You may not see or hear this group croon tophit songs – ever. But this group bears plenty of guts and muscles in pursuit of their lofty goals.
by Dennis Espada
The Kulturang Ugnayan ng Makabayang Sining Anakpawis (Kumasa or Cultural Link of Patriotic and Working Class Art) is set to release soon their first album entitled “Kamtin Ang Tagumpay” (Seize Victory) in celebration of the militant labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno’s (May 1st Movement) milestone 25th anniversary.
“Kamtin ang Tagumpay” is a combination of old and new renditions that are acoustic-based with a generally folksy sound.
The problem of joblessness and contractualization was utterly delineated in the blues rendition “Wala” (Nothing) while “One-Two-Five” reverberates with the current demand of workers for a P125 across-the-board daily wage increase.
Significantly, “Kahilingan” (demand), “Daluyong” (tidal wave), and the opener “Kamtin ang Tagumpay” (seize victory) have garnered top prizes at the Gawad Amado V. Hernandez poetry contest in recent years.
Meanwhile, composed by First Quarter Storm (FQS) activist Rafael Baylosis while in detention in April 1976, “Parangal sa mga Rebolusyonaryong Martir” (tribute to revolutionary martyrs) pays homage to martyred comrades Lorena Barros, Lorenzo Lansang and Eugene Grey who were slain by the military in Quezon province. A movie adaptation of Lualhati Bautista’s novel Dekada ’70 produced in 2002 used some of the lines in this stirring ballad but was sadly played out of tune.
Marching songs like “Bigwas ng Tagumpay” (blow of victory), “Sumulong” (onward) and “Lansagin” (dismantle) evoke the ideological attributes of the working class, highlighting its vanguard role in bringing about revolutionary change in an oppressive and unjust social system.
Using an African dyenbe and a five-layered string harmony made the agitating song “Makibaka, Huwag Matakot!” (struggle, have no fear!) a strong attraction as well, with live audio recordings captured from the recent violent dispersals of the Nestle workers’ picketline.
Kumasa’s choral rendition of “The Internationale” bears lyrics that are nearest to the original written by French composers Eugene Pottier and Pierre Degeyter.
“Eskirol” (scab) on the other hand, with its lines “At kami nga’y naririto ngayon sa labas ng pabrika/Nakikibaka, tuloy ang welga/Arawi’t bagyuhin ‘di bibitaw sa simulain/’Di tulad mong sa unyon ay nagtaksil,” there is bitterness in how a fellow worker treacherously capitulated to their class enemy, the capitalists.
Over-all, this 12-track album gives a big sting against those who work to perpetuate the exploitation of workers.
Formed three years ago, Kumasa is a regional alliance of cultural groups from various local trade unions and initiated by the Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (Pamantik or Unity of Workers in Southern Tagalog).
It is composed of alternative cultural groups like Alab (Flame), Kalipunan ng mga Progresibong Artista sa Nestlé (Kampana or Association of Progressive Artists in Nestle), Kulturang Minana sa Sining Anakpawis (Kumisap II or Cultural Legacy from the Working Class), Maso (Mallet), Sining at Kultura ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Siklab or Art and Culture of the Children of the People), Sining-Laya (Art-Freedom), and Sining Umusbong sa Bagong Obrerong Kultura (Subok or Art Sprouted from the New Workers’ Culture), among others.
“At first, our purpose was to raise moral and financial support for our strike,” Kumasa’s secretary-general Edmund Corteza told Bulatlat in an interview.
Undiscovered artistic potentials would however later unfold before their own eyes.
Members simply joined the singing without needing to pass an audition. “They just volunteered to help,” said activist-musician Marlon Angelo Torres, who is also the group’s coordinator.
Kumasa has performed in various occasions: from picketlines to street demonstrations to theaters.
Torres always told the group that they didn’t need huge talent. “What we need is 90 percent discipline and 10 percent talent,” he said. He also said that they can improve their talents through time, inch by inch.
But right now, he said, team work, commitment and discipline are the most important requirements. Bulatlat