These days, music criticism in Manila occupies a peculiar place: there’s so much music being released, but little being published about it. There’s talk about if we’re “ready” for criticism — but really, does it matter if we are?
Whatever the case, there’s an audience for it, as proven by The Flying Lugaw. This online DIY music platform has been operating for three years now, which is a long time considering how fast trends come and go.
We talked to TFL’s founder, Lugaw, and contributor, Dumpling, about holding integrity dear, being anonymous in a scene where everyone’s a friend of a friend, and what it means to be a critic.
Editor’s note: Answers are edited for clarity.
Young STAR: What’s the point of music criticism?
Dumpling: Is it music criticism? Are we calling it music criticism?
Lugaw: That was my plan back in 2016, where a bunch of internet friends said, hey, you should put up a page that would critique music albums. For me, as it went on I wondered: ba’t wala masyadong music criticism dito?
But why do music criticism?
Lugaw: I felt like no one was doing it that much at the time. I wanted to say so much about new releases, and I felt there was a lack of proper analysis of what’s bad or what’s good.
What makes a song deserve a negative review? What makes it more than a song you just don’t like?
Dumpling: Mahirap din sabihin na we’re completely objective about writing because there are also biases at some point. We also have standards.
Lugaw: There’s this one review I did last year. I didn’t like [the song] because it glamorizes depression and for me. A project should be contextualized. If this particular project promotes something we obviously don’t believe in, that’s where it deserves a negative review. I know if we feature something, we’re responsible for bringing it out there.
Do you pay for entrance at gigs?
Has anyone ever approached you to pay you to write a good review?
Dumpling: Tinanggihan namin.
Lugaw: We don’t like getting paid for doing reviews. We really don’t like it. If they’re paying us to say [something] is nice.
Dumpling: The idea of reviewing something na you’re getting paid, they’re expecting something in return. We don’t want that.
How does Flying Lugaw maintain its integrity?
Dumpling: We always go back to our principles. We should not be biased. Our audience, we also owe it to them eh. Nag-grow na kami because they trusted us, so we need to return the trust.
Lugaw: I just don’t want to betray our audience.
Why stay anonymous?
Lugaw: For me, people often question the validity of your criticism by asking who you are.
Dumpling: Like how young he is. “Bata ka pa sa eksena, you’re too young…”
Lugaw: “Ano ambag mo sa kultura!?”
Dumpling: “Edgelords kayo, you don’t know s***”, and everything.
The way I see it, Lugaw is an independent publishing platform. Some major publications don’t want to take a risk on music criticism, or they’d rather write about insert famous band here than the independent bands on the ground. The internet is the way to go.
Dumpling: Hindi naman kami bayad so as much as possible we want to expand to Instagram, Twitter. So kung ano free na nakaka-reach sa aming audience and artists, we use it.
Lugaw has expanded to events like Not An Absolute Value last January, a benefit gig to raise funds for families affected by Tokhang. How did that come about?
Dumpling: Sandata tapped us for this. Personally ako I was strongly supportive about the cause. When Lugaw told me about that, I said we have to work on it talaga. We resist abuse and oppression.
Lugaw: We strongly believe that the state fascism that’s happening, sobrang f***ed up talaga and for us, we want to use the page to spread the word.
Dumpling: ‘Yan ang sinasabi namin kanina, responsibility. We created this kind of platform and community, we’re responsible to tell them that ganito ang nangyayari.
So, what are the principles of Lugaw?
Lugaw: No filter, no bulls***. We’re very straightforward and we don’t want to sacrifice our integrity for money.
Lugaw: Or any corporate deals. We promote safe spaces in the community too.
Dumpling: And respect each other’s styles of writing. Also to respect our audience. Respect our artists din, even if we’re criticizing them.
Isn’t being honest a form of respect too, instead of “nice set paps, pahiram cymbals”?
Lugaw: Here’s another part of us being anonymous. I don’t want people to go in a group and encircle me saying, “’oh, you’re the guy who wrote this”—ginagang-up and s***. I don’t want that. I just want to live my life peacefully.
Check out The Flying Lugaw here.