I haven’t read a lot of Filipino literature. For one reason or another, I always preferred to read Japanese and Western literature. Maybe I was afraid that Filipino authors would disappoint me. I have read a lot of good books by esteemed Filipino authors such as Ambeth Ocampo and Nick Joaquin, but I’ve always assumed they were the exception to the rule – the rule being that works by Filipino authors are not as impressive as their Western or Japanese counterparts.
I could practically hear you screaming “How could you be so racist and so unpatriotic?!?” along with hundreds of condemning fingers pointed at me. I know, I know. How neocolonialist of me, right? I should be supporting more Filipino authors and encouraging them to write good material. It’s a terrible state to be in. I’m a UP graduate so, naturally, I know that it is a moral and social responsibility to uplift the Filipino culture because more Filipinos need to break away from the neocolonialist mindset and just try to be more proud of their homegrown works. Of course, I’m disappointed with myself too – particularly, when I’ve also read some not-so-appealing books written by some Filipino authors and I can’t bring myself to appreciate them.
So, when Jennie asked me to read this book by Lourd De Veyra – the very same vocalist of a Filipino jazz-rock band and is currently the TV personality popular for making sarcastic comments in a monotone voice – I wasn’t so thrilled. I understand she’s a huge fan of Lourd because she’s very interested in the Filipino music industry, but I’m not too excited about the idea of reading his book. How is he credible as an author? What’s he supposed to be writing about in this book? Is it even going to be good? Needless to say, I was very skeptical.
That is, until I started reading the first page and I COULD NOT STOP. I couldn’t put the book down!
Before I knew it, here I am, typing up a review for a book I didn’t think I would like.
So, ladies and gentlemen, I formally introduce to you my book review of SUPER PANALO SOUNDS!
PLOT & BACKGROUND
The book chronicles the lives of four very talented musicians as they venture into the world of “drugs, rock and roll, and the depths of the human soul.” We follow the lives of drugged-out sax player Milo with his equally drugged-out genius composer of a best friend, Dax, as they struggle to conquer the world of music with their anal-retentive drummer, Zorro, and their left-wing activist vocalist, Vic.
The plot itself is not new, but Lourd manages to entrance his readers with his cynical commentary on the state of affairs in the Philippines – from illustrating how music legends aren’t given the rightful honor they deserve to explicitly pointing out the multitude of musical talent prevalent in the country and how they could be so easily drowned out by poverty and corruption.
Let me just take this moment to salute Lourd for his very impressive character narrations. In just a few short pages, he has managed to introduce to me the meth-induced craziness of Milo and Dax; the quiet Budik; the organized and competitive Zorro; and the sensitive activist Vic – all of whom are musical geniuses in their own right. The introduction for each of the band members were hilarious and appropriate for each. Lourd managed to introduce how this unlikely band of musical geniuses-slash-social-misfits managed to go from sniffing drugs in basements to performing on expensive stages to finally working on their very own album. The buildup was slow yet not too dragging. The book, it turns out, isn’t entirely about these kids’ journey into music and rock-and-roll. It’s about everything that goes along with it – the crazy, wild nights out & the rise and fall of Pinoy music to the hidden musical genius that could be found in beggars on the streets.
I expected the book to incorporate humor into its pages. After all, this was written by a popular TV personality known for his sarcastic comments on the weather, national issues, and Philippine history.
What I wasn’t expecting was how entertained I was by his sense of humor. I was half-expecting corny jokes that bordered on cheesy, but he managed to pull off random hits on humor without sacrificing intelligence. The book was witty, sarcastic, and witty, which is exactly my kind of humor.
Lourd’s greatest asset is his ability to introduce relevant social issues into the book while making it relateable for the common Juan. He illustrates the Philippines in much the same way the Filipinos see their country: impoverished, crazy, unfair, and chaotic yet beautiful and inspiring. He incorporates elements that most Filipinos could relate to – from the convenient tindahan along the lane, to the overbearing neighbors who consistently manage to sing off-tune to karaoke ballads.
He illustrates how ideals could be achieved, so long as it isn’t trampled upon by the corruption prevailing in most Filipino industries, including the music industry. Most important of all, he shows that talent and skill thrives beyond the confines of poverty and injustice; that music in its purest, unadulterated form is beautiful; and that humans are frail creatures that could easily be broken if “tuned” the wrong way.
He does all these in a cynically upbeat form of narration. I was both mesmerized and impressed by his way of presenting ideas that I have to take every moment to pause and think about the issues he has pointed out. The book itself is a social commentary, and a very good one at that.