4/29/2005

Hawaii

I love listening to good Hawaiian chant music. Today it's Call It What You Like by Mark Keali'i Ho'omalu.

Native American chant music is good too, yah know, drum stuff from powwows.

I never much got into Filipino music as a kid - the stuff my folks listened to all sounded too much like 50's lounge music (which it likely was) or covers of Christmas music.

Been thinking about the whole Filipino identity thing again, likely 'cause I'm still reading Emil Guillermo's Amok!

What's the role of identity anyway? Membership to a community? Definition from other groups/dominant paradigms? Historic ties to heritage and therefore 'cultural rights?'

But I guess it's also natural to ask "who am I?" "what defines me?" - the tricky thing in our post-colonial/politcal correct world is finding and properly using a term for oneself. Claiming a particular identity could imply membership into a group where the other members don't agree to your inclusion (how many New Agers have you seen try to sneak into private powwows with the declaration that their spirit is NA?) At the same time, reclamation of heritage and culture is important to the post-colonialist trying to find a space without a sense of negation (non-White, etc).

Then there's the whole problem with representation. As an artist I don't want my work seen as representative or definitive of my community, nor would I look to any other single artist to be that way. I'm influenced by several different cultures given my background, often conflicting cultures, and I want my art to reflect that. At the same time, it can be hard for a potential publisher to know where to "put" my work. Race is the easiest, of course, and a hot topic these days, but I don't want my work to be only viewed from the lens of race, or race relations, or even to an extent the post-colonial movement. These are all too restricting to my mind.

That's why I /laughed/ when I read Guillermo's move to coin a new term for himself. He wanted to acknowledge both his ties to Asia and to Spain, to somehow bring together this double consciousness that Filipinos/FilAms feel when looking at their heritage. He wanted to bring both the flavor of Asia and link it with the more common term Hispanic.

His solution: As-Panic

(not to be confused, of course, with the Margaret Cho-esque fear that the straight guy feels when he finds himself in a bathroom at a gay bar).

I don't know what I am racially - my parents immigrated before I was born and I always have this sense of second-citizenship when I hear the term American Born Filipino (as in, oh she doesn't know any better about *fill in the Filipino cultural issue* She was born /here/.) FilAm is easiest, but also seems to imply that I'm of mixed racial heritage, like my children. FilAm Culturally is just too cumbersome. APA is okay, except that there's that implied blendedness with the mainland Asians and the Japanese who don't have the cultural heritage of Spanish and US colonization. API'er isn't much better, but perhaps a tad more accurate. Survivor of the Spanish American War would be closer.

Perhaps it because we often confuse race with culture, as if our racial characteristics can somehow imprint a specific type of culture on our hearts and brains. Back to that Nature vs. Nurture argument, eh?

I don't know the answer, I just find a lot of comfort from the music of Native Hawaii and Native America. They seem to know how to put it, race, identity, culture, protest, all together beautifully.

1 comment:

Alison Stine said...

Have you heard Israel Kamakawiwo'ole? I don't know much about him (or music) but his voice is lovely.