Archive of ‘music’ category

sacred music

From Christian hymns to Hindu chants, sacred music is an essential component of nearly all, if not all, religions. It is an expression of faith, an integral part of ritual, and a reminder to the musicians and listeners of the attributes of their Lord.

In Hinduism, kirtan – a form of call-and-response chanting –  is an “ancient participatory music experience” with the power to uplift through sound and vibration.

It is a form of praise worship involving the repetition of a mantra, starting slow and going faster and faster until the singers are caught up in energetic, joyous celebration.

The chanting of maha (great) mantras is believed to bestow peace, inspiration, and grace.

Mountain Hare Krishna – Krishna Das (2000) from the “Live on Earth…for a Limited Time” album

Rock On Hanuman – MC Yogi feat. Krishna Das (2008) from the “Elephant Power” album

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nick drake – northern sky

Nick Drake‘s ”Northern Sky”, from his 1970 album “Bryter Layter”, has  been called “the greatest modern love song in the English language”:

I never felt magic crazy as this
I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea
I never held emotion in the palm of my hand
Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree
But now you’re here
Bright in my northern sky.

It’s been a long time that I’m waiting
Been a long time that I’m blown
Been a long time that I’ve wandered
Through the people I have known
Oh, if you would and you could
Straighten my new mind’s eye.

Would you love me for my money
Would you love me for my head
Would you love me through the winter
Would you love me ’til I’m dead
Oh, if you would and you could
Come blow your horn on high.

I never felt magic crazy as this
I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea
I never held emotion in the palm of my hand
Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree
But now you’re here
Bright in my northern sky.

Nicholas Rodney Drake (1948-1974) (Image here.)

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breadfish

Things that get stuck in your head: this here’s one. Click on the link. “Nuff said.

“Tell me, have you seen the marvelous breadfish? ….Swimming in the ocean waters? Have you seen that the marvelous breadfish, is like an inverse sandwich. And oh, for fishermen and shaaarks…”

The tune is catchy. It will loop in your head. PROMISE.

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earth wind and fire – serpentine fire

Earth Wind and Fire was an American R&B band formed in 1969 by Maurice and Verdine White. The band’s name comes from Maurice’s zodiac sign, Sagittarius, of which the primary element is Fire; Earth and Air are its seasonal elements.

The song “Serpentine Fire” was one of the hits from their 1977 album All n’ All. According to comments posted at the Youtube link for the song, like many albums of the time, there was a theme that tied the tunes together, and in this one the concept was the battle between good and evil.

Maurice was said to have been into Egyptology and metaphysics at the time, and the phrase “serpentine fire” refers to the Vedic concept of kundalini - Sanskrit for “coiled” – a person’s dormant creative energy conceptualized as a snake coiled three-and-a-half times around the sacrum (spine). Sacrum, by the way, is Latin for “sacred”.

Perhaps this music was meant to spark the awakening of a listener’s kundalini energy? At the very least, the song would make one want to learn more about this concept, as these are not empty-headed lyrics.

On the surface, the metaphysical themes are cast in the frame of a love song. It may be read that way too, as listening to music is an individual experience, and we bring our associations and frames-of-reference into play in order to understand it.

Waking up and seeing your beloved’s face glowing in the morning sun on the pillow beside you can bring this song to mind. <3

When I see your face like the mornin sun you spark me to shine
Tell all the world, my need is fulfilled and that’s a new design
As long as you’re near, there is no fear of a victory
But when I’m away, influences stray my mind to disagree
I wanna see your face in the morning sun ignite my energy
The cause and effect of you has brought new meaning in my life to me

Gonna tell the story morning glory all about the serpentine fire
Gonna tell the story morning glory all about the serpentine fire

oh yeah oh yeah oh yeah, oh yeah oh yeah oh yeah
I need to see your face like the morning sun ignite my energy
The cause and effect of you has brought new meaning in my life to me
The moments I find when I’m inclined to do my best
Negative wins when I give in and then I lose the test (not many times)

Gonna tell the story morning glory all about the serpentine fire
Surely as life begun, you will as one battle with the serpentine fire

oh yeah oh yeah oh yeah, oh yeah oh yeah oh yeah
Surely as life begun, you will as one battle with the serpentine fire
Surely as life begun, you will as one battle with the serpentine fire
Gonna tell the story morning glory all about the serpentine fire
Gonna tell the story morning glory all about the serpentine fire

EWF image here.

