Posts Tagged ‘music’

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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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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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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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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ric ocasek – emotion in motion

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Ric Ocasek “Emotion in Motion” (1986), from his album This Side of Paradise with Tears for Fears’ Roland Orzabal on guitar.

No other words are needed to explain. Just listen.

I would do anything / t’hold on to you/ that’s just about anything / until you pull through / I’d hold on to you / til the stars no longer wink / I’d hold on to you /til you figure out just what to think, ’cause

You’re emotion in motion / my magical potion /you’re emotion in motion
to me

I would go anywhere / to meet up with you / that’s just about anywhere
for one rendezvous / I’d hold on to you / until the mountains crumble flat / I’d hold on to you until you figure out just where you’re at, ’cause

You’re emotion in motion / my magical potion / you’re emotion in motion
to me / Yeah

I would do anything / t’hold on to you / that’s just about anything
that you want me to / I’d hold on to you / until you take it all in stride / I’d hold on to you til you want to stay here by my side, ’cause

You’re emotion in motion / my magical potion /you’re emotion in motion
to me…

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pop goes the world: here lies myth (column debut)

Here’s my first piece for a cultural studies column appearing every Thursday beginning 29 April 2010 on the Opinion Page of the Manila Standard-Today. Thank you to MST Opinion Editor Ms. Adelle Chua for giving me this chance, for believing in me.

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  29 April 2010, Thursday

Here Lies Myth

Natalie Merchant. Tori Amos. Cyndi Lauper. Kate Pierson of B-52s fame. Our very own Charmaine Clamor. These and other artists have lent their voices to a unique project- “Here Lies Love”, a two-CD rock opera on the life of Imelda Marcos.

Cover

The genius behind this ground-breaking work is himself one of a kind – David Byrne. He was prime mover of the ’80s new wave band Talking Heads; composer of the main theme from the film “The Last Emperor”, in which wailing violin evokes the haunted soul of a China long vanished; and, with ex-Roxy Music producer Brian Eno, creator of the singular album “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today”, a blend of electronic and gospel.

David Byrne (Net)

In collaboration with deejay and big beat musician Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim of the electronic dance hit “Weapon of Choice”), Byrne expresses in 22 songs his own take on the mythos of Imelda.

Fatboy Slim (Net)

The narrative of Imelda was evolved by her and those around her, conflated by succeeding events, until she became a creature bigger than life and entered world awareness. In one of his blog posts, Byrne tells of his visit to the Philippines in December 2005. He hoped “to catch and absorb some whiff of the Philippine ethos, sensibility, and awareness, by osmosis and conversation.”

In visits to Malacañang, Ilocos, and Leyte, he sees paintings of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos depicted as “the ur-couple of the Philippines…the strong man and the beautiful woman”; Imelda as a “nurturing goddess”. Byrne is no naïve worshipper at the altar; he is aware of how much of her image was a deliberate manipulation. A chapel in Tacloban dedicated to the Santo Niño is “really, a shrine dedicated to herself,” he observes.

In a recent interview in Financial Times, Byrne relates his fascination in Imelda grew from reading that she “loved going to clubs like Studio 54 and had a floor of her New York townhouse turned into a disco.” Here was a person of power who created her “own little bubble world…I wanted to delve into what makes this person tick, what drives them, how they can be in such deep denial about some of the things they’ve done.”

The album follows Imelda from her girlhood until she fled the country during the People Power revolution, juxtaposed with the life of her yaya Estrella Cumpas. The 3,000 pairs of shoes are not mentioned. Six music videos are part of the project, using news and archival footage of a young and dazzling Imelda in her butterfly-sleeved ternos descending from airplanes, smiling graciously, charming world leaders.

