Friday, May 25, 2007

Bossa Nova

I love Bossa Nova. As early as the 70's I already enjoyed listening to the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Sergio Mendez. I liked the style so much that I got a CD of Bossa Nova's finest moment, Getz/Gilberto, which won the Grammy Album of the Year in 1964. Of course, it wasn't in CD form then. I also have a compilation of the hits of Sergio Mendez and the Brazil '66, '77, and '86 (I don't know why he didn't use "'88"). And I'm glad that they are re-issuing their album "Vintage '74", which contained "The Waters of March". But I don't think Tadao Hayashi's version of "Wave" can be considered Bossa Nova.

It seems Bossa Nova is getting its second wind. 105.1 Crossover plays a lot of it, even airing a segment called "Understanding Bossa Nova" by Eileen Sison of Guanara. And there are albums that adapted music for that style, like those by Burt Bacharach and the Carpenters.

Of course, we, Filipinos, would not be left behind. I've seen songs by the Hotdog, Cinderella, and VST & Co. made into Bossa Nova. The last one intrigues me. Does this mean I can now dance the salsa with the song "Rock Baby Rock"?

Filipinos are known to be copycats. We had the Elvis Presley of the Philippines, the Perry Como of the Philippines, and, (so unfair to Gary V,) the Michael Jackson of the Philippines. I still remember the Pinoy Beatles singing "Mahal ka n'ya! N'yah! N'yah!". English songs were translated to Pilipino, giving us such memorable lines from Rico J. ("Namamasyal pa sa Luneta / Ng walang pera.") and Hajji Alejandro ("Panakip-butas na lamang / Ako....!"). VST & Co and the Boyfriends aped the falsetto voice of Barry Gibbs. Hagibis became the country's Village People.

During the 60's, Filipino songs were considered too baduy. They were either the old Kundimans or novelty songs ("Dito sa Pitong Gatang...."). So, we only listen to Engilsh songs, like Nora Aunor's "Blue Hawaii", Victor Wood's "I Went To Your Wedding", and Eddie Peregrina's "I Do Love You".

In the 70's came the Hotdog band, giving birth to the Manila Sound. Now, Pinoys can be proud of their own original music (thus the acronym OPM). We sing along to the song, "Pers Lab" ("Tuwing kita'y nakikita / ako'y natutunaw..."). Meanwhle, APO had "Show Me A Smile" and "Bakit Ang Babae Sa Tagal Ng Pagsasama Tila Mas Mahirap Maintindihan", which I totally agree. There were many very good singers, like Pabs Dadivas, Pol Enriquez, and Tillie Moreno. (The joke then was that Tillie Moreno was wise enough not to marry Rico J. Puno.)

It was also in the 70's when the MetroManila Pop Music Festival started, the first being won by Ryan Cayabyab, with his song "Kay Ganda Ng Ating Musika", interpreted by Hajji.

In that festival we first heard Freddie Aguilar and his song "Anak", which became so popular that we never heard the end of it. It was translated to different languages, even the language of Tito, Vic, and Joey. With the success of Freddie came other folk singers, like Asin, Heber Bartolome, Florante and Coritha. They now call this kind of music "Akustik".

Then there were the "Jukebox" queens, Imelda Papin ("Kung liligaya ka / Sa piling ng iba"), Eva Eugenio ("O tukso, layuan mo ako!"), Didith Reyes ("Bakit ako mahihiya / Kung sa iyo'y liligaya?"), and Claire dela Fuente("Sayang / Ngayon lang tayo nagkatagpo"), whose songs were very popular in beer gardens. I suspect that the men there were drinking to forget their heartaches. But because of the songs, they were reminded of their heartaches, so they drink some more. ("Alam mo, pare, niloko ako ng asawa ko." "Pare, ako rin." "Waiter! Isang round ng beer pa nga d'yan!") That was a good strategy by the owners.

