Nieverra’s controversy: Artist first or nationalist?

Martin faces House probe over anthem

By Jess Diaz Updated May 06, 2009 12:00 AM

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MANILA, Philippines – For his “incorrect” rendition of the national anthem at the start of the Pacquiao-Hatton fight, singer Martin Nievera may have to be called to an investigation to be conducted by the House of Representatives.

In Resolution 1137, Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño complained that Nievera sang the Lupang Hinirang “in a manner not in keeping with the original arrangement of its composer Julian Felipe.”

He said the singer sang the anthem as if it were a ballad.

“Mr. Nievera is not the first artist who has sang the national anthem in a different style and tempo. As in the past, such non-traditional renditions elicit much debate among policymakers and the public at large as to the proper way of singing the Lupang Hinirang and whether artists have the license to deviate from tradition,” he said.

Casiño noted that the artists who have deviated from the traditional rendition of the anthem on different occasions include Charice Pempengco and Jennifer Bautista, as against Karylle, Kayla and Ciara Sotto who had traditional interpretations.

Casiño said officials of the National Historical Institute have accused Nievera and his arranger of violating Section 37, Chapter II of Republic Act 8491, or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.

The section provides: “The rendition of the national anthem, whether played or sung, shall be in accordance with the musical arrangement and composition of Julian Felipe.”

The law imposes a fine of P5,000 to P20,000 or imprisonment of not more than one year, or both, upon the discretion of the court.

“The law notwithstanding, society also recognizes the artists’ right to free expression and to interpret the national anthem or depict the Philippine flag as they see fit, provided that such national symbols are revered and not desecrated,” Casiño said.

Casiño urged a review of the law in the light of Nievera’s interpretation of the national anthem.

Casiño said a review of RA 8491 is “appropriate, whether they (guidelines) should be relaxed or strengthened given the realities on the ground.”

Nievera, however, found an ally in Malacañang and a fellow artist.

Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Nievera sang “in good faith.”

“He (Nievera) is an artist and so we should not be rash in our judgments,” Bello said. “In the first place, he sang the best way he could and we requested him to sing and he sang in good faith.”

Bello said 50 singers could render different versions of a song.

“Unless the NHI fells strongly about it, maybe we should accept Martin Nievera as the lucky charm of Manny Pacquiao, that’s why he won in two rounds instead of 12,” he said.

Bello said the public must be “more progressive in our considerations.”

Singer-activist Leah Navarro also agreed with Nievera’s rendition of the country’s anthem.

“I do not care how people sing it, whether it’s rap or out of tune for as long as they know how to sing it. That is, has sense of self,” she said.

What is important, Navarro stressed, are the lyrics of the song which was “sung from the heart, how the singer conveys the message to the audience.”

“What is important is upholding the value of the Filipino citizen,” she said.

Navarro said critics are making a big issue of Nievera’s rendition of the national anthem.

She said gospel music could also be sung in different ways. -With Delon Porcalla, Paolo Romero, Evelyn Macairan


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