are such.
3.) Being in the field of Philippine Music, do you think there is a problem with today’s OPM in general? Why? (I’ve surveyed 120 people (male & female, 11-30 yrs old, class A & B) and they admitted they had their biases on Filipino music. 90% of them preferred listening to music from other countries.)
The only problem I’m seeing about OPM in general is the fact that it had to be categorized as OPM. The moment we branded it as OPM we were making the world around us take sides when it came to music. Obviously when you ask someone about it, majority would prefer to listen to music from other countries because people’s minds are consciously or subconsciously asked to weigh their taste based on preconceived notions of what good music is. I’m saying that because a lot of even our great artists here have western influences. The only true OPM I would say would be Joey Ayala. However, foreign artists aren’t globally successful for nothing, they’re doing something right. Although I can very much say that this problem about patronizing foreign acts isn’t really a uniquely “Filipino” problem. The Western culture has always been a powerhouse that has been creeping into the Eastern culture as far as known history is concerned.
I’m not saying that OPM isn’t any good, but people should think of music as a currency, which can always be easily exchanged into a foreign one. It may not have a 1:1 ratio but we know that it goes into the grain of the global economy and not something we try and just keep here and label. We always weigh the Peso to the Dollar every single day. I think if we wanted real facts about if OPM is better than anything else then our artists should be brave enough to weigh their worth elsewhere and stop complaining. The whole world’s music industry has problems similar to ours and the Philippine music industry isn’t the only one that’s suffering, but I’m also not saying we should just outright stop helping. In my case I do my best to support and my heart is closest to the Filipino independent bands who don’t get support from corporate brands or labels because I believe in giving back with everything that I’ve learned from working in this industry for almost a decade. Also primarily because I’m based here and I’m Filipino.
4.) To which age group do you think it is best to promote gigs of local artists (Independent upcoming artists of these genres: rock, bossa nova, electro, alternative, post-core, jazz )? Why?
From my own experience I know Rock encompasses all ages, so as alternative, post-core, etc. Back when NU107 still existed I would hear about parents tuned in with their children. I don’t know the facts but at least I know it spanned 2 generations. Bossa Nova and Jazz obviously is for an older market. I do not know why different kinds of music appeal to different age differences, but I think most of it are stereotyped notions of what kind of music should be delivered to certain types of people. Like someone would say, “Aren’t you too old or too young to be listening to that?” But my mom has been a fan of Black Sabbath and The Doors and I love them even though they existed way before my time… and she loves Lady Gaga and Madonna for reasons everyone else loves them. There was a day I’d wake up and Iron Butterfly’s Innagadadavida was blasting in the kitchen. Maybe it’s about what kind of music each generation grew up with. Not everyone who’s older has had similar exposure to types of music, my mother who’s 61 would be one of the exceptions, I guess. Music is music. It shouldn’t be limited by age, gender, race or religion.
5.) To you, what would be the best way to promote the “gig scene” in Manila? (What form of medium could attract people into attending gigs)
There’s no formula for it, but I think if you’re a good band with good music to offer the people will follow. It’s like the Pied Piper, I’m not saying everyone’s a rat but you gotta admit he was doing something right. These days we’re bombarded with marketing schemes that our senses are numbed by everything. In my case if I were to be attracted to go, maybe the traditional way of promoting would do. Maybe seeing posters vandalized on random walls, flyers….
A facebook invite would be good to remind someone, these days I’ve been craving for personal connection — I remember that better than emails and notifications. There’s really no right way except being in a band who makes music that connects. It’s all about connection no matter how much marketing pushes a band. If it’s not really good, it won’t last. Good promotion is what it is, but if there’s nothing substantial to back it up then you just fooled everyone into patronizing future nonsense. Then you’re just destroying the whole scene by misinforming the public of how they search for good music.
6.) How could photography help uplift Philippine music?
I know I’ve been saying things about this is my bit to help the industry because this is what I know and I think I’m relatively good at it, but I guess it helps for obvious reasons that I think among all the Asian countries that I’ve been in, the Philippines is more obsessed with cameras whether it may be for camwhoring or just to feel like you’ve captured something to say that you were there. Maybe it’s because we’re a celebrity-driven country and most of us have created Internet superstars and a lot of people think that our ticket out of poverty is fame. I’m not saying that people who take camera phone photos at concerts are like that, but those who do I think it’s more because we’re a very nostalgic country that always want to remember the past.
I started photography initially because I have a very bad memory. I’m very forgetful and documenting musicians was a life that was thrust to me, not by choice but by circumstance and because it was never a dream of mine to become a photographer, I held my camera seeing the things that happen around me and the difficulties that musicians encounter. I was in the business of making rock stars look like gods as a fashion stylist before and I think it will take time for me to be able to document the gritty truth of the local scene’s difficulties, but right now I can only show what the fans want to see which is their idea of what their favorite musician should look like.
Our obsession with photographs — the basic reason why we put graphics on our powerpoint presentations is to get people’s attention. It may be for something else, but getting their attention in a world of people with attention spans that get shorter and shorter everyday, and what I do isn’t for me but to get the attention towards the music and never myself. I wouldn’t be here it weren’t for the music anyway.
7.) Comments/ suggestions/ words of inspiration for my thesis:
Success is in the moments, not the events.