Papuri is the Tagalog word for praise in the Philippines. The name was given to a project that was started by FEBC-Philippines around 1975 and it has continued and expanded over many years. Today the Philippine Church owes much to the success of Papuri! in providing it with a continuing legacy of original Filipino Christian music.
The project was aimed at developing indigenous Filipino Christian music in an attempt to displace the many "western" traditional songs and hymns and give the Filipino church songs, hymns and music they could call their own. The Filipinos are a musical people with a rich heritage, and strongly influenced by the Spanish colonial era (which explains why their music does not sound 'oriental' and certainly not confined to a pentatonic scale).
FEBC-Philippines, launched the project and for many years it grew under the direction of Efren Pallorina. The plan had many components and it worked like this:
The first phase was to announce a contest over the air (FEBC has two stations in Manila and eight in the provinces). Christians would be invited to submit songs on paper and/or cassette. A selection of the best would be made and these would be arranged and orchestrated, and be published. Publication would include a cassette album together with a book of music and words complete with guitar chords.
The second phase included the collection and evaluation of the many entries that were received - about 300. These were judged by a panel for both lyrics and music originality and the best 12 (14?) selected for the album.
The third phase was the arranging of the music and the subsequent recordings by top Christian artists in the FEBC music studio.
The fourth and final phase - the launching of the Papuri! cassette album. This was done through a series of concerts in key locations. The album would be sold together with a book of music. Distribution and sales of the cassettes was done by an external Christian publisher. Each concert would be a sell-out to packed audiences.
New albums are released on an annual basis with albums on special themes developed in between.
What has been the impact?
Today the cassettes are on sale through major music outlets and department stores throughout the Philippines - and are even pirated in the Middle East and Indonesia (perhaps elsewhere). Churches throughout the country are all familiar with Papuri! music and use it extensively.
There have also been other creative spin-offs from the project:
- An association of Papuri! singers has been formed to perform concerts. These are comprised of Christians with a gift of music and who enjoy the opportunity to perform in concerts in churches or elsewhere. Papuri! guarantees to each member a certain number of performances each year which they do without pay.
- Many churches invite Papuri! singers for events such as anniversaries and Christian festivals. This has proved a wonderful way for FEBC to become better known throughout the Christian community in the Philippines.
- A number of years ago the Philippine Broadcasters Association (KBP) passed a ruling that required radio stations throughout the country to play a minimum of 30 minutes of Original Philippine Music (OPM) every day. FEBC was able to help stations meet that requirement by packaging Papuri! songs together as a daily radio program.
What has been learned from the project?
- Over the years the depth and breadth of the songs has continued to grow. At the outset songs were largely in the form of personal testimony, but over the years expression has become deeper and more mature.
- The organisers have also sought to select themes for different albums. An album on Mission was produced — another for children. Attention was drawn to the need for worship music for church congregations, etc.
- A number of the song-writers and performers have gone on to careers in music some of them rising to top positions in the music industry. They received their initial launch through Papuri!
- Papuri! has made a major contribution to the Philippine church scene over the years.
Basic principles from the success of Papuri! can be drawn out and applied elsewhere. I think of places where the church is heavily dependent on hymns that have been translated in from other languages. This may be due to a number of reasons. But in cultures with a rich musical heritage it seems that a Papuri-type project would have a good chance of succeeding.