"The Jazz Singer," from John Burnett with Hawaii Herald-Tribune

Charmaine Clamor is the undisputed "Queen of Jazzipino."

A sultry and sophisticated vocalist, she's been named by the Filipino Women's Network as one of the 100 Most Influential Filipino Women in the United States. Her fourth U.S. album, "Something Good" was released last year to critical acclaim.

She'll entertain tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Hawaii at Hilo Performing Arts Center.

"This is my first time to the Big Island, so I'm really, really looking forward to this trip," said Clamor, whose name rhymes with "amour."

Originally from Subic, Zambales, Philippines, Clamor came to the U.S. at age 16. She said she gravitated towards jazz because "as a child, that was the music that was exposed to me by my parents."

"I really love the fact that you can put your own spice into this unique American art form and make it your own," she said.

On her 2007 CD "Flippin' Out," Clamor infused her spice into "My Funny Valentine," changing the lyrics and renaming it "My Funny Brown Pinay."

"It talks about my personal experience as a kayumanggi pinay (olive-skinned Filipina) growing up in the Philippines," she explained. "I went home to the Philippines in 2007 and I saw larger-than-lifesize billboards of mestiza, of light-skinned, beautiful models, women and men, all over the freeway. Along with that were numerous advertisements for glutathione, a pill that you take that targets the liver so you can change your pigmentation of your skin, so you can become lighter, and skin creams, soaps, everywhere. It was a dark feeling because it reminded me of my childhood experience, which I'd kind of forgotten because I'd been in the States for a long time.

"I was shocked by that. I thought, 'Wow, it really hasn't changed.'"

On the same CD, she recorded an acoustic jazz version of U2's "With or Without You" and a jazzy version of the "Dahil Sa'Yo," an ubiquitous Filipino tune. When she performed for Philippine President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, an Aquino aide told her she couldn't sing "Dahil Sa'Yo."

"I said, 'The reason I want to sing the song is I really want to bring it back to the people,'" Clamor explained. "This is one of the most beloved kundimans (Tagalog serenades) of the Philippines. I want to give it back to the people and take away the ogres and take the Marcoses out of it by giving it a new life and a new way to sing that song.' After I told him that, the (aide) said, 'Go ahead and sing it.'

She said Aquino and the other audience members loved it.

"They came to me said that's probably the best version of the song they ever heard.'"

The Los Angeles-based Clamor is a pescetarian -- she eats seafood, but no red meat -- and an environmentalist. She is devoted to helping the 16 million people in the Philippines who lack access to clean drinking water.

"One out of five Filipinos is being deprived of a basic human right: water," she wrote in her blog, Charm's Chatter. She's donating 80 percent of the proceeds of her water-advocacy anthem, "Flow," to the Philippine Water Runs, a series of fundraising runs to benefit those in need and raise awareness of the problem.

In Clamor's band are Hawaii musicians Abe Lagrimas Jr., her drummer and musical director, and bassist Dean Taba, plus Philippine-born percussionist Bo Razon, who lived in Hilo three decades ago.

Clamor doesn't have relatives in Hawaii, but hopes for strong turnout from the local Filipino community.

"I'm looking forward to connecting with my kababayan, or countrymen, there, though many of them may have been born in Hawaii," she said.

Tickets are $20 general, $15 discount and $10 for UH system students and children 12 and under with valid ID, available at the box office, by phone at 974-7310 and online at

by John Burnett, for Hawaii Herald-Tribune, OCTOBER 14, 2011