[UPDATED] Reviving Sammy Asuncion’s 'War is real', the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and factors that make wars, not peace

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(Updated as of 21 March 2023, 1030p.m. In this version, a number of updates were provided, esp. in paragraphs 17 and 21 - Editor) 

MALAYBALAY CITY (BukidnonNews.Net/18 March 2023)  “War is real ..but we need more love… The 60's cried  out for love, And I say, more peace and love,” said lines of the 1994-released song composed by Sammy “Faith” Asuncion, a Finland-based international musician.

The song was released on Youtube in 2018, was recently shared again, and has caught the attention of followers of the artist due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year. The invasion has escalated the war between the two countries, which actually started in 2014.  
Asuncion, an artist espousing “World Music”, hails from Bukidnon. He studied in Mailag Elementary School, San Isidro High School, and Xavier University. A post he made in his social media account on March 17, 2023 confirmed his most recent homecoming, which comes in time for the Kaamulan 2023.

Asuncion’s musical circle Pinikpikan, which eventually assumed another name, composed the popular “Kaamulan” song as part of an album  in November 2003. According to an article of the Philippine Star, the song enjoys admiration not only from regular followers of world music but also audiences who prefer mainstream/pop music. The album title was inspired by the Kaamulan festival.

The 69-year old musician is a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, arranger, composer, musical director, album producer, and film scorer. 

In an earlier virtual interview with BukidnonNews.Net he recalled that it was the war in Europe, particularly in the former Yugoslavia, that inspired him to write “War is real”, one of his songs in the Reggae Blast in Jamaica album he released under his brand Sulabama. The same album carried “Save the Planet” “Dance, Dance People” among others. The album is now released also on Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube, and Deezer. 

Asuncion said “War is real” remains highly relevant especially in Europe where the ensuing war between Russia and Ukraine has continued to cause repercussions through out the world.  

Asuncion is now based abroad. He has based for almost two decades in France and have been coming back to the Philippines. He is considered an icon in the Philippine music industry and has been featured in the Cultural Center of the Philippines’s Encyclopedia of Philippine Art: Volume 7: Music. See related story.

It was when he was in France when he was inspired to compose the song as a 'citizen of the world'.

The images that came out in the media of the war in Bosnia, he said. touched him.

”When you write for a song on Bosnia; the genocide, people die in war, frozen in hunger and fear. It reflects the other wars in the world. In Africa, in Northern Ireland, and else where in the world,” he added.  

Asuncion used his music as a platform to convey his message to help enlighten people, raise awareness, and show concern for humanity in general. His way of volunteering his music for a cause. 

”I am just a vocal person. I am an activist - I speak about the power of the people through peaceful means,” he added.

Though people think he is tough as a rock and roll musician, he said, he actually cried when he wrote the song.

Images of children dying easily made him soft and ask “why do they have to die?”

”What if it happens to my family? I cannot just say anyway that is not my problem,” he added.

He admitted that the anti-war messages of “War is real” can be compared to Dire Straits' “Brothers in Arms” and U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. The Dire Straits' song was written by Mark Knopfler tackling how senseless war is, referring to the 1982 Falklands War, a ten-week undeclared war between Argentina and the United Kingdom in 1982 over two British dependent territories in the South Atlantic. The lyrics of one of U2's signature songs described the horror felt by an observer of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, mainly focusing on a 1972 Bloody Sunday incident.  

The International Court of Justice described the war in Bosnia as an international armed conflict that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. The war was commonly seen as having started in April 1992, following a number of earlier violent incidents. It ended on December 14, 1995 when the Dayton accords were signed.

The war was part of the breakup of Yugoslavia, following the Slovenian and Croatian secessions from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991.

A casualty report published in 2007 by the Research and Documentation Center in Sarajevo said the Bosnian War claimed 350,000 recorded casualties including 97,207 deaths, 40% of whom were civilians.

Asuncion also recalled the War in Vietnam, which the youth at that time widely opposed. Almost half a million flocked to a rural area for the three day music festival in August 1969 dubbed Woodstock, which was an opportunity for the youth to call for peace and unity.

This is something that the youth today have difficulty understanding - the ability to reflect about what happened in the past, he said.

He noted that there are factors that contribute to the current vulnerabilities.  

He pointed out about the emergence of populism and populist leaders, like Russian President Vladimir Putin, as one factor. He cited the real-time interaction of citizens to the events happening in the world on one hand and the propaganda pushed by populist leaders about it on the other hand.  

Populism, he said, can easily affect people because of the access of the people to technology such as Facebook and other social media platforms. He said trolls and fake news is rampant in countries with populist governments.

”This makes people susceptible to disinformation,” he added.

He said populists have a tendency to be extremists, without knowing what they are talking about.

He cited the example of how trolls blocked good conversations online every time he pushed for more respect and modesty.

”It still boils down to ignorance, less knowledge, is very dangerous,” he added.  

He also added another kind of monster - the economic war being instigated by other rich countries.   

But he said there is hope, though, against wars and disinformation.

”In Europe, the majority of the people do not want war. They will do everything against it because of previous catastrophes. That is a very good sign, ”he said.

He noted also that in Europe for example, there are government-ran mechanisms that counter fake news coming out in media.

Asuncion wrote in “War is real” that wars kept on spreading because of greed and fear.

”But we need more peace and love,” he said. 

Other notable anti-war songs of Asuncion, include “Ruined Chances”, “Pass the Word”, among others.  

Here is the original lyrics of the song, as provided to BukidnonNews.Net by Asuncion:   

War is Real
War is everywhere
You see it on TV
More and more disaster
After a peace treaty
War is real, war  can kill

War keeps on spreading
Because  of greed and fear
Borders are breaking ,
They want to interfere
War is real, war can kill


 The 60's cried out for love
More peace and love
The 60's cried  out for love
And I say, more peace and love

War in the 90's
So scary, what a dread
Some do it like a practice
While business lies ahead
War is real, war can kill

War is real
But we need more love
War is real
But we need more love
War is real
War is real
War is real War is real”.  (Contributed to BukidnonNews.Net by Walter I. Balane)

IN PHOTO: Photo grab of Sammy Asuncion performing "Pass the Word", from a youtube post. 

One of the Zoom interviews with Sammy Asuncion one weekend in March 2022

One of the Zoom interviews with Sammy Asuncion one weekend in March 2022

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