By Mateo P. Garcia

Gary Granada has a career spanning three decades, a slew of hits, and a distinct artistic point of view. He can rest easy – but he’s doing quite the opposite. Gary Granada needs you, the millennial, to make music with him.

Having co-founded the League of Authors of Public Interest Songs (LAPIS) with fellow OPM luminaries Cooky Chua, Bayang Barrios, Lolita Carbon, and Chikoy Pura, the singer-songwriter is on a mission to create a space for public interest songs, both as a vehicle for creative expression and as an educational tool for “developing social sensibility, cultural appreciation and political consciousness among the youth.”

To hear him tell it, the work of LAPIS is but one piece of a long project. “It’s a historical imperative, I suppose. It’s not just a lifetime project. When you dream of a better social order, it doesn’t happen in one generation.”

Public Interest Songs and Human Rights

“When we say a public interest song, it is a political statement to actually claim public good and public space,” says Gary. He adds: “The sense of public good is a universal concern especially in a country na malawak ang disparity…[Ito] ay pag-ambag sa pangarap ng iba-ibang tradisyon at common hope na maibalik sa kamay ng publiko ang kapakanan ng yamang publiko.”

A tall order, to be sure, especially at this stage when any talk of social change inevitably turns to the issue of human rights – and how far back we have fallen given the current administration’s deadly ‘war on drugs.’

Gary believes it’s time to talk — and play music. “This time, gusto naming ibalik ang discourse eh. Kasi na-sideline ‘yung economic, social, cultural rights. But we want to bring back to the table the idea that you can write about this issue of equity. Lumulutang kasi ‘yung usapan, napupunta sa philosophical nature ng karapatan. We need to make the connection back to the fact that the equation is nava-violate ang rights ng mahihirap; hindi nava-violate ang rights ng lahat.”

Hence, LAPIS’ focus on producing music and videos that aim directly at the consciousness of the Filipino youth. Late this year, LAPIS partnered with the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) to release a song and music video that responds to the killings of Filipino youth because of the ‘war on drugs.’

Hayaan Mo Ako, sung by Dong Abay and penned by Gary Granada, is a plaintive call to let our children be. Told from the point of view of a child, the lyrics are classic Gary – poetic without being maudlin and informed by a thorough understanding of human experience. It is, without exaggeration, a shot through the heart, with a coda that is both chilling and bracing.

 

“For December’s human rights week, we have another partnership with PAHRA and iDEFEND. So we put together a couple of young people for an original piece of music,” Gary teases.

It’s a bit of a departure, genre-wise, being consciously targeted at young ears. But the message is simple. “’Pag mahirap ka, even without tyranny, even without a fascist government, your rights are violated automatically. ‘Yun ang katotohanan, kahit wala pang EJK. Dahil hindi pantay ang mundo. Maybe it would be easier for young people to grasp the concept of human rights. I-ground natin doon sa realidad. It is correct to say human rights for all, regardless of gender, religion, class or creed. But there is a compelling sense also in saying rights are a product of equity,” he explains.

“The thing is, akala ng youth ay walang avenues for that. Akala nila ‘yung avenues sa movement ay very exclusive. Kailangan mo lang talagang magtanong, magsearch. Kasi maraming avenues, inclusive nga eh.”

Ang Kabataan at Musika ng Bayan

The dream, for Gary and his partners at LAPIS, goes beyond making music of public interest. It is also, crucially, a call for the youth to engage and join the movement. And Gary is optimistic: “I believe that the fuzzy logic of young people in identifying their interests with the interests of others is very much there. Hindi mawawala ‘yun.”

That sentiment is backed up by LAPIS Executive Director Caitlin Casenas. A young woman who admits to being born to privilege, Caitlin’s journey from college parties to social change activism started with a Sierra Madre hiking trip and a serendipitous encounter with Gary Granada’s music. That left an impact: “Hindi lang nag-trigger pero nagpa-agitate sa akin na I’ve been living in the wrong circles.”

She explains, “Pagbaba ko dito sa patag, nanood ako ng gig niya hanggang sa nilapitan ko si sir Gary. Nagpa-picture ako tapos niyakap ko siya.”

And so began Caitlin’s journey with Gary’s brand of activism. When the LAPIS board decided it was time to hand over the reins of the organization, Caitlin was the logical choice.  She now believes her story can be a model for fellow millennials who might be looking for a way in.

“The thing is, akala ng youth ay walang avenues for that. Akala nila ‘yung avenues sa movement ay very exclusive. Kailangan mo lang talagang magtanong, magsearch. Kasi maraming avenues, inclusive nga eh.”

She also notes that youth involvement should go beyond awareness and towards the realm of action. “Ang common notion kasi sa youth, kapag nasa movement ka, reklamo ka lang nang reklamo.”

The work is rewarding: “Bukod sa I get to be with my idol almost every day, ‘yung sense of community na very outward. ‘Yung generation na ito na laging hinahanap ‘yung sense of purpose nila – the thing is you create your sense of purpose. ‘Yun ang reward ko.”

That sense of purpose, which Gary and Caitlin have found, and that they hope other young people would also seek, is possible. Gary sums it up perfectly when he says, “Gusto kong buuin ang sarili ko; gusto kong maranasang mabuo ang sarili ko. Magkaroon ng integration, coherence at consistency ng pangarap at ginagawa. Para buo kang tao, at the same time, nagbubuo ka rin ng lipunan.

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Interested volunteers may contact LAPIS Executive Director Caitlin Casenas at 09173193080.

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