Popular Dances on my List

Fly to any country and you will be able to confirm that dance is universal. But there are dances around the world that are more popular than the others. Let it be clear though that Gangnam Style isn’t really the national dance of South Korea, although it seems to have become the national dance of the world.

Belly dancing

Move & groove that belly

Thanks to Shakira, belly dancing has now become more mainstream. And although it’s only she who can prove that Hips Don’t Lie, belly dancing is a very accommodating type of dance. You just have to move your body (not your belly actually) and shimmy like you mean it. This dance originated in the Middle East as a form of social dancing.


Another Asian dance, Bhangra is a Punjabi cultural dance done to celebrate a great harvest. It is usually attributed to Indians, although Pakistanis also perform the dance. Like most popular dances of the world, bhangra has already been turned into a workout dance, with routines meant to slim down one’s body. Hey, as long as there’s fun and colors, we’re in.


It is as hot as the sauce, yes. Salsa the dance originated from Cuba, and is distinctively technical in style. For one to dance it excellently, there needs to be a mindset of groove and rhythm, as well as mastery of the steps. It would be fun to try it with a partner who can lead you well, though.


Look out for your feet.

Perhaps the most challenging dance in the world, Tinikling is a Filipino dance wherein the dancers step in and out of bamboos that open and close in increasing speed. Fun to watch, but I’m not quite sure if it is fun to dance. The name tinikling comes from the word “tikling”, a kind of bird that has a walk that looks lively, almost like a dance.


Among all the dances listed here, hip-hop is the newest. It was formed in The Bronx, New York, where dance “crews” would perform on the street with their freestyle moves that involve techniques such as locking, popping and breaking. Perhaps the most pop among all the dances known today, hip-hop continues to evolve, from Justin Bieber dance moves to Usher grooves. Budget airlines like Jetstar don’t fly to New York, so you’d have to spend a lot of money on flights alone, just to see the real thing. Thanks to hip-hop’s popularity, one does not need to book a flight to New York just to learn the dance.


World’s Best Buskers: Where to Find Them

Busking is basically performing on the street and earning money while doing it. So what makes a great place to see buskers? It should be generous with loose change to drop into the busker’s guitar case or hat, and it should be rich with talent. Here are places in the world where you can find the most awesome street performers, and then wonder why in the world are they not famous internationally. Just a note though; there are no Asian countries listed, which means you can’t count on a Cebu Pacific seat sale for you to be able to watch excellent buskers. You’d have to spend on it!

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

This place is already a competitive area. They say that you can only busk in Amsterdam if you’re really talented, otherwise you should take your act somewhere else. Needless to say people in the area are so used to excellent performances every day of the week!

New York, USA

Image from subwaymusicblog.com

For a place that is very populous, New York makes it ideal for artists to strut their stuff. There are a lot of like-minded individuals on their way to their hipster work either organizing a concert for peace or designing shirts tat promote eco-friendliness. In other words, there is an atmosphere of fun, artistry and advocacy, things that you would not normally see in other places. New York is really that special.

New Orleans, USA 

The birthplace of jazz, New Orleans naturally has a talented bunch of street performers who can always count on crowds who do appreciate some good music. Aside from soloists with their guitars or harmonica, you can also chance upon a capella groups and small bands playing wind instruments.

Paris, France 

Image from steffe (flickr)

Here you won’t see a lot of musicians, but you can marvel at the finest mimes in the world. Stand transfixed at their antics and costumes, and make sure to leave some change. There are also a lot of street performers who dress up like statues and only move when you drop a change in their hats! Pretty fun, actually.

Berlin, Germany

Image by Cormac Mulhall

There are a lot of boheme performers in Germany, making it one of the most eccentric and interesting places to see different kinds of performances. Aside from musicians, you can also watch magicians and little circus acts all across the city. In fact, Berlin even holds a festival that showcases street talents from different parts of the world. You can say that Berlin is the world’s busking capital.

