Presentation: Pinoy Indie Rock and Saraswathi Jones

Balance introduces the Pinoy indie rock scene by examining the translocal scenes of San Francisco and Manila. The Pinoy indie rock scenes of these two cities grew out of grassroots communities that supported independent artists and eventually developed into thriving, self-sufficient hubs for their genre cultures. Balance describes a music scene as “a network of relationships, a social ecosystem where every member is necessary despite the overwhelming idea that their purpose emanates from a scene’s musicians” (Balance 127). The history of these two communities show how music scenes such as these can form global genre cultures and lead to international recognition and success, such as the Eraserheads’ MTV Music Video award win in 1997 for “Ang Huling El Bimbo” (Balance 142).

These scenes were most instrumental to the success of the indie scene when they were in their infancy. Before the formation of these communities, the indie scenes existed, but the individual local scenes were disconnected, not necessarily communicating with one another. Events like San Francisco’s piNoisepop festival fostered these scenes by bringing together smaller local communities. Simply having members of the community meet in a physical space is important for building music scenes. In Manila, local communities came together in bars and record stores. In addition to physical spaces, indie scenes grew through magazines and radio shows, offering a widespread method of distribution which enabled communities to share experiences and music. Online social media was also beginning to grow and become a factor in the growth of music scenes.

Once these scenes were formed, simply by bringing people together, they supported each other. Artistically, it gave artists a way to share ideas with other like-minded individuals who had similar goals and intentions with their music. Financially, it gave members of the community clear ways to contribute to the scene. By purchasing or sharing music with others, these scenes were able to grow beyond their means and provide a support structure for artists.

Translocal scenes make up the greater genre culture; in this case, the local scenes of San Francisco and Manila are part of the Pinoy indie rock genre culture. Balance introduces Holt’s definition of genre that isn’t solely defined by the music itself: genre can be identified “with certain cultural values, rituals, practices, territories, traditions, and groups of people” (Balance 131). Using this definition, it’s clear how these genre scenes are translocal. The local scenes described by Balance participate in the genre’s culture through its music,. The genre culture is influenced by each local scene, and it comes together as a conglomerate of the collective traditions and tastes of each region and its people.

Using this definition of genre, Saraswathi Jones participates in multiple genre cultures, demonstrating how genre is tied to culture. She plays into tropes of indie rock, pop, and country while subverting expectations by incorporating seemingly disparate elements, such as the lyrics on “UTI”. Broadening the scope of this, most of the music of the class can be analyzed as part of a local scene that is participating in a larger, often global, genre culture. For example, Mitski’s initial role as a member of the New York indie rock community while also participating in the Asian American indie rock community. Categorizations such as these surface how genre is not always a choice. Artists are placed into genres, and often times, genres emerge to describe a trend. Instead of a genre being created by a group of people with its own pre-determined set of rules, genres are the result of local communities engaging with one another to form a shared set of values. The connection between translocal scenes and genre culture is far-reaching and can be applied to music scenes today.

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