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July 9, 2015

The Melody of Joed Balsamo in Mabining Mandirigma

Joed Balsamo explains the music he created for Mabining Mandirigma

Fernando Josef, Mabining Mandirigma 1, July 8

A lot of people credit you for catchy musical scores. How is this different/similar with the past plays?

I never thought of myself doing catchy musical scores, but at least there is some level of ‘melodiousness’ or recall. For “Mabining Mandirigma”, this is definitely my most different because the director pushed me to think out of the usual box.

Steampunk is not really a genre in my musical palette, but as a composer, you should be able to adapt without necessarily compromising your creativity and aesthetics. But definitely this particular musical has melodies, which I think the audience will be able to at least hum after watching the show. It also has allusions to several melodies and genres that help tell the challenging story of the highly cerebral and philosophical Mabini.

Fernando Josef, Mabining Mandirigma 3, July 8

Which song(s) did the cast love singing? Please share a few lines from the song.

Well, most of them know the songs, except perhaps the more difficult ones that allude to the Brechtian tradition because the melody is just plain challenging. One of the few songs that they keep on singing is “Uyayi ni Pule”, “Vivan La Republica y Mabini”, and the finale song “Mahalin ang Bayan” which has lines adapted from Mabini’s El Verdadero Decalogo. Perhaps the most striking lines from that song are:

“Mahalin mo ang Pilipinas nang higit sa iyong sarili.

Pamana siya ni Bathala, pag-asa ng iyong lahi.”

Fernando Josef, Mabining Mandirigma 8, July 8

Which of these songs talks about the life of Mabini? What do you think would be his song for us?

Well, they do not really talk about his life per se but the songs do contain what he did during his lifetime.  Particularly important is the second song, “Pinagtiyap ng Tadhana”, where Mabini shows the three books he wrote that he thinks will guide Aguinaldo in forming the new republic. Also equally important is the finale song “Mahalin ang Bayan” which I mentioned earlier.

For me, the most important is “Mag-isip Bilang Pilipino”. Even if the song mentions what happened to Bonifacio and Luna, the content still remains relevant today as Mabini challenges us how to think as Filipinos. This is one aria that I requested from librettist Dr. Nicanor Tiongson to incorporate into the musical and I am glad he was able to do it.

Fernando Josef, Mabining Mandirigma 4, July 8

How is it like to compose/arrange songs for theater?

What I like in composing for theater is the collaboration between the librettist and director because you hear their thoughts on how the material will take its shape. You get to share ideas and experiment with what can or cannot work, then you revise until you achieve the desired format.


Photos by Hazel Joy R. Gutierrez

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