NEWS: ARTICLES+REVIEWS

"Filipino Jazz Queen to Perform at UH-Hilo," from Fiedes Doctor with Filipino Chronicle

Known as the “Queen of Jazzipino,” recording artist Charmaine Clamor will perform on October 13-14, 2011 at the University of Hawaii-Hilo as part of Filipino American History Month and in conjunction with the UH-Hilo Filipino Advisory Committee.

Fans and new audiences will be serenaded with jazz music, of course, and the harana and kundiman, with a background of rondalla and percussion instruments.

“I am really looking forward to meeting my kababayan in Hilo . This is the reason why we created this—to connect with them,” Clamor says.

Her style is called “Jazzipino”—a fusion of American jazz and Filipino serenade music, including indigenous instruments. This powerful blend of soul and swing was introduced in her second album “Flippin’ Out” in 2007, which brought her critical acclaim, international recognition and eventually the title “Queen of Jazzipino.”

Here’s what the critics have said about Clamor and her music:

“The perfect bridge of two cultures…” - NPR’s Weekend Edition. “A gifted vocalist…” - The New York Times. “One of the most important and original new jazz singers of the decade…” - The Los Angeles Times. “The sensibilities of an old world balladeer and a contemporary singer…” - Huffington Post.

“When I started singing jazzipino, Filipinos in the audience were proud of it,” she says. “Non-Filipinos were curious because the sound was new to their ears. Then they started liking it.”

Crowd favorites are “Dahil Sa Yo,” “Maalaala Mo Kaya” and “My Funny Brown Pinay,” even if half the audience can’t understand the lyrics. It’s the passion in her voice that touches them, which has been described as “warm and sultry” by Davis Enterprise, as “a sumptuously elegant blend of silk and satin trimmed with gutsy self-possession” by the Jazz Times, and as “fire and sincerity” by Andy Bey.

Clamor started as a singing three-year-old to unwitting passengers at the back of the bus in her Zambales hometown in the Philippines . Singing was never something serious to pursue, despite growing up in musical tandem with her mother—she on the piano while mother sang the kundiman and English classics.

“I never thought that I would have a life in music,” says Clamor, who immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager. “As immigrants, we were not expected to pursue the arts."

She ended up earning a Master’s degree in physical therapy and making a career out of it, while moonlighting as a karaoke hostess and later as a member of Crescendo, a vocal jazz harmony quintet.

After 10 years of juggling two different occupations, Clamor found herself at a crossroads. Knowing that a career in the arts was unstable and unpredictable, she reluctantly gave up her physical therapy career and gave music her full attention.

In 2005, Clamor made her solo recording debut with “Searching for the Soul” (FreeHam Records) where her “bedroom eyes voice” was positively compared to vocalist legends Nina Simone, Julie London and Cassandra Wilson. Other albums followed such as “Flippin' Out,” “My Harana: A Filipino Serenade” (2008), and “Something Good” (2010). She is currently working on a fifth album.

“My Funny Brown Pinay” (in Flippin’ Out) stands out as close to Clamor’s heart because she arranged the lyrics herself to the tune of Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine.” She was inspired to send a strong message to Filipinas to be proud of their skin color and physical features, having understood through personal experience that internal confidence is life-changing and powerful.

“It’s very empowering when you feel beautiful inside,” says Clamor, who as a teenager bleached her skin with papaya soap because she didn’t like her dark skin. “It reflects on your relationships and the way you respond to life experiences. When I came here, people started appreciating my looks and complimenting me about my skin color. That conditioned me to see that my color is good and I started to see myself differently.”

Her encouragement to fellow Filipinos, especially women: “Live each day to the fullest and find out what is unique about you. Embrace it and use it for your art or as an inspiration or guide on how you would live your life. And the key to long lasting happiness is living a life of service to others.”

Clamor is actively involved in environmental causes, specifically clean water issues. She has a column “Green is Gorgeous” in the Asian Journal and also serves as a board member in the Sierra Club’s Water Committee.

Her new song “Flow: A Simple Drink of Water” (from “Something Good”) donates 80 percent of the proceeds to Philippine Water Runs, a series of benefit runs in major cities in the Philippines that started on September 15, 2011 and will end in March 2012. Other issues Clamor is interested in include energy conservation, composting, recycling and the re-use of plastic bags.

Tickets for her concert may be purchased at the UH-Hilo Performing Arts Center Box Office or by calling (808) 974-7310. Tickets are also available online at: artscenter.uhh.hawaii.edu.

by Fiedes Doctor, for Filipino Chronicle, OCTOBER 02, 2011

POSTED ON OCTOBER 02, 2011