Friday, 21 June 2013

A Profile on Professor Pedro R. Abraham, Jr., Founder and Leader of Kontra-Gapi

What's gamelan? What's Kontra-Gapi?

Edru and his "kids" of Kontra-Gapi demonstrating Angklung

Introducing our musical instruments to a school in Landquart, CH.

Explaining Philippine music and its beats to the teachers of a school for children with especial needs

During an interview done in the home of a friend, Marilu S. before the despedida concert

In his element, always inspired to share his knowledge

Edru explaining about the mat being designed by a national artist...Banig, banig kayo dyan!

Edru and his fellow Cagayanons during a performance in Bad Homburg

One great man with equally great women!

Photo taken by Weni Gamboa

Our first meeting was what one terms back home as bullillaso. I was in Chur to attend the 20th year celebration of our Babaylan country network, Balikatan. My dear host friend KaBabaylanes, Adora F. requested me and another kaBabaylanes, Judy J. from Denmark to wait for the arrival of Kontra-Gapi in the hotel and accompany them to the office of Balikatan where lunch would be served.
To make the story short, we didn’t wait long for the group and went straight to the lunch venue thinking the group must have found the place without us. So you could imagine what followed. It was so embarrassing to have left them driving around looking for the venue and hungry.
For the next days in Chur, I was hanging around with Kontra-Gapi and had the luck to be near Edru during his performances and workshops. I watched him talk to his troupe during breakfasts like a doting father to his kids. I watched him explain the meaning of gamelan and the different musical instruments with the same passion whether it be a huge gala performance or workshops with school children. I watched him do a jamming with another locally known pianist in Chur. I watched him and heard him all over again and again that their troupe is for creation and not simply imitation. I watched him and got fascinated by his passion and devotion to our indigenous culture. I felt so lucky to have been given this chance meeting this great Filipino founder of this unique cultural group, Kontemporaryong Gamelan Pilipino (Kontra-Gapi).

Mabuhay ka Edru!

A short video of the despedida concert of Kontra-Gapi in Bad Homburg, hosted by Ms. Marilu R. Scheich.

Below is a detailed info on his background as provided by the University of the Philippines. 

Professor Pedro R. Abraham, Jr.
A Profile
Professor Pedro R. Abraham Jr. Graduated with the degrees of Bachelor of Arts in Speech and Drama and Master of Arts in Art History from the University of the Philippines in Diliman (UPD). He holds the rank of Associate Professor in the department of Art Studies of the College of Arts and Letters (CAL) where he teaches performing arts history, visual arts history, and Philippine culture and arts studies.

Known professionally as Edru Abraham, he is a familiar figure in the university as the leader of the Kontemporaryong Gamelan Pilipino which he founded in 1989. Popularly known as Kontra-Gapi the troupe was appointed resident ethnic music and dance ensemble of the CAL in 1993. From its beginnings to the present, they have been rendering engagements including performances, lecture-demonstrations, and workshops in music, dance and mime as often as three times a week for a wide variety of audiences and institutions in all types of venues in the Philippines and abroad.
Prof. Abraham began his career as a performing artist with the Filipinescas Dance Company: Philippine Life Legend and Lore in Dance, founded by Leonor Orosa Goquingco, a Republic of the Philippines National Artist for Dance. He was part of the company as dancer, musician and mime-actor from 1965 to 1971. He started his career as an academic in UP at Los Banos in 1976 where he served as instructor in Speech, Theater Arts and Humanities. In the same year, he began work as choreographer and stage-director of “Himig ng Lahi-The Story of the Filipino People in Song,” an ensemble founded and directed by Felipe Padilla de Leon, yet another National Artist but in the field of music. Prof. Abraham was part of the ensemble on several tours of Canada and the USA from 1979 to 1981. He joined the UP Filipiniana Dance Troupe, UPD’s resident folkloric company, from 1982 to 1983 on South East Asian tours. In the second half of 1983, he studied Indonesian arts in Jogjakarta under Bagong Kussudiarja. With Kontra-Gapi, with other performing groups or by himself alone, he has traveled extensively to Asia, Australia, Europe and North America for concert engagements, lectures and demonstrations, music, dance and mime workshops, and consultations on Philippine culture and the national heritage.
As a human rights activist, Prof. Abraham did residency in 1986 in London, UK with Writers and Scholars Educational Trust, an organization defending freedom of expression worldwide. He continues to this day his advocacies of human rights, the rights of indigenous peoples and ecological conservation by networking, lecturing and performing, at times taking to the streets in rallies and demonstrations. In 1989, shortly after founding Kontra-Gapi, he formed another troupe - Alay-ani: Tula at Awit sa Bayan at Bayani, highlighting poerty, song and Philippine social realities. Under the auspices of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, this troupe toured all over the archipelago.
From the start of his professional performing career in the mid 1960’s to the present, Prof. Abraham has participated in various capacities as actor and director, dancer and choreographer, musician, singer and composer, voice talent, narrator, and presenter, conceptualizer/writer and producer in several hundred productions on stage, film, radio and television. In 1996, he and his brain-child Kontra-Gapi were awarded the Gawad Chanselor ng UPD signal plaque for exemplary achievement in the performing arts. On several international missions, Kontra-Gapi under his mentorship was appointed “Ambassador of Goodwill for Culture and Arts,” both by the UPD Chancellor and the UP System President. For his relentless pursuit in bringing the arts of the Philippines to the world, he was awarded the UP International Award for the Arts for the year 2000. He has received awards of distinction for outstanding achievement in culture and arts as a “favorite son” of his hometown, Tuguegarao, and Cagayan, his home province. In 2005, he was honored with the title “Defender of our Cultural Heritage” by Fookien Times, a yearly national review, and Star Publications, one of the nation’s leading publishing houses. Prof. Abraham sits in the committee on culture of the UNESCO-Republic of the Philippines, Department of Foreign Affairs United Nations Commission. His wife, Rebecca, their son Apollo, and their daughter Astarte, are all successful performing artists.

Contact Particulars:
Pedro R. Abraham Jr.
Faculty Center 2003
College of Arts and Letters
University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City 1101 Philippines

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