The International Association for the Study of Popular Music – Southeast Asia Branch (IASPM-SEA) and the Ethnographies of Philippine Auditory Popular Cultures (EPAPC) will be hosting the 2nd IASPM-SEA Conference from January 31 to February 2, 2020 at the Ateneo de Manila University and the University of the Philippines Diliman. The theme of the conference was “Within, Across and Beyond Borders: Southeast Asian Popular Music Studies.

Theme and Call for Papers

The concept of Southeast Asia as an area of study developed in line with American postwar scholarly interest and the formation of many nation-states in the region are linked to extended histories of colonization, occupation, or economic and political subjugation from various entities from Europe (Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, England). Thus, the development of popular music in Southeast Asia is also tied to a history of adaptation, adoption, affectation, contestation, and continuity with American and European culture.

Within borders, further complexities of popular music identities and exchanges exist. Thailand’s music also includes that of ethnic communities such as the Lao, Khmer, and Karen; Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore contain a diversity of popular music based on ethnic/dialect groups (Melayu, Jawa, Batak, Bugis, Kelantan, Iban, Kadazan-Dusun, Tamil, Hokkien); while the Philippines comprises popular musicking from each ethnolinguistic group’s entrenched sensibilities such as those from Pampanga, Cebu, Bacolod, Dumaguete, and Davao. Many forms of popular ethnic/linguistic/dialect music create distinctions, while also marking minority and marginal identities in the face of homogenizing nation-states. There are also some that express multilingual and intercultural dialogue and collaboration between ethnic groups; whether state-sponsored, commercially motivated, or community driven.

Across borders, popular music and its agents also travel and exert influences through fluid transnational networks across the dense mainland and vast islands of the region. Historically, cosmopolitan hubs such as Singapore served as a point of convergence for musical talent (composers, artists, musicians) and industry (entertainment parks, film studios, record companies) to produce a wide range of entertainment products (films, records, stage-productions, print media) for a diverse range of vernacular mass markets. Popular music of the Malay-language, for example, was widely disseminated from such hubs across island Southeast Asia (including Indonesia, Borneo, Malaysia, Philippines), forming the imaginary of a ‘Nusantara’ region linked by a lingua franca that predated European colonialism. Thus, migration across borders within the region is also common among Southeast Asians; for example, musical genres, ideas, and talent flow from Indonesia to Singapore, Philippines to Malaysia, Myanmar to Thailand.

In looking beyond the region’s borders, the postcolonial era of neoliberal globalization and rapid and wide-ranging technologies of communication and mass media present new relationships of power, economic exchange, and cultural capital that exist between the region and other influential Asian states such as China, Japan, South Korea, and India. For example, popular music from South Korea (K-pop) and India (Bollywood) are widely consumed across Southeast Asia in various forms of media. Of course, Anglo-American influences of popular culture from the colonial era until present-day persist in Southeast Asian popular music in localized forms of jazz, rock, hip-hop, electronic dance music, indie and various other genres and subgenres of music. Through these forms of music, artists and fans also form distinct global networks of interaction and exchange that transcend national and regional boundaries.

For this conference, IASPM-SEA invited papers on Southeast Asian popular music as well as other music that intersect with Southeast Asia (e.g. Southeast Asian diasporas in Africa, South America, North America, Europe, and East Asia) along the lines of the following issues:

  1. Within – What are distinctly local forms of popular music expressed within national borders? Are there practices on the margins of such national spaces that contest the hegemony of the state or state-imposed national cultures? How are aspects of ‘internal’ national-cultural identity promoted or challenged in hybridized/globalized popular music made with nation-state borders?
  2. Across – What were the flows of movement and migration experienced by artists and their music across national borders in Southeast Asia? How did these movements and musical exchanges shape their popular music and the communities that consumed or exploited their talent? How might the fluidities of Southeast Asia as a regional space of cultural and economic interaction be understood in expressions of popular music?
  3. Beyond – What are the past and current trends of popular culture, external to the region, that influence Southeast Asia’s popular music? How do current technologies of mass media affect the performance, production, and consumption of popular music in the region? How are relationships of power, economic exchange, and cultural capital between the region and other influential states (such as China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, America, United Kingdom) expressed in the region’s popular music? Further, how are particular Southeast Asian popular music artists and producers localizing the foreign or the global; or, in turn globalizing the local?

Location, Venue, and Catering

The first (January 31) and third (February 2) days of the conference were held at Faber Hall Room 101 at the Ateneo de Manila University. The second day (February 1) of the conference was held at the Museum of Instruments in Abelardo Hall at the University of the Philippines Diliman. Because of the relatively small number of presenters and participants, both venues were ideal.

