The challenge to writing a tribute or a eulogy to a celebrity is how to do it without riding on a bandwagon. A celebrity’s death is always something made out of relevance, importance, immediacy, impulse, and urgency. People change their status messages, people start blogging about how much of a fan they were of that recently departed celebrity.
It becomes even more of a challenge to write that tribute or that eulogy without wax. Fluff it up where it’s necessary, make it cheesy where it counts, but to write that tribute knowing that you’re not the president or a card-carrying member of the Francis Magalona Fans’ Club. I write this tribute as a passing excuse for a musician. I write this post as a guy who, at one point in his life, listened to the music of Francis Magalona.
The philosopher Theodor Adorno once wrote that when you repeat a piece of music enough for it to be recognized, it becomes part of the pool of popular culture. Francis Magalona brought with him things that, for a time, didn’t belong to the milieu of our music. Francis M. brought with him rap at a time of ballads, MTV at a time of FM radio, and retained the clean-cut celebrity look and lifestyle as opposed to “gangsta.” The repetition of the image and the music of Francis Magalona gave rise to that genre he was instrumental to: the Filipino iteration of rap and hip-hop. For a fleeting episode in that series of fleeting episodes called music, Francis Magalona was Filipino rap.
When Francis Magalona died today, everyone listened to “Kaleidoscope World.” Every color, every hue, memories of the legendary Francis M. Never mind that epoché in music history where hip-hop was derided to the tune of “I Am The Man From Manila,” or to imitate Francis’ get-up was the height of “jologs,” or rap represented declassé. Or that it was kind of difficult to drink Royal Tru Orange without having to have someone taunt you with verse from “Ito Ang Gusto Ko.”
As we grew up, every derision brought about by juvenile insecurities were shed, and you can still be “cool” if you sing “Mga Kababayan Ko” out loud at karaoke sessions. Not because you’re the biggest fan of Francis Magalona, not because you’re a mark for his music, but because the music was there. Francis Magalona was big enough a musician, an artist, and entertainer for you to know who he is, and what he stands for.
It is in recognizing and respecting that place of Francis Magalona where the mourning – and to a certain extent, the celebration – takes place. Music, when committed into sound and harmony, has no other destination but repetition. While Francis Magalona may no longer be here, we realize, recognize, and respect that place that he carved out for himself and the music he made.
We will all have our choices in music; our own preferences will determine what makes a song or an artist good, great, bad, terrible. While I won’t have a pretense or a claim that I ever had a deep appreciation for the music of Francis Magalona, it is with recognition and respect that I give this pause to the man who made Pinoy rap possible; here, now, repeated.