GDP data music to Filipinos’ ears, literally
The Philippines is alive with the sound of progress—and it can be heard in the growth of our gross domestic product since the 1980s, thanks to a couple of local composers who made use of economic data to compose a new anthem for the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).
Making use of numbers, Allan Feliciano and Top Suzara recently created “Tunog ng Progreso” (Sound of Progress), a three-minute song that aims to make economic data such as the country’s GDP more accessible to Filipinos.
“As economic manager, Neda’s work tends to be highly technical. Most of the time it’s all about numbers and statistics. But how will we help people understand it?” says Nerrisa Esguerra, director of Neda’s development information staff, in a video on the agency’s website (www.neda.gov.ph/2017/09/20/neda-tells-story-of-ph-economic-growth-in-three-minute-song/), which provides a visual explanation of how GDP numbers were used to compose each verse.
The numbers can be “heard” in the song’s baseline notes, explain Feliciano and Suzara in the same video. Given graphs of the country’s GDP starting from the 1980s, the pair discovered that growth rates fell between the numbers 0 and 8, which correspond to eight notes on the major scale, or do re mi fa so la ti do.
“We realized that, hey, we can use those data points as notes,” Feliciano, film score composer, says. “For example, the first decade we looked at was the ‘80s. We used those points as notes for the baseline of the verse.”
“Basically we were connecting the dots to make the music,” says Suzara, former vocalist of local R&B band Freestyle. “Contrary to what the general opinion about the economy is, that it is going down, it isn’t. The data show we’re very progressive.”
Performed by Thyro Alfaro, the song can be downloaded from Neda’s website (www.neda.gov.ph/tunog-ng-progreso) or viewed with lyrics on Youtube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=p49WUdUlblU). It is also available on music streaming site Spotify.
As the lyrics tell of how the Philippines’ economy is steadily improving—the chorus goes, “Ito ang tunog ng progreso/ Tayo na’t makisalo/ Pataas nang pataas, aakyat/ Kaya nating lahat umanagat” (This is the sound of progress/ Let’s all join in/ We’ll go higher and higher/ We can all soar)— the melody is indicative of that progress: high, upbeat, catchy.
“The song is in line with Neda’s Philippine Development Plan, which is geared toward AmBisyon Natin (Our Vision) 2040, the country’s long-term vision for a stable, comfortable and secure life for every Filipino,” says Esguerra.
She says the song was created to help more people understand Neda’s work and the economic progress the country has achieved. “It’s not enough to see economic progress; we need to hear it, too,” Esguerra says.
“Filipinos love music, so it’s easy to give a message through a song because people will latch onto it,” Feliciano adds.
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