In the 80's, I remember watching "My Sharona" on TV, and, I believe, that is the very first MTV shown. Meanwhile, songs by Gary V. and Martin Nievera were being heard on the radio. And with our right hand raised, tracing circles in the air, our left hand on our ear, we danced to the theme song of "Bagets".

Perhaps, I am really getting old. What started as a rant ended up a walk down memory lane. And I could go on and on.

My tastes may have changed. When, before, I hated the songs by Rey Valera, I now enjoy singing along with Robin Padilla ("Sana'y 'di pa riiiiiin / Nagbabago! / Ahahah, ahahah, ahahah, ahahah, ahahah, la laaaaaaaaaa").

Perhaps, ten years from now, I'll also like Blake Lewis.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Songs In The Key Of Life

NOTE: I entered this article in Philippine Star's and National Bookstore's My Favorite Book contest. I submitted it on Oct 2003, and was surprised to see it printed in the newspaper on Dec 28, 2003, as the second to the last entry for the year. (HAH! I'm now a published writer.) The date was significant because it was the feast of the Niños Inocentes, the Philippine version of April Fools. Since I had already spent the prize money, I don't think they were kidding when they had printed my entry. On second thought, I guess they ran out of entries to publish, forcing them to print my article.

The review was published when the campaign for the Presidential election between incumbent Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Fernando Poe, Jr. was heating up. It was also the time of the exposè of Sen. Ping Lacson against Jose Pidal, believed to be really Mike Arroyo, the president's husband. Meanwhile, Jose de Venecia, Speaker of the House of Representative, refused to start impeachment proceedings against GMA because of the Pidal issue.

On the "cultural" side, the popular TV show was Meteor Garden, starred by the Chinese group, F4. And the popular song in videoke bars was, and still is, My Way.

As of this writing, Maestro Valdez has published several additional volumes of arrangements for the classical guitar. There are two more of the familiar tunes, one on Christmas carols, three on piano masterpieces transcribed for the guitar, and two containing arrangements of inspirational songs. They are all available at any branch of National Bookstore.

Title: Arrangements of Familiar Tunes for the Classical Guitar, Volume 1
Arranger: Maestro Jose Valdez
Publisher: Faithful Servant Marketing

Who would want to read a review of a songbook? Normally, you would browse its contents, such as that of a Jingle magazine, and return it to the shelf if it did not contain Meteor Rain, even if it included the theme songs from all of FPJ’s movies. Furthermore, this songbook does not even have stories that will make you stay up all night, like those of Robert Ludlum or Stephen King, or stories about the country’s mounting debt. As for me, it is enough that people become aware of this remarkable book.

My friend once said that guitar players have lots of women (in Tagalog, ma-chicks), that women go after them (again, in Tagalog, habulin ng mga chicks). After 25 years of playing the instrument, I realized I was not good at it.

I am what you might call tone-deaf. In fact, if you used my guitar, you would say it is tuned differently. It is like having “two left ears”. Once, in college, I auditioned in our organization’s choir to go on caroling. I sang Adeste Fidelis, but our conductor did not recognize my song. I almost shouted at him, “It was O Come All Ye Faithful, only in Latin!” Since I was then the president of the org he didn’t have any choice but to include me.

There was also a time when I felt bored opening a songbook, plucking the chords, and singing in my mind. That was when I decided to let my guitar “sing” for me. Classical guitar was the most logical option.

Being lazy, I did not enroll in a class, lest I have to practice everyday. Luckily, I found a book, The Complete Guitar Player Classical Book, which taught me how to read notes and play classical guitar. Thus, I was self-taught, which explains why after ten years of studying I am still a beginner. After finishing the book and going through the very short exercises, I was ready to move on and play complete songs. However, there were no music sheets for the classical guitar. All I’ve seen are for the piano. How many times have I opened a Hanon, hoping that it was transcribed for the guitar? When will Digna Agra Roxas and Priscilla Halili Enriquez arrange songs for the instrument? It was so frustrating, like trying to find a worthy person to vote for in next year’s presidential election.

