A couple of years after first arriving here in the U.S., I felt something was missing. Work had become less hectic, and I had settled into my new surroundings, friends and way of life with – I was sure – all kinds of exciting opportunities awaiting me. I was happy, but not as much as I could be. There was something missing.
After a long vacation back home, while driving to work again one morning, I reached over to turn on the radio. And it hit me. It was music.
I had been so busy working for those past couple of years that I didn’t have time to relax, much less enjoy music. I sang all the way to work that morning, with a lighter heart and a clearer mind. A big part of my soul that had lain dormant had now been revived.
Filipinos are, in general, music-lovers. Many Filipino singers are internationally renowned like Lea Salonga, apl.de.ap of Black Eyed Peas, Arnel Pineda of Journey, and Charice, to name a few. Still many others have been on American Idol or similar shows. Watch a Broadway show and you will likely find at least two or more Filipinos in the cast.
Back home, karaokes and videokes abound. Some own pianos, and even the humblest of homes are likely to have a guitar. Filipinos sing anywhere and everywhere and love to dance. Everyone just “does” music – be they good at it or not.
It is a chance to perform, which Filipinos do love to do – yes – but more than that, it is an irrepressible expression of JOY.
My siblings and I are by no means virtuoso pianists, and yet we now reap the benefits of those dreaded piano lessons our parents “forced” on us – for which we are ever grateful. For each time a piece is played, with fingers easily gliding across the piano playing notes from memory, the music is not only enjoyed for itself but for the memories it evokes and the lightness of heart it brings. Oftentimes now, I am not alone when I play, with the children exploding in joyful dance around me, making new musical memories.
Music brings people together in a way mere words cannot, sometimes making words themselves unnecessary. Our childhood memories back home are often intertwined with music – memories of enjoying and making music together with family and friends.
Being surrounded with music practically from birth – whether at church, on the radio or tv, or sung by family and friends – one naturally develops an affinity for it, and in many cases, an ear for it as well. Many back home learn to play the piano or guitar by “oido” (by hearing) even without lessons, and singing becomes a part of daily life.
Filipino songwriters are prolific – for music is an outlet not just for joy and humor, but also for sorrow, praise and worship. It lifts the mind and calms the heart. Music provides catharsis for someone who has experienced loss or tragedy and helps calm down fussy babies and toddlers (even adults) – often instantaneously. Reverent music and singing stir the soul and seem to transport one to heaven while still here on earth.
I am no “Tiger Mom”, and yet I feel compelled to enroll our children in music lessons – but not merely to “play” an instrument. Much like learning a language or an art, one cannot fully appreciate music without knowing it and experiencing it from the inside. Though a spectator at an art show or concert can appreciate and enjoy the performance or artwork in front of him, an artist or musician is able to see beyond this and savor the minutest nuance of each stroke or note, and the effort and time it took to perfect such a piece.
But musician or not, even one who feels reasonably successful and content may be surprised to find that fine music brings with it a different dimension to life — be it serenity of heart, beauty, pure unadulterated joy, or an outlet for one’s innermost thoughts, inexpressible in words.
Music is itself a language, one that opens the door to a world of expression, enjoyment and beauty, one that brings people together from all ages and walks of life, one that makes the use of words entirely optional.
Truly, music is the voice of the soul.
“If a composer could say what he had to say in words, he would not bother trying to say it in music.” – Gustav Mahler, composer
Have a joyfully musical day!