November 11, 2010

Fil-Am Drummer Susie Ibarra on Modern Drummer December 2010

Being a Filipino drummer, it gives me a great sense of pride to see eclectic Filipino-American drummer/percussionist Susie Ibarra on the cover of the December 2010 issue of Modern Drummer magazine.  As far as I know, Susie Ibarra is the first MD cover artist who is of Filipino descent.  I don't think there are any other Filipino drummers before her who made it to the cover of this prestigious drumming publication.  I've learned about her cover appearance and feature early last month, and since then I was excited.

Finally, I was able to get my copy early this week.  The first thing I did was to go straight to the pages of her MD feature and scan through the interview and find references of her Filipino roots and heritage.

"That (a track on Drum Sketches) was recorded in the south of the Philippines at the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival, on the last day during a fluvial or boat parade.  All of the provinces in the area compete for a cash prize.  They decorate their boats with multicolored flags, and there are thirty people on each boat playing kulintang ensemble gong music.  They come down the river with this massive sound.  You have different gong ensembles crossing the river, producing waves of sound."

"When I first took him (her husband, Cuban percussionist Roberto Juan Rodriguez) to see the parades in the Philippines, they reminded him of his native Cuba.  He related as a Cuban artist in the way the interlocked rhythms worked, especially with the bass gong.  It added that Cuban drive to the music."

"We (Susie & husband Roberto) both come from dance cultures.  Filipinos and Cubans love to dance.  Rhythm is in the community --- in Cuba, if you want to learn piano, they put you on drums first --- and that explains why in Cuba and the Philippines they have such a deep pocket and culture of rhythm."

- Susie Ibarra, Modern Drummer, December 2010

She also cited the albums Pakaraguian sa Maguindanao: A Celebration of Kulintang Music And Dance by Danongan Kalanduyan & Palabuniyan Kulintang Percussion Ensemble, and Asibang-Lan, Pinukpok, Balbalan, Gong, and Percussion Music: Ang Musika Ng Mga Kalinga Music From The Kalinga in Northern Luzon, Philippines by various artists as among her favorite albums.  I wonder where I can find these albums.  It's also cool to see some Filipino names & terms printed on an international drumming publication.

Admittedly, I have yet to listen to Susie Ibarra's numerous recordings, which are hard-to-find and not easily accessible on this side of the world.  I only get to hear some audio samples and watch some of her videos posted on YouTube.  Yet I am in great admiration of Susie Ibarra's works and her intention of celebrating her Filipino heritage by incorporating some of our indigenous instruments and rhythms to her music.  Her intention of introducing and educating her audience to Philippine rhythms and ethnic instruments should be given recognition. 

Applying our Filipino indigenous rhythms and instruments to modern styles of music is something that I would love to do someday
, as documented on my blogs about the Filipino ethnic instruments workshop I attended last July*.  While Susie Ibarra may be applying it through jazz and world music, I am hoping to find a way to incorporate it with modern or contemporary musical styles.  It would be great if it can be done in a mainstream or pop setting, so that it can reach an even greater audience.

Susie Ibarra is a talented and creative drummer, percussionist and rhythmatist who, as Modern Drummer described it, "extends beyond boundaries, beyond cliche, and beyond a common understanding of what a drummer's role is and ultimately can be."  I do hope that she would conduct shows and an educational seminar here in Manila in the near future.  And I do hope that more Filipinos would recognize her.  Susie Ibarra is proud of her Filipino heritage.  And Susie Ibarra is a world-class artist whom we Filipinos can be proud of.

* My Filipino Ethnic Music Instruments 101 Experience - Part 1 (July 21, 2010) & Part 2 (July 24, 2010).

Check out Susie Ibarra's website, which is cool because there are several photos there which reflect her pride of her Filipino roots.