Music in the Philippines

Music makes our world go round.

Everybody in the Philippines knows a tune or two. We’re born into the world with our mothers humming lullabies, our dads playing guitars during siesta time, and our friends singing made up play songs that go like this:

“Sasara ang bulaklak, bubuka ang bulaklak, papasok ang reyna, sasayaw ng chacha.”

There are a lot more variations to this nursery rhyme/play song, but the idea is that there’s a flower that closes and opens and that the queen enters and dances. As to why she chooses to dance the cha-cha, I’m not quite sure of that.

Point is, Philippine music is vibrant, rich and beautiful (although is sometimes absurd). If you’re interested in exploring this integral part of the Filipino culture, read on.

How It All Started

The Philippines is home to various cultures from around the world. Because a lot of explorers found the country to be beautiful, we have welcomed (although not always willingly) races and faces that came with musical instruments and notes to sing and play.

Who were they and what did they bring?

  • Indigenous folks. Before the Philippines was discovered by settlers, the native tribes were already playing their own music using instruments made of bamboo, such as tongatong and topayak. Most tunes were used in tribal practices, such as to offer thanksgiving to the gods.
  • Settlers. Neighbors from Asian countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia contributed too, introducing string instruments and new note progressions.
  • The Spanish. Thanks to the 333 years they spent in the country, much of the music that we consider as “classic” are heavily influenced by music in Spain. Harana, for instance, is a courtship activity wherein the man plays kundiman, a tune resembling Spanish songs, to woo the love of his life. Other forms of music from Spain that rose in popularity include the rondalla, an assembly of string instruments played in harmony. Until today, such tunes and forms of performing music are widely popular in the country as subject matters and references, and not much in modern music.
  • The Americans. Of all the influences in Philippine music, the Americans had the most impact. In fact, as I’m writing this article, I’m listening to Beyonce’s latest album. Local artists can be loved not because they create great music, but because they perform American artists’ songs excellently. More importantly, much of Original Pilipino Music (OPM) songs are patterned from American tunes, both in terms of lyrics and musical genre.

What to listen to

If you want to listen to iconic songs that shaped Philippine music, here’s a list of tracks you must listen to:

  • Anak by Freddie Aguilar – translated into different languages around the world!
  • Pilipinas Kong Mahal – nationalistic song that is usually sung during a school flag ceremony
  • Paru-parong Bukid – folk song that portrays a Filipina maiden as a beautiful butterfly
  • Balita by Asin – referenced by the band Black Eyed Peas in one of their hits, this anthemic song tackles politics and its effects on the Filipino people
  • Any song by Eraserheads – the band defined and redefined Philippine music by introducing alternative, easy-listening songs with honest lyrics that are sometimes borderline brutal and frank. You shouldn’t be so surprised hearing their iconic songs in various places in the country, from the Caticlan Airport to SM Megamall in Mandaluyong. They are that famous.

Five Unique Travel Experiences for Musicians

Musicians are constantly in the creative process, and perhaps the best source of inspiration is traveling. In fact, as hipster as it seems, a lot of musicians are wayfarers too, going on road trips and immersing in the different cultures in the different places they go to.

Traveling gives an experience and a rich source of inspiration that you won’t find anywhere in the Internet. It can affect the way you perceive life; it can spark an idea for a new song you never thought you can create. Musician or not, you can definitely discover something new when you go places. Here are some unique ideas for musicians who know that making music is worth flying to a foreign land:

Bali, Indonesia: Gamelan

See how it’s played & learn to play too

Gamelan is a set of instruments that are typically played together during ceremonies. These instruments are uniquely and originally Indonesian, and so you might find it amusing to hear familiar notes played in varying sounds generated by instruments that look as exquisite as they sound.

Get a new approach in music as the village orchestras in Bali inspire you. Take note of the chord progressions, the messages of the songs. If you get the opportunity, learn the basics of one gamelan instrument. That will definitely give you a fresh take on your music.