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kazu matsui project feat. robben ford – standing on the outside

This was posted on the Jazzistas page at Facebook and it resonated with me, because the lyrics capture perfectly the feeling of rejection and knocking on the door of someone’s heart – and the door not being opened to you.

Kazu Matsui is a famous Japanese bamboo flute player, and in 1981 began performing West Coast jazz as the “Project”. This track is from the “Love’s a Heartache” album (1983), also called the “Robben Ford album” because of the collaboration of KMP with the silken-voiced vocalist.

Tracks on the album: Standing On The Outside, Time Flies, Save Your Nights For Me, Me On The One Side, Wheels Of Love, Tell That Girl, Illusions, Sunset Memory, Love’s A Heartache, and Sun Lake.

Album information here. Lyrics image from here.

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hiromi in manila

My friend Adelle’s holiday gift to me this year was a very special night spent with her, her musician son Josh, and jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara.

Adelle got us tickets to Hiromi’s one-night only concert at Sofitel Philippine Plaza, held at a tent by the waters of Manila Bay. It was too cold inside the tent but the seats were soft and Hiromi was magic. Her fingers flew over the piano, releasing cascades of sound, light tinkling followed by deep crashing in complicated layers.

I enjoyed her “Choux a la Creme”, an original composition based on her experience of eating a cream puff; her jazzy rendition of one of my favorite classical pieces, Pachelbel’s “Canon”; and her “Viva Vegas” suite – “Showgirl, Show City”, “Daytime in Vegas”, and “The Gambler”.

An amazing performer, Hiromi is gifted, her talent indisputable. She has mastered her instrument of choice to such a level, using it in imaginative ways like reaching in to manipulate the strings inside to mute the lower octaves to sound like a bass guitar.

Her personal style is fun and playful, from her hair and dresses to the color-coordinated sneakers on her feet. Her fingers are pale and strong and dance nimbly over the keyboard. She is a joy to watch and hear.

Here’s her ‘cream puff song’, a rollicking happy gem of a tune.

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hitman: david foster and friends at araneta coliseum

I don’t go to concerts. It’s enough for me to hear music on my headphones without the distractions of having to go to a venue, be with other people, and not be able to see or hear as well as I could with my home audio setup.

But when given the chance to watch “Hitman: David Foster and Friends” at the Araneta Coliseum tonight, I grabbed a couple of tickets in my grubby little paw and hid them in the recesses of my wallet for safekeeping until concert night.

This was the lineup: famed songwriter David Foster and singers Natalie Cole, Charice, Peter Cetera, The Canadian Tenors, and Ruben Studdard. Now doesn’t that send frissons of delight up your spine? Not too long ago I had seen The Canadian Tenors’ performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and was captivated. I would have given anything to hear them sing live – and here the chance was, dumped into my lap not a couple of months later.

One of my closest friends, Adelle Chua, went with me. We didn’t know quite what to expect, not being regular concert-goers. We were disappointed by our first experience – forced baggage check.

There was a long line of people outside trying to get into the venue, and there was a delay because the show’s Manila producer, Ultimate Productions, had not informed the public beforehand that umbrellas and cameras would not be allowed inside the arena and had to be left at a counter beside the gate. They did not have enough people at the items counter, and the few people there did not have any idea how to check things properly and consequently chaos resulted. People were angry and worried that their valuable cameras would be lost. There was a lot of shoving and pushing and waving of tickets in people’s faces as everyone tried to hurry and get in. It was horrible and the producer deserves to be spanked. Hard. Many many times.