The album is a treasure box of gems. Much of the lyrics are taken from Imelda’s own words. In “The Rose of Tacloban”, Martha Wainwright asks “what lies beyond tomorrow…?” Cyndi Lauper’s breathy vocals delight in “Eleven Days”. Charmaine Clamor is smokey in “Walk Like a Woman”, Kate Pierson’s distinctive voice engages in “The Whole Man”.  Disco, funk, and electronic dance energize; crank the volume high enough, you forget the subject and become immersed in the music.

Singer and songwriter Binky Lampano says “Here Lies Love” can’t be compared to Byrne’s other works. “Musically we are dealing here with other elements altogether. There are no ‘Talking Heads’ components. As a work, it’s a worthy project. The man went out of his way to come to our country to do his homework.”

As a historical artifact, the album is a keepsake. Advertising executive Leigh Reyes bought the digital edition as soon as it was released. An admirer of Byrne’s work, she says it is “strange to watch (footage of) a fuzzy black-and-white Marcos with a pensive dance track”.

And Byrne’s choice of Imelda as a subject? “She’s a global character,” says Lampano. “It’s not like Byrne went out of his way to look for her. She’s part of the world’s common currency as half of the ‘Conjugal Disco-tatorship’”.

Love her or hate her, Imelda and all that she is part of world culture. In the same way Filipinos have taken Western pop music and made it our own, with, for instance, insurgents in Mindanao call two opposing forces “The Monkees” and “The Beatles”, the world picks and chooses from our narratives to inform creative expression.

Thereby is mythos -  story – continually created, added on to, until boundaries blur, and art becomes a commonality. Here, indeed, in the music and the inspiration, lies love.

*****

The column title is that of an ’80s hit song by Men Without Hats. Lyrics go like this: “Johnny played guitar, Jenny played bass/ Name of the band is ‘The Human Race’/Everybody, tell me, have you heard?/ Pop goes the world.” and so on for more stanzas, where Jenny plays keyboard and Johnny drums, they have kids, they get into movies, they get their pictures in the magazines,  and so on.

In other words, Johnny and Jenny live a life within media, producing content for media, which is distributed to the world. The song’s narrative fits smack into what I want to explore in this column – culture, as created by artists, musicians, and other content providers, selected and filtered by the news media through agenda-setting processes, and distributed through a channel with global reach – the Internet.

Culture, as seen through the lenses of postmodernity and social constructionism, in many instances can no longer be strictly defined as “high” or “low” – the boundaries are blurred, and the Internet has the effect of making the homogenizing process much faster – in fact, so fast that we see it taking place before our very eyes. Via semiotics, we also see how incidents, people, places, etc. may become symbols or signs for concepts that already exist in the different national cultures, or may be appropriated to give meaning to new concepts that have entered consciousness through media consumption.

Yet this does not mean that culture around the world will become one bland mass, like a bowl of oatmeal. Each country’s unique cultural vision will still inform the content produced in that milieu, or provide inspiration to artists from elsewhere. It is the appreciation of the varied types of content that contribute to the creation of a global culture through media.

In this column I will look at what’s trending in world news, perform textual and content analyses as appropriate,  deconstruct concepts, and give insights into why this subject matter is relevant or irrelevant to Filipinos. In other words, the column deals with cultural studies informed by a multi-disciplinary viewpoint (anthropology, sociology, communication, media studies, psychology, etc.). It’s a social scientist’s way of bringing awareness of how global culture is becoming Filipino culture as well as vice versa (as in the way Imelda Marcos and Manny Pacquiao are now part of the world mythos).

Pop Goes the World – everything in the world will be popular eventually. ***

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jazz one moment in time

As we walked into the first floor of Powerplant Mall we were serenaded by cool jazz music. It didn’t sound tinny or canned. We followed the source of the sound; peering over the glass dividers to the basement floor, we saw a four-piece band.

They played impeccably, effortlessly, reminding me why Filipino musicians are in demand all over the world, in lounges and bars, on cruise ships and stages, entertaining people with their talent .

After their set, I clapped. The saxophonist heard me, looked up, and smiled.

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