Podillya, Ukraine: Sheshory

Image courtesy of KadmusArts (http://kadmusarts.com/)

Going to Eastern Europe in July? Then check out Shesbory Festival, where local musicians from the region come together to celebrate and perform. Try to get backstage passes to have chitchats with the musicians. Form connections and establish a strong network of musicians; start with the Sheshory Festival.

Prague, Czech Republic: Church Concerts

The angels from heaven came down to sing.

There’s a reason why Mozart is considered a master in music. He was a genius who placed the right notes in their right places and made them sound magical. Even rock stars look up to him and recognize his impact in the world of music.

In Prague, the locals celebrate Mozart’s excellence by paying homage to him in churches. Go and watch a concert to have a newfound appreciation to period music. After all, we owe most of the music that we enjoy now to the ingenuity of Mozart and his contemporaries.

Memphis, Tennessee: Blues 

Getting in the mood for blues

Blues artists know that aside from immense skill, pulling off a blues tune also requires a certain feel. In Memphis, Tennessee, you can have that authentic, sort of grassroots experience by listening to blues music as played by local artists. Just go to an old joint where around 30 people gather and a few artists play. A usual setup would start with somebody going up the stage and playing, and then being joined by another with his own instrument. This can go on for hours, just plain old jamming.

Anywhere in the world: Busking

Take the little limelight that the streets offer by trying out busking. Choose your place: New York subway, Singapore street, Manila underpass. By doing it, you get a captive audience (they don’t have a choice after all), you observe how people react to their music, plus you get some loose change! Who knows, you might make enough money for an Air Asia flight back home?! What’s not to love? Visit thebuskingproject.com and take part of a worldwide street performance to break culture barriers through music.

Where are you taking your guitar/harmonica next?

Music to Inspire the Traveler in You

We’re on a roll with inspiration, aren’t we? 😉

Music is one of the widely understood languages of the world. What better language to associate to traveling around the planet than music, and the good kind at that? If you’ve been lacking in inspiration, there’s nothing like good music to rev up your travel mood and get you booking your next flight. Want some suggestions? Here are some surefire music tracks and genres to encourage you:

  • Walkin’ on Sunshine (Katrina and the Waves). Perfect for road trips and even while you clean your car for it, this happy and feel-good track will lift up your mood and will make you realize that you shouldn’t be just watching TV; you should be out on the sun! 
  • One Love (Bob Marley). One of Marley’s anthemic songs, One Love talks about unity and togetherness, things that you experience while you travel with your buddies and interact with different people. Besides, you can’t ever go wrong with reggae!
  • Beautiful Day (U2). Rock music that sends blood rushing to your head? Check! Perfect lyrics that match a great day in a foreign land? Check! One of the best bands in the world? Check! Oh, throw in their other song “The Sweetest Thing” if you’re traveling with your love too!
  • Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall (Coldplay). You’d think that Coldplay tracks will make you want to curl up in bed and drink hot cocoa while the rain pours down outside. But no, Coldplay has a few good tracks fit for a fun day of traveling. Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall is an example of such track, and is the perfect background music for a video collage of all the clips of you in your travels.
  • Life is a Highway (Rascal Flatts). There is something uplifting about country music. The lyrics plus the upbeat, easy-to-sing-along-to tunes make for a perfect song for driving down the, well, the highway! If you want more feel good country music in your travel inspiration playlist, throw in some Taylor Swift! She’s not famous for nothing; her songs are quite singable and perfect for singing your lungs out with your friends.
  • Come Away with Me (Norah Jones). You may argue that this is too honeymoon-y for a backpacking trip, but believe me when I say that at one point or another in your travel, you’d need to reflect on love and be all sentimental about it. It may be while you wait for your Cathay Pacific flight, or as you ride the train across Europe. After all, you’re traveling! You’re free to unleash all your feelings that are otherwise ignored on regular working days.