Once inside the venue, we were glad that there was powerful airconditioning and that we seated fourteen rows from the stage with a good view of everything. David Foster’s piano-playing was sublime, his patter engaging. “Music is everywhere in Manila,” he said. “It’s in the streets, in the hotels – and here.” He seemed overwhelmed by the audience reaction. “It’s true what they said, people sing along to the songs here,” he marveled. “I’ve never had an entire arena do that before.”

The Canadian Tenors came on and performed three songs. One of them was “Hallelujah” and I was lifted up on wings of sound. They were fantastic. I could have gone home happy at that point, they were magnificent.

Natalie Cole came out next, and she was incomparable. Her voice is silvery light, so sweet, so beautiful. She sang “Unforgettable” along with a recording of her father Nat “King” Cole’s voice, their voices blending together in a magical duet. A smile is perpetually on her face; she beams, her face shining as if it were lit up by the sun, the voice soaring effortlessly higher and ever higher.

At the end of the show, the performers all came out and sang a song David Foster wrote for Michael Jackson – “The Earth Song”. From left, The Canadian Tenors (four of them), Natalie Cole, Charice, Ruben Studdard, Peter Cetera.

Ruben Studdard, said Foster, “fills a gap in genres”, as he does the crooner-type and R&B songs. His voice is deep, rich, sonorous in the tradition of Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross. He has another talent – making up songs on the spot from a line or two given to him. He did admirably with “so many years” from a lady named George (Georgina – the name raised Foster’s eyebrow and gave him a chance to say, “Hi, George, I’m Debbie”), and also with the rather unimaginative “I’ll always be there for you” from a woman also named George (Georgia). By this time Foster thought some collective leg-pulling was going on, and he chuckled.

Foster had another gimmick – going up to people in the audience and having them sing for thirty seconds. A couple were ordinary folks with talent; there were three teenagers who sang a cappella; but then there were professional singers Pilita Corrales (of course she sang “Dahil Sa Iyo”), Randy Santiago (he did “Wildflower”), and Arnel Pineda.

Pilita, our very own diva, still has her vaunted beauty, style, and voice and it was a tremendous pleasure to see and hear her. Randy combined a terrific rendition of one of Foster’s own songs with humor – “I’m so nervous!” he said onstage, as if he were not one of the “concert kings” of the land, and in the last line of the song interjected, “Can I kiss you?” to a piano-playing Foster who laughed and pointed to his cheek. And yes, Randy did lean down to peck the maestro’s cheek, and hugged him before he left the stage.

I’m not sure David knew Pilita and Randy were professionals, but he did recognize Arnel in the audience and convinced him to sing a few lines from the Chicago hit, “Hard Habit to Break” (a song that has painful associations for me, but that’s another story).

Which made a great entrance for Peter Cetera, former lead vocalist of Chicago. Arnel said, “You guys are freakin’ me out!” Being with both his ‘heroes’ on stage was obviously a huge experience for him – he actually knelt in front of Cetera till the latter pulled him up, laughing but clearly flattered.

Cetera’s voice was not in excellent form, but he made up for it with soul and showmanship, singing some of his most popular hits. One of them was “Glory of Love” from the Karate Kid 2 soundtrack, that had everyone singing along.

The show ended with Charice, the petite Pinay powerhouse who is being mentored by Foster and who has improved vastly under his tutelage. Think of it as he being Freddy Roach to her Manny Pacquiao – it’s a mighty combination. She belted out several songs and had the audience on their feet in a standing ovation, cheering themselves hoarse. She did several songs made popular by Celine Dion, one of them “Power of Love”. Charice also did a fantastic rendition of her own hit “Pyramid”.

Foster said Filipinos should be proud “of your little one”, as he clearly was, saying she was in the league of all the women singers he had worked with – Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton. It was a moment of pure elation.

The music was superb, the show was spectacular, the energy was high high high and we left the arena wowed by the performances  of the evening.

Once outside, though, I had to get my camera back and the experience was even more dreadful than before. More pushing! More shoving! With more screaming from disgruntled patrons! There still weren’t enough people behind the counter and they had not lined up the umbrellas and the cameras by number or done anything else to arrange the items during the three hours that the concert lasted. They did nothing at all. I was one of the first in line and it still took  fifteen minutes before I was given my camera back.