Chef Laudico Culinary Services was the caterer for all three days. A small number of participants had special dietary requirements: vegan, vegetarian, halal, gluten-free, and lactose-free. Special meals were ordered for them from Pipino, a vegan restaurant along Malingap Street in Quezon City.

Program and Speakers

Azmyl Yusof (Sunway University, Malaysia) giving his welcome address on behalf of IASPM-SEA.

There were fourteen paper presentations, five junior paper presentations, and two film screenings during the conference. Each presentation lasted for about thirty minutes. One paper presenter, Zulkifli bin Zakaria, pulled out due to limited funds. Nor Hazlin Nor Salam was supposed to screen her film What Happens After the Alleycats?, but she pulled out the week before due to unforeseen circumstances.

Registration and breakfast on Day 1 began at 8:00 AM at Faber Hall Room 101. Dr. Alona U. Guevarra (ADMU/EPAPC) served as the master of ceremonies. The program began at 9:00 AM with the Philippine National Anthem, followed by the opening remarks by Lara Katrina Mendoza (ADMU/EPAPC), Cristina Ma. Cayabyab (UP Diliman/EPAPC), and Azmyl Yusof (Sunway University, Malaysia).

There were seven paper presentations: five in the morning, and two in the afternoon after lunch.

Table 1. List of paper presentations for Day 1.

Paper TitlePresenter
1French Music in Saigon During the Sixties and the SeventiesLy Quyet Tien (Nguyen Tat Thanh University)
2KL Sing Song: Alternative Voices in the Kuala Lumpur Singer Songwriter Circuit (2005 – 2009)Azmyl Yusof (Sunway University)
3“Punk Hijrah” Beyond the Religious Lens: Exploring Punk, Piety & Aging in IndonesiaÉlise Imray Papineau (Griffith University)
4“I Don’t Care What You Say About Me”: Exploring Gig Attendance of Kids and Ageing PunkMuhammad Fakhran al Ramadhan (Universitas Islam 45 Bekasi)
5Bollywood Rules? Signifying Authenticity in Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar (2011)J Mark Percival (Queen Margaret University)
6From Local Markets to Cross-Asia Mandopop Industries: The Entrepreneurship of Taiwan Modern Indie LabelsHsueh-Min Liao (National Cheng Kung University)
7Intercultural Collaboration – Towards a Global SoundIngolv Haaland
(University of Agder)
Dr. Ly Quyet Tien (Nguyen Tat Thanh University, Vietnam) delivering his presentation on French pop music in Saigon during the 1960s and 1970s.
Dr. J Mark Percival (Queen Margaret University, Scotland) asking a question during
Dr. Ingolv Haaland’s (University of Agder, Norway) presentation.

Day 1 also featured an afternoon round-table session on archiving Southeast Asian popular music with Lara Mendoza, Krina Cayabyab, Adil Johan, and Filipino rapper BLKD. The round-table session was followed by the screening of Usapang Hip-Hop: Ambagan Sa Eksena At Kultura and a short Q&A with director Lara Mendoza. A special performance by BLKD x Calix closed off Day 1. A post-conference dinner was held at Sweet Inspirations along Katipunan Avenue.

Cristina Ma. Cayabyab (UP Diliman/EPAPC), BLKD, Lara Katrina Mendoza (Ateneo de Manila University/EPAPC),
and Dr. Adil Johan (National University of Malaysia) leading the round-table session on archiving
Southeast Asian popular music.
Lara Mendoza during the film screening Q&A.
BLKD x Calix performing songs from their 2019 album Kolateral.

Day 2 was held at the Museum of Instruments in Abelardo Hall at the UP Diliman. As with the previous day, registration and breakfast began at 8:00 AM. The program began at 9:0 AM, with Robbin Charles Dagle (ADMU/EPAPC) and Hannah Kayreen Aliwate (UP Diliman/EPAPC) as the masters of ceremonies. There were seven presentations on Day 2: four in the morning, three in the afternoon.

Table 2. List of paper presentations for Day 2.

Paper No.Paper TitlePresenter
*Hugot K-Pop: Early explorations on K-style OPMAlona Guevarra (Ateneo de Manila University)
8Dissonant lives of Transwomen: Reading the Ironies of Trans Tolerance in Original Pinoy MusicJohn Paolo Sarce (Polytechnic University of the Philippines)
9Mimicking the Mimics: Circulation and Performativity of Filipino Songs by American Cover Musicians on Social MediaCarljohnson Anacin (Griffith University)
10Translated Pop Songs Presented by Teatro Pilipino as Script for the Marcos RegimeNiccolo Vitug (Don Bosco Technical College)
11Colonisation, Migration and Entertainment: The Development of Malay Popular Music (1900-1969)Raja Iskandar Bin Raja Halid (Universiti Malaysia Kelantan)
12The Learning Culture of Malaysian Popular MusiciansHueyuen Choong (University of Westminster)
13Intercultural Cohesion and Malaysian Popular MusicAdil Johan (National University of Malaysia)
*Special EPAPC Lecture
Raja Iskandar bin Raja Halid (Universiti Malaysia Kelantan, Malaysia) delivering his presentation on Malaysian popular music in the first half of the 20th century.
Hueyuen Choong (University of Westminster, UK) delivering her presentation on the learning culture of
Malaysian popular musicians.
Participants and EPAPC personnel at Abelardo Hall, UP Diliman.

