Grace Nono sings, people listen, enrapt. And they watch, enchanted.
For this woman is so pleasingly unpredictableone never knows
what she's going to do next, and where it's all coming from.
her concert, Aniyaya: A Harvest of Traditional Sources at the CASA
San Miguel in Zambales last April 8, for instance. Those of you who
have seen her perform before might be saying, "Why should I go
all the way to Zambales when I have watched her and can watch her
any old time in Manila?" The answer simply is, because it was
Grace Nono's own words, "It's easy to just put up a concert.
But we were looking for a concert that would express our vision, and
one angle of that is to come up with something very Filipino and very,
very personal at the same time."
took place at the Outdoor Theater of the CASA San Miguel that night
was, in every sense, a harvest. And what made it truly unlike any
other concert was the material. Grace produced a showcase of our culture:
love songs, chants, lullabies, even children's rhymes of Kalinga,
T'boli, Visayan, Maranao, and Maguindanaoan originmaterial as
researched by Aga Mayo Butocan and Neal Legaspi.
collaborative effort, Aniyaya as a whole, was more than just a presentation
of songs and music. It was a coming together of artists and their
art. A harvest of creative ideas, as it were.
Grace, "It was centrally a music offering, but actually it was
a multi-media presentation. Everybody involved in the production poured
their souls into the project." And the creativity showed. Maribel
Legarda's choreography was infused with the kuntaw, a Southern martial
art-dance. Roberto Feleo's set design had traces of our myths, among
them the bakunawa.
concert's producers themselves, Sarri Tapales and Didi Dee (Art Director
for Theater and Dance, and for the Visual Arts, respectively, at the
Pundaquit Festival of the Arts) are obviously creative people who
lavished support. In Grace's words, "Our producers are not just
'money' guys. They understand what the value of art is, not as a commodity,
but a living thing, a living expression, not just of the artist, but
of the ones viewing it. It was a dream."
everyone dreams such a dream. But then Grace Nono has not been named
"The Alternative Diva" for nothing. That it's all a matter
of values is her opinion. "Because of our orientation, we value
these historical treasures, or cultural treasures, which are very
ancient." And she believes there is magic in these things. "They're
ancient, but they're just as relevant as recent material. At 'yun
ang gusto kong palabasin (That is what I wanted to show). That these
materials are not dead. We can still use them in the present context,
learn from them, get inspired by them."
fact, one word to best describe Aniyaya would be, as Grace says, cross-cultural.
"We know for a fact that we are a multi-cultural lot and I, myself,
am a mix already of, say, Northern and Southern blood. That goes the
same for my consciousness. I'm a meeting point of so many dichotomies."
The important thing is to look for commonality in the apparent differences.
For all our ethnic diversity as reflected in the myths, rhythms, melodies
particular to a different tribe, "there is a string that connects
all of them," Grace stressed. And the point of the whole concert
was to tap into the string as present-day artists interacting with
was this interaction which made the concert what it was: an experience.
One that demanded a person's entire being for enrichment: not just
the eyes to see and the ears to hear, but the heart to encompass and
respond, the mind to perceive and comprehend, the soul to soar and
be lifted by it all.
as one watches, one realizes that our heritage is not just rich, but
grand. And taking it all in, there is a tugging at our consciousness,
but more than that, at something we never knew existedwhat philosophers
sought and called the "primordial stuff."
an artist to have dug deep within herself and our country's cultural
past to emerge with a musical feast shows much sensitivity and nobility.
Says she, "Aniyaya is a tradition in the present moment; the
artist and her consciousness."
adds, "It's like cooking stewyou put all the ingredients
there, and then you bring it to a boil and then you simmer it for
a very long time. Slow burn, so that the juices of all ingredients
will merge, and you get all the subtleties of the taste, which you
can never do with instant."
a masterpiece, it was vintage Grace Nono.
The Business Daily
24 April 1995