The fourth annual Electronic Music Conference and Audio Expo (EMEX) took place a few weeks ago in Manila. Throughout the weekend, musicians, promoters, aspiring producers, and key industry figureheads attended the workshops, tradeshows and panel discussions.

The tradeshows demonstrated some of the latest technologies and music producing tools from the likes of Arturia, Pioneer, and Native Instruments among others. Guest speakers from around the region demonstrated some of the newer gadgets such as the Traktor Kontrol D2, the latest innovation from Native Instruments.

The EMEX Forum

The Filipino artist/performer.. World Class, which featured Jared Celemin, Rammy Bitong, Glen Macadaeg, John Odin and Mony Romana, focused on the support of local Filipino talents in the saturated festival scene of the country. With big branding involved in some of the country’s biggest music festivals, the speakers expressed a call to action to some of the local promoters to include more local talents into lineups. As EDM continues to dominate music festivals and attracting thousands of attendees, the panelists affirm that there will be a time when people will start to seek for newer sounds and curated experiences.

Perhaps one of the most engaging panels of the EMEX Spotlight series involved independent Filipino producers CRWN, Eyedress, Kidwolf, BP Valenzuela, and Similar Objects. Each artist shared their inspiring experiences of crafting unique sounds to stand distinctive from the commercial mainstream.

Some of the panels, however, reinforced ongoing stereotypical attitudes toward both male and female DJs of the country. The Chicks of Steel panel involved an all-female DJ panel which consisted of Cam Abecina, Mia Ayesa, Kat de Jesus, Arra Pascual, Nina Saputil and Sanya Smith. All of the women on the panel agreed that skills, and the quality of their music should influence their bookings as oppose to their physical appearances, which is often a deciding factor in the Filipino market. Women who happen to be DJs have always found themselves sexualized in a way that men have never had to endure. This has warped people’s perceptions of many a DJ who just happened to be female. Although the women on the panel held their ground by emphasizing that being a woman has worked to their advantage, the questions that were directed to the panel were shallow, repetitive and ceased to delve into the global issue any further other than the focus on sexuality, perhaps proving our point.

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Noticeably, the panel Men of Steel which invited Aaron Cisneros (Vega), Callum David, Marc Naval, Nix Pernia and Tom Taus, saw little or limited discussion on physical appearances and discrimination. Perhaps these panels should not have been separated based on gender and rather invited both male and female artists to speak on the same panel. As each artist is as hardworking, pushing his or her skills to the next level in the context of a growing market for electronic music, shouldn’t that be the focus instead of spotlighting one’s gender? If we want to progress away from these stereotypical notions (which dominate the industry here), it is essential to recognize that artists, more often than not, are after the same goal, which is (we hope) to celebrate their music, grow the culture and expand the scene collectively in the country.

However we do give a lot of credit to the organisers of the EMEX conference, especially the effort in trying to collectivise a scene showing enormous potential in the coming years. The development towards a healthy, open-minded scene has to start somewhere - reaching international standards ideally, the ultimate goal.

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