The paper presentations were followed by a special performance by UP Tugtugang Musika Asyatika (TUGMA). Participants were brought to Z Compound Food Park along Malingap Street for dinner, then to Conspiracy Garden Café along Visayas Avenue in Quezon City for an evening gig featuring performances by Bullet Dumas, Anahata, Azmyl Yusof, and Adil Johan. IASPM scholars were invited to perform onstage after the performances.

Members of UP Tugtugang Musika Asyatika (TUGMA) playing music from southern Filipino ethnolinguistic groups.
Hueyuen Choong, Azmyl Yusof, and Adil Johan taking the stage at Conspiracy Garden Café.

Day 3 took place once again at Faber Hall 101. Registration and breakfast were pushed forward to 8:30 AM to accommodate those who stayed late at Conspiracy Garden Café the previous night. The program began at 9:30 AM with John Paolo Sarce (Polytechnic University of the Philippines/EPAPC) as the master of ceremonies.

The morning of Day 3 featured five junior presentations by the EPAPC research assistants. These presentations were shorter than the presentations on previous days, at 20 minutes each.

Table 3. List of junior presentations for Day 3

Paper TitlePresenter
Pangmalakasang Kantawanan: The Culture of Song and Humor in the Longest-Running Televised Singing Competition, Tawag ng TanghalanPatricia Dizon (UP Diliman)
Pressing Issues: Oppositionist Expression in Mr. & Ms. During the Marcos Dictatorship, 1981-1983Sarah Jessica Wong (ADMU)
Confronting Subjectivities: Initial Methodological Reflections on the Queer Christianity ProjectRobbin Charles Dagle (ADMU)
Headfirst into the Past: An Experiential Learning of Archival HistoryHannah Kayreen Aliwate (UP Diliman)
From Islands to Outerspace: An Overview of Philippine Science Fiction FilmsQuennie Aguirre (UP Diliman)
Hannah Kayreen Aliwate talking about her experiences on archival research under
Dr. Elizabeth Enriquez (UP Diliman/EPAPC).
Participants and EPAPC personnel at Faber Hall, ADMU.

The junior presentations were followed by the IASPM-SEA branch meeting facilitated by Dr. Adil Johan. Several points discussed during the meeting included network-building, the organizational structure of the SEA branch, possible venues for the next IASPM-SEA conference, and plans for officer elections. The meeting was followed by the screening of Sa Madaling Salita, OPM: Ang Himig Pilipino sa Dekada Sitenta and a short Q&A with director Krina Cayabyab. The conference ended with closing remarks delivered by Dr. Alona Guevarra and Dr. Adil Johan.

Director Krina Cayabyab giving a short talk before the screening of
Sa Madaling Salita, OPM: Ang Himig Pilipino sa Dekada Sitenta.
Dr. Adil Johan giving his closing remarks.

Post-Conference Activities

On February 3, 2020, Dr. Adil Johan, Azmyl Yusof, Dr. J Mark Percival, and Carljohnson Anacin (Griffith University, Australia) were invited to record a segment for DZUP at the UP College of Mass Communication. Dr. Elizabeth Enriquez (UP Diliman/EPAPC) interviewed the four musician-academics about their research and their music.

Dr. Adil Johan, Dr. J Mark Percival, Azmyl Yusof, and Carljohnson Anacin (Griffith University) with
Dr. Elizabeth Enriquez (UP Diliman/EPAPC) and Krina Cayabyab at DZUP.

EPAPC Personnel

Among the EPAPC scholars, Lara Mendoza, Krina Cayabyab, and Dr. Alona Guevarra were part of the local conference planning committee and were present for all three days of the conference. Dr. Elizabeth Enriquez conducted the radio interview on February 3.

The EPAPC research assistants who worked during the conference were Quennie Aguirre, Hannah Kayreen Aliwate, Robbin Charles Dagle, Patricia Dizon, Rajji Maren Lunas, Donna Manuel, Ariane Pamute, and Sarah Jessica Wong. Mary-Ann Cabansag from the UP College of Music also assisted during the conference, especially on Day 2.