When I finally managed to disengage myself from the melee with much elbowing and leaning and apologizing, my shirt was hanging off my shoulders and my carefully pinned-up hair was a tangled  mess.  Adelle said, “You look like you’ve been through a war.” And that is indeed how I felt. The people behind Ultimate Productions deserve to be scolded and spanked. Hard, as I mentioned. Many many times, as I said.

The check-in incident was terrible and an ugly start and end to an otherwise wonderful show. It needn’t have happened – there were people who had somehow smuggled in their cameras anyway, as flashes kept popping, and cellphones with cameras were not taken. There was no announcement made at any time before, during, or after the concert that photography or video were forbidden. So why take cameras? And umbrellas? They weren’t wet – it rained during the concert, not before. I asked several people with the events group who the producers were, but they all refused to say. Why? Because they knew this aspect of the event they staged was mucho fail?

That being said, I look forward to another edition of the concert. Foster said that they haven’t left Manila yet but are already planning their return – for Valentine’s Day 2011. Fans of David and Friends, both old and new, can look forward to more music, surprises, and romance from this talented team in just a few more months.

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anggun – snow on the sahara

Snow on the Sahara (1998) is the first international studio album by Indonesian-born French singer Anggun.

Only tell me that you still want me here
When you wander off out there

To those hills of dust and hard winds that blow
In that dry white ocean alone lost out in the desert
You are lost out in the desert

But to stand with you in a ring of fire
I’ll forget the days gone by
I’ll protect your body and guard your soul
From mirages in your sight
lost out in the desert

If your hopes scatter like the dust across your track
I’ll be the moon that shines on your path

The sun may blind our eyes, I’ll pray the skies above
For snow to fall on the Sahara
If that’s the only place where you can leave your doubts

I’ll hold you up and be your way out
And if we burn away,
I’ll pray the skies above for snow to fall on the Sahara

Just a wish and I will cover your shoulders
With veils of silk and gold
When the shadows come and darken your heart
Leaving you with regrets so cold lost out in the desert

If your hopes scatter like the dust across your track
I’ll be the moon that shines on your path

The sun may blind our eyes, I’ll pray the skies above
For snow to fall on the Sahara
If that’s the only place where you can leave your doubts
I’ll hold you up and be your way out
And if we burn away,
I’ll pray the skies above for snow to fall on the Sahara

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pop goes the world: ‘orosman at zafira’ and divorce

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 19 August 2010, Thursday

“Orosman at Zafira” and Divorce

For its 35th season, the Dulaang UP of the University of the Philippines is putting on a series of productions kicking off with Francisco Baltazar’s “Orosman at Zafira”, running up to August 29 at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater at UP-Diliman’s Palma Hall.

For those who remember having to slog through Baltazar’s epic poem “Florante at Laura” in high school, “Orosman” is the same in flavor; the dialogue is heavy reading in archaic Tagalog and hard to follow, although the narrative, as brought to life by cast members, can be comprehended from the talented and excellent performances.

Reed screens decorate the set and are moved around to create spaces, emphasize separation, and otherwise indicate location. At the beginning, the title of the play is cast upon the screens in light, which fades and shifts to a rainbow of coruscating lights.

Suddenly a woman’s low, husky tones ululate in distinctly Filipino cadences, followed by the doom-doom beat of tribal drums. At those sounds, something primal surges within, a call of the race deep within the blood that hearkens to the rhythm of forebears as the reed screens separate to reveal the singer/narrator, Zelima (played superbly by Tao Aves), clad in flowing robes, mourning the deluge that has overwhelmed their land: “Sa aming bayan, dilubyo sa aming bayan. Tatlong pacha, isang kahariang mahal; nagalit ba ang dakilang Allah, at nangyari na ang dapat na mangyari?”

