Christine Bacareza Balance, associate professor of Asian American studies and gender & sexuality studies at the University of California, Irvine, has published a pioneering contribution to Asian American and performance studies: an exploration of the performance and reception of post-World War II Filipino and Filipino American popular music. Tropical Renditions: Making Musical Scenes in Filipino America (Duke University Press, 2016) takes it readers through musical “scenes”—spaces where collaboration and performance happen—to challenge clichés of Filipino music and to broaden the collective history of Filipino music in both the Philippines and America.
“This book is for people who love music—especially pop music—and for people who don’t know much about the relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines,” said Christine Bacareza Balance, associate professor of Asian American studies and gender & sexuality studies at UCI. “There are stories in here that many people might not expect, and music is one way to approach that history.”
Raised by Filipino immigrant parents in suburban Los Angeles, Balance recalls being taught at an early age that there are many ways to “sing and listen.” Her parents’ record player featured traditional Filipino singers alongside American crooners, influencing her musical inclinations growing up. By her early 20s, Balance started singing in a band of her own and also began organizing local music festivals and gigs. She noticed exchanges taking place, especially at the ground level, between musicians in the United States and the Philippines that had not been written about or discussed previously. “Music activates or creates spaces of exchange and also tracks these histories that we may not know about,” said Balance. So, she began to follow these musical and historical tracks.
From karaoke house parties to Pinoy indie rock shows to the experimental performance spaces of Jessica Hagedorn and the West Coast Gangster Choir to Bay Area turntablist DJ group the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Balance’s Tropical Renditions invites its readers to a range of trans-local musical scenes throughout the Filipino diaspora. Her call to action for her readers is to engage in “disobedient listening.” That is, a way of listening that works within and against popular conceptions of Filipino music as imitative and primitive so that they may find new ways to hear Filipino music and reimagine tropical places.
“I always tell my students that the way we have to imagine our relationship to the Philippines is not sepia-toned: it is actually a very modern, metropolitan place. It’s important to undo that,” said Balance.
To watch Balance discuss her book with Georges Van Den Abeele, dean of the UCI School of Humanities, please click here.
To learn more about Tropical Renditions: Making Musical Scenes in Filipino America (Duke University Press, 2016), please click here.
For a high-res headshot of Balance, please click here.
For a high-res photo of Tropical Rendition’s cover, please click here.