When I am in the States (no, I am not in the government, just an airline employee) I would go to the music stores and look for scores for the classical guitar. Yes, I would find some, but they are all, literally, Classical pieces. Authors include Fernando Sor, Mauro Giuliani, and Ferdinando Carulli. True, there were some for beginners, but how could I play them in our department’s Christmas program?

With so many controversial “Jose’s”, this particular Jose is heaven sent, just like Sen. Ping Lacson finding a witness to the Pidal account, and his name is not Mahusay. Maestro Valdez’s arrangements to popular songs, from the very simplified to the more challenging, helped me to enjoy playing the standards, classical-style. I would play during lunch breaks, not because everybody else is in the canteen and no one will hear me, but it is my way to relax after a stressful morning. Imagine, upon arrival in the office, I’d retrieve my voice mail, and will tell me I have fifteen new voice messages. Or retrieve my email and get thirty new ones, more than half offer how to get credit cards, how to get thin, or even how to find a date within the area, and these offers are good only in the US. Every song that I play puts a big smile on my face. I get a high each time I finish a piece. But, most of all, I help my officemates get their noontime nap.

The first piece in the book is Can’t Help Falling In Love. So, if your crush is an F4 fan, here is a song you can play to her (or him). This is followed by Here, There, and Everywhere, Killing Me Softly, Moon River, and Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. The last one I played in our Christmas program, dedicating the song to those who would barbecue during the holidays. I would have played Moon River, but I feared someone might get up to the stage, take the microphone and sing. He would then request My Way, which I didn’t know.

The book then continued with Unchained Melody, and As Time Goes By. Maestro Valdez arranged these first seven pieces for beginners. They are so simple I can play them. There are tablature diagrams to help those who do not read notes. Only beginners read these, and since I’m more advanced, I don’t need the diagrams; I’d rather read the notes. (To be honest, I follow the tablature, not the notes. But, then, who’ll notice?)

The next four songs are still simplified arrangements, but more challenging for beginners. These are Song For Ana, Somewhere In Time, A Time For Us, and Manha De Carnaval. These are followed by four arrangements that will keep me busy learning them for a year. Well, a year might be too long. Perhaps, less than that…like, eleven and a half months. The four are Aubrey, What Matters Most, Michelle, and Misty. Although these are very challenging pieces, learning and playing them would be a great accomplishment for me. And with those romantic songs, who knows, someday, I may be asked by someone to serenade his sweetheart. That would be extra income.

As you would see, the choice of the songs was very well thought of. If I played them to my wife, she would fall in love with me again, erasing all the blunders I made, like the time I forgot her birthday, which happens to fall on the same day as our wedding anniversary. I also hoped that playing them to my children would make them appreciate the type of music I listen to. I wished my first child to be a concert pianist and the second a ballerina. Last night, my younger daughter told me she wanted to be a rock star.

The arrangements, although simplified, are very satisfying to play and listen to. As written in the introduction by Mr. Vincent Abellar, “[i]n spite of the simplification, however, the pieces sound complete and are rich in harmony.”

I am inviting all of you to buy this book, not only because it is patriotic, but also it would encourage the publisher to issue similar books. In fact, there are already two other songbooks published, with arrangements made by Maestro Valdez: Volume 2 of this book, and The Philippine Guitar, another wonderful tome, worth every centavo, which I’d make a review if this one doesn’t get printed. There are future publications: Favorite Christmas Carols for Classical Guitar, which, I hope, would come out this December; Inspirational/Religious Songs for Classical Guitar, which, I hope, would come out this Friday; and Favorite Piano Solos for Classical Guitar, which, I hope, would come out. There are other books with arrangements for the classical guitar, wherein Maestro Valdez is not the arranger. I invite you to buy them as well.

With a vast array of pieces to learn from, we, beginners, could have an expanded repertoire, enabling us to achieve the level we aspire for…intermediate.

And that is no joke.