Then unfolds the story of power and wealth, love and sorrow, life and death, played out in dance and song and words. The women of Baltazar’s “Orosman” are powerful: Tasy  Garrucha enchants as Zafira, princess of the Marueccos tribe, while Jean Judith Javier’s Gulnara, the beloved of Sultan Mahamud, Zafira’s father, convincingly portrays a complicated love. Both turn warrior upon the assassination of the sultan; do not be misled by the flowing gowns and the soft voices; the dulcet tones turn harsh with anger, the gowns stripped to reveal men’s clothing while staves and other weapons are waved at the moment of battle.

As the drama unfolded, I realized that the spirit of warrior women still lives in Filipinas today. Infidelity is endemic in our culture and is cause for much heartbreak in relationships. Our laws are biased towards men, who can only be charged with concubinage upon submission of proof that they have set up a household with a woman not their wife. Women, on the other hand, only have to fail once and be caught in a tryst with their lover to be charged with infidelity. Is that fair?

There are also no strict safeguards for battered women and children, despite the Violence Against Women and Children law which was only passed a few years ago. What recourse is there for Filipino women in the present day to escape from the trap of loveless marriages scarred by infidelity and violence, the wife-beating husband in the arms of another woman, often providing no support for the children?

House Bill 1799 is one such solution. Called the “Divorce Law” and proposed by women lawmakers who are among our modern warrior women, it provides a better option than the costly and lengthy annulment that is the only means at the present for unhappily married Filipinas to be emancipated.

Have you noticed how the proponents and supporters of the bill are women and progressive men, while its opponents are traditionalist men? The reactionary male lawmakers and their like-minded fellows who seek to keep women entrapped at their convenience are selfish and fail to take into account the feelings of the women who yearn for freedom and the chance to start life anew, perhaps find a man who will truly love and cherish them. Why can’t they let go?

These hidebound fogies see women as property, theirs to bind and loose at their whim, blind to the rights of women to live their own lives as they see fit, while they engage in affairs left and right. That is not fair or moral or right. If a marriage is not working, for whatever reason, why not accept that fact and take steps to set both parties free to start anew? That is better than for unhappy couples to stay together for the sake of appearance – that is hypocrisy.

Baltazar’s women took matters into their own hands when it came to love and war. Today’s women need to keep to the law of modern society; wielding swords and bows are not an option. Yet Filipinas are not without weapons – we have our brains to think and our bodies to act to support a law that is long overdue and that will give women that which are our rights and should not be withheld by those who wish to retain their power over half of the population.

As examples of strong and loving women, Zafira and Gulnara are inspirations. Some of the other cast members include Jay Gonzaga (Orosman), Kevin Concepcion (Aldervesin), Roeder Camañag (Boulasem), Acey Aguilar (Zelim), Neil Ericson Tolentino (Mahamud), and veteran Ronnie Martinez as Ben-Asar, Mahamud’s vizier. Directed by Dexter Santos with original music by Carol Bello, “Orosman at Zafira” is a must-see. Call Dulaang UP at 926-1349 for tickets and playdates. ***

Photos from Prof. Amy Bersalona of the UP-Diliman College of Arts and Letters/Dulaang UP.

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hotdog: manila

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In celebration of the 439th anniversary of my hometown, 24 June 2010. Maligayang Araw ng Maynila!

Hotdog – “Manila”

Maraming beses na kitang nilayasan / Iniwanan at iba’ang pinuntahan / Parang bababeng ang hirap talagang malimutan / Ikaw lamang ang aking laging binabalikan

(Quiapo Quiapo Quiapo, isa na lang ah, aalis na. Para!) Manila…

I keep coming back to Manila / Simply no place like Manila / Manila, I’m coming home

I walked the streets of San Francisco / I’ve tried the rides in Disneyland / Dated a million girls in Sydney / Somehow I feel like I don’t belong

Hinahanap hanap kita Manila / Ang ingay mong kay sarap sa tenga / Mga jeepney mong nagliliparan / Mga babae mong naggagandahan / Take me back in your arms Manila / And promise me you’ll never let go / Promise me you’ll never let go

Manila, Manila / Miss you like hell, Manila / No place in the world like Manila / I’m coming home to stay…

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