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Kuh Ledesma’s cry to limit foreign acts draws mixed reactions


From left: Kuh Ledesma, Isay Alvarez, and Jim Paredes.

As 2012 continues to shape up to be a banner year for successful sellout concerts by foreign acts, at least one local artist is not too happy about it. Kuh Ledesma wants government to limit the number of foreign musicians that are allowed to perform here.

In a recent interview with, the Pop Diva pointed out that because we are a small country with limited resources, our local talents should be protected and not be deprived of opportunities that otherwise go to foreign performers.

“Kung ako ang tatanungin, kung ako ang president, dapat limitado talaga. Kasi, nakikita ko talaga na kapag sinuportahan natin ang mga Pilipino, talagang lalawak ang bayan natin,” she argued.

Not surprisingly, Kuh’s advocacy has drawn mixed reactions from music industry stakeholders.

Among those who supports her call for government intervention is singer-songwriter Jim Paredes, one third of the legendary Apo Hiking Society.

“There is a regulation of sorts also in the US, Australia and the UK by way of actors equity where producers pay for local jobs displaced,” he said.

Singer and actress Isay Alvarez agrees and warned that foreign acts are not the only ones that have been flocking to the Philippines as of late but also foreign musicals.

“And their numbers are growing,” she further cautioned. “Yes it’s true I was part of a foreign musical once, but I guess that’s different because Cameron Mackintosh brought ‘Miss Saigon’ here because I think he owes it to the Filipinos. Besides, most of the talents in that musical came from this country anyway.”

In addition to limiting the number of foreign acts performing here, Isay added that government should also review what those foreign performers pay when they come here.

“It should be for every foreigner and not for every performance,” she insisted. “And please make it high and not peanuts. And use the funds collected for displaced artists or for furtherance of the Filipino talent. Thereby, these producers might take a second look and produce worthy Pinoy productions!”

Ovation Productions head Renen De Guia, promoter of countless shows by foreign performers for many years, thinks regulation is not the answer.

“Everywhere in the world, markets are opening up. That’s the meaning of going global. We cannot go back to the old ways. We need to compete and we are competing beautifully,” he pointed out.

De Guia recalled that there was also a time when many of his concerts featuring internationally famous singers or bands lost out to local shows.

“I remember those times during the 1980s when my concerts didn’t do well because the dates came close to, say, a Pops Fernandez concert or even to a Kuh Ledesma concert. If gigs are getting lesser and lesser for some local artists these days, it’s certainly not due to foreign artists,” he stressed.

Acclaimed music video director Robert Quebral also believes that preventing foreign acts from performing here will not automatically translate to better patronage of local performers and submits that “they simply don’t share the same market.”

“Maybe a more proactive way is to bridge these two markets: i.e. Pearl Jam back to back with Parokya ni Edgar or Kuh back to back with, say, Sarah Mclachlan or any other interesting combination out there,” Quebral instead suggested.

“Government should impose this. If nationalism slash patriotism is the point, then, that’s another thing. If by some miracle we become more nationalistic as a society and the quality of our music culture goes up a notch, we can expect an evolution.”

Former radio announcer Pinky Aseron said that local acts need not lose out to their foreign counterparts in the concert scene. It’s just a matter of how they sell themselves.

“I still believe that a local artist or group can be just as bankable as these foreign acts. It all depends on how effectively they market themselves, or, how they can successfully adapt to the evolving preferences of their target audience. Some of them may have to reinvent themselves if they wish to broaden their audience base or at least maintain their following,” she pondered

Chito Confiado, former record executive at the now defunct Sony Music Philippines where he used to handle OPM acts, is taking a similar view but looks at it from the vantage point of the average music fan.

“Siyempre, iba rin yung nakikita ng fans yung mga musical idols nila live,” Confiado noted. “Apart from enjoying the concert itself, our local musicians and production staff can learn techniques on how run a good show. Pinoy musicians are very good, but the effectiveness of foreign productions is something else. If we can manage to combine the two, then I’m sure we will have better OPM concerts.”

Ely Buendia

One artist who stands to benefit from government regulation of foreign acts is surprisingly against it. Former Eraserhead and now Pupil bandleader Ely Buendia strongly believes that this is not the way to go.

“Ultimately it’s a case of removing the symptom but not the cause,” he simply said.