Will Martin Nievera dare to sing Iran's national anthem his way?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-05-12

Outside of Americans and Filipinos, can you recall other nationals who sang their national anthems during a public event in a way that deviated from the traditional beat?

It’s not surprising that the disrespectful practice was popularized by showbiz personalities who are always trying to be different or just simply trying to be noticed. They justify it as the freedom of artistic expression.

Many Filipinos are the ‘monkey see, monkey do’ types when something is started by Americans. Now, we have this recent controversy of pop singer Martin Nievera after he sang our national anthem (before the Pacman-Hitman Las Vegas fight) to a different beat.

Martin Nievera was first called to task by Ambeth Ocampo of the National Historical Institute for violating Section 37, Chapter II of Republic Act 8491, or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines. The law provides penalties – a jail term and fine – for violations. Nievera did not only violate a revered tradition but he also broke the law.

Representative Teddy Casiño also reacted and proposed a Congressional investigation to clarify once and for all the protocol on the singing or playing of the National Anthem.

In the STAR May 6 front page story penned by Jess Diaz, Casiño cited Nievera in House Resolution 1137 for singing the Lupang Hinirang “in a manner not in keeping with the original arrangement of its composer Julian Felipe.”

Julian Felipe composed the national anthem to capture the spirit of the Philippine Revolution against Spain – hence the martial beat. Casiño commented that Nievera sang the national anthem as if it were a ballad.

“Mr. Nievera is not the first artist who sang the national anthem in a different style and tempo. As in the past, such non-traditional renditions elicit much debate among policymakers and the public at large as to the proper way of singing the Lupang Hinirang and whether artists have the license to deviate from tradition,” Casiño added.

Casiño named Charice Pempengco and Jennifer Bautista (there were more actually) as entertainers who have deviated from the traditional rendition while Karylle, Kayla and Ciara Sotto sang it in the traditional manner.

Nievera found support from Cabinet Secretary Silvestre “Bebot” Bello III and Leah Navarro of the Black and White Movement. Bello said Nievera sang it in ‘good faith’ which makes us wonder if stealing in ‘good faith’ clears a plunderer. Navarro said a mouthful.

Per Navarro, “I do not care how people sing it, whether it’s rap or out of tune, for as long as they know how to sing it. That is, has sense of self.” Navarro justified the mangling of the beat of the national anthem so long as the lyrics are “sung from the heart.”

The next plunderer that Navarro and her group will denounce should then just respond to them that the mega theft was committed with the sincerest prodding of his heart.

Nievera also found support from Manny Pacquiao who even offered to sing the national anthem the next time. But then, outside of boxing, what does Pacquiao really know?

It was reported that Ryan Cayabyab warned Nievera before the fight not to change the beat. Yet, when informed of the controversy that his rendition of the national anthem spawned at home, Nievera said to ABS-CBN that he did nothing wrong.

Outside of the legal issue, we must wonder if Nievera ever considered the historical and traditional aspects of the national anthem that should compel anyone tasked to sing it in an international event to follow its set guidelines. Respect for a national tradition should prevail over an ego trip for being different.

If Nievera sang and misrepresented the national anthem of Iran like he misrepresented the Philippine national anthem, he will find comradeship with Salman Rushdie who has been dodging for two decades now the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwa (execution order) for writing The Satanic Verses.

On different occasions, Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras – the famous three tenors – all sang La Donna en mobile and Nessun dorma. Do you recall any of them mangling the beat of these opera classics?

Never! And that is because they know better not to even think of doing that. They know that some things in this world are not to be altered. They had too great a respect for the artist who created the musical composition.

But then, the late Luciano Pavarotti and the surviving two tenors are genuine artists who have earned the recognition of the world of art and culture. Over here many of us easily elevate mere entertainers to the exalted level of artists without even knowing what differentiates the two.

Without as much as a law to mandate how they ought to sing La Donna en mobile and Nessun dorma and all those other opera classics – Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras respected the original compositions.

So, who are these Martin Nieveras, Charice Pempengcos and Jennifer Bautistas – who are mere entertainers and have not even earned the right to claim to be genuine artists – to sing our national anthem differently?

The embodiment of the history and aspirations of our nation in a song, without even a law to define how it must be sung – freedom of artistic expression cannot justify singing the national anthem differently.

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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