#ProudToBe: A Musical Celebration of Cultural Representation
by Karigan Wright
Bianca Justine Nicdao is a junior at Emerson College, majoring in Visual and Media Arts with a focus in production. She is currently working on her BFA documentary, “New Sites New Bites”. In order to raise money for the documentary, Nicdao threw a #ProudToBe concert on Friday, November 2nd, featuring musicians of color from Berklee College of Music, Emerson College, Boston University, and Northeastern University. Performers included Lonely Waves, Srujan Vajram, The Space Cade7s, Sophie Lanuza, Brandon Espejo, Annie Lux, Serin Oh, and Eric Makapugay.
Each musician illustrated a different genre, the audience getting a taste of rap, hip hop, jazz, rock, acoustic singer-songwriter, and pop. Members of the audience tapped their feet and swayed along to the beat, adapting their movement to each artist.
Sophie Lanuza performed solo, just a girl with her acoustic guitar. Giving blurbs explaining the background of each original song, Lanuza shared personal stories about her friendships and love life, humanizing herself and reminding everyone that music is all about sharing experiences with each other.
Annie Lux shortly followed Lanuza, bringing her unique combination of jazz R&B with singer-songwriting to the audience. Lux danced and swung to the music, singing improvised runs while interacting with the audience, her electric energy echoing the instrumentation of her band.
The event was thrown by the “New Sights New Bites: Philippines” team as well as Berklee’s Asian Americans in Music & Entertainment. In addition to Nicdao, New Sites New Bites is comprised of Alfonso Mateo, Francis De Leon, Sharon Kadosh, and Ranton Andaya. Berklee’s branch is comprised of Amanda Chan, Serin Oh, Olivia Hunt Thomas, and Seiah Kim.
Nicdao decided to host a concert to raise money, as she’s always been a music fan. She has had the opportunity to study with Berklee through the Valencia program and had previously held an internship with Capitol Records. She knew she wanted to hold a concert someday and figured now was a perfect time. To her, it was “a no-brainer for me to connect and combine these two”, speaking on the combination of her documentary fundraising and her dream of planning a concert. Nicdao knew that Boston musicians were the perfect way to “spread cultural representation within an arts and music space”.
Nearly every artist gave a short speech about what their culture means to them, and how it feels to perform in front of a diverse audience. To Nicdao the concert represented much more than a fundraiser for a documentary, as it emphasized the expression of cultural identity through artistic performances.
“Having the concert just meant a lot in the way that people support the message that I’m trying to do and it meant that I’m on the right track, and I’m doing my part in helping the bigger cause, getting minorities to have a space where they can express themselves,” Nicdao explained.
You may be asking, what exactly is New Sites New Bites? In the words of Nicdao, the documentary is similar to an Anthony Bourdain show, “with a little bit of a twist to it”. The documentary is a food and travel story about the Philippines and the culture, identity, and cuisine of the country.
Seeing as the documentaries’ co-host Yusuf Bahadur had never experienced culture or food from the Philippines, Nicdao saw this opportunity as a means to display and share the culture she feels isn’t portrayed in the media, or she herself hadn’t previously displayed.
“I never really took on my identity as a Filipino growing up, so, combining those two [food and culture] we’re really exploring the people behind the food,” Nicdao said. Nicdao’s ultimate hope is that New Sites New Bites showcases the love and beauty of the country she holds so dear to her heart and is essential to her identity.
The New Sites New Bites team is planning on holding more fundraising events in the future, both in L.A. and in Boston. You can watch the documentary on May 11th, 2019 at the Bright Lights Film Series.