Monthly Archives: February 2014

Rappler’s article, Philippine President Aquino’s reality check

Becoming a President of a country that had nothing but a zero balance in its’ monetary reserves, a country ruled and governed by (if not all), a lot of corrupt and dishonest officials, bureaucracy, old school political traditions, a very ill-disciplined citizenry, a country where most of the people do nothing but whine, bicker and complain except do the moral thing, IS NOT a joke. I agree with the writer’s take that with a lot of struggle in the president’s leadership, the international community, world bank, foreign investors are indeed still attracted to the rebirth of our nation. Government transparency is the bottomline. It is too open that people who see any thoughts, ideas, opinions on social media minus the newspapers, television and radio, take those insights subjectively. Granting that Pinoy makes wrong choices in choosing his constituents, dumping officials that some people think are just being bullied by the president, I can still see that there is progress. I live abroad and I look at our country from the outside. I hear international news never been heard on Philippine television, read articles never been read by a regular pinoy, opinions uttered by my co-workers who are all foreigners saying only one thing; the value of the dollar against the peso is going down, the yen, and all other monetary units. This only explains that we have earned the trust of the international community, less intimidation to OFW, less racism, less stereotyping that our country is hopeless. I overhear foreigners speaking that the Philippines is a country to watch out for. Indeed, President Aquino’s worst enemy is time considering that his term is about to end in no less than 3 years. I will start to question when we elect our next president. Would he continue the legacy of progress or pull down our country back to the deep well? I always quote the late US President JFK, “Ask not what your country can do to you but ask what you can do to your country”. Much as President Aquino needs reality check, the citizens need it more. Let’s take a look at our reflections in the mirror one more time and do some reality check ourselves.

10 Ways Journaling Makes You a Better Writer

This is a an inspiration for writers and would be writers.. After reading this, you wouldn’t want to see an empty monitor anymore. Your fingers will itch to start typing off your thoughts!

Live to Write - Write to Live

Journaling is a self-indulgent, narcissistic waste of time. It’s nothing more than self-administered therapy – the writer simultaneously on the couch and in the psychiatrist’s chair, endlessly picking apart the minutiae of her life to no good end. Time would be better spent alphabetizing the spice cupboard.

I disagree.

I have kept journals on and off since I was seven years old. My entries have ranged from copies of Shakespeare’s poems to what I did today to philosophical musings to documentation of the soap opera antics of the teenage years. I have professed love, eschewed love, and pined after lost love. I have envisioned my future, questioned my past, and reveled in my present. I have railed against the world and explored the dark and sparkling caves of my inner self. I have written letters that were never sent and scrawled meaningless sentences of disconnected prose just to keep my…

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Racism in Jazz

Jazz trio and the writer.. In a jazz gig.
Jazz trio and the writer.. In a jazz gig.

Music is and always be my life. After finishing my Communication Arts degree in a prestigious university, I had my practicum or as others would say apprenticeship on television stations and radio stations doing jobs as director’s assistant or scriptwriter’s assistant, everybody’s assistant, doing voice over jobs, forever the assistant, forever the voice over and never the real deal. I could have been a director, a scriptwriter, a television or a radio announcer. I could have had a career in Journalism. Much as I love to sing, writing is also my passion. In other words, I have a degree in Communication Arts and I can’t use it. I guess I really never wanted to be behind the camera. I remember telling my mom after six months of training on television, and I quote myself “mom, I don’t think I want to be behind the camera forever, I want to be in front. During the training, I had an encounter with a very good singer who later became the Kim of the Musical Ms. Saigon , she was amazing but I thought to myself, I can do that too, and perhaps become even better. I was in a hurry to be in her position, in front of the camera. So there I go. After several day jobs, I got bored and impatient, I quit! There were a lot of auditions being held then as hotel vocalists, band vocalist or wedding singer. With a lot of practice and guts, I auditioned. The rest is history.
From my country, I went hopping from one country to another as a singer, armed with a degree in Communication Arts In English, a lot of piano and guitar lessons, vocal lessons, and jazz workshop sessions. To date, I still attend jazz cliniques much as I give my own jazz clinics too. But that’s already water under the bridge.
This is the first time that I am going to express myself in writing as far as being ‘Asian’ is concerned, specially in the world of jazz. I have long been wanted to be heard and after I read an article in Cosmopolitan magazine regarding Asians being stereotyped as the following : chinky eyes, almond shaped eyes, noodles, chopsticks, yellow or brown skin, straight black hair and most of all non English speakers, I said to myself, enough of those craps! I’ve had it and let it be known that some people are either uneducated or plainly idiots or racists. Why?
In my travels as a jazzer, being in the business for almost 2 decades, having recorded 5 CDs , having to perform in front of an audience almost everyday of my life, dealing with bosses from different parts of the globe, I can absolutely conclude that I am pretty much doing a good job if not great.
I am not writing this to bad-mouth people who do not have any knowledge in world history or world geography or human behavior. I’ve just had enough.
These are the phrases I would hear or expected to hear? And I quote ‘oh, you’re Asian, and you speak good English.’ Or as how the immigration officers of the US Consular Office interrogated me when I was applying for my 01 visa or legally defined as an alien of extraordinary ability, and I quote again, ‘what’s with the English?’ Either he wants to intimidate me or he’s being sarcastic because he’s a racist. I may sound too sensitive on this subject but no. I’ve just been trying so hard to bear these unbearable assumptions.
I remember my friend telling me, and he’s a very good speaker of English as well, somebody irrationally told him, ‘so you’re Filipino, why do you speak very good english?’ He wanted to give that guy a right hook as strong as Manny Pacquiao’s  to shut him up, I’m glad he didn’t. And yes, my friend is an American law-abiding citizen, with a decent job , pays taxes and has a car registration most Americans wouldn’t have.
This kind of story doesn’t happen only in the US. It happens everywhere, Japan for one. It’s a beautiful country with very polite citizenry and has a wide audience in jazz. Even a non English speaker country like Japan stereotypes other Asians as people who have a native tongue and that’s not english. To the japanese; americans, canadians, australians, and all the other countries colonized by the Queen , are the only ones acceptable to be a jazz vocalist. Why can’t people just accept that a talent is a talent regardless of race, beliefs and gender? Is it hard to appreciate real talent? Does one have to be white or black to be validated? Who are they to judge? I’m blessed to have intelligent and level- headed parents, who are tirelessly telling me that I shouldn’t let anybody bully me or deprive me of my freedom to showcase what I can do, and still maintain humility. I can only take so much. I have no excuse for being Asian, educated, talented, speaks 3 languages fluently including English for that matter. People can either accept it or not, it doesn’t matter anymore.
My advice to aspiring jazz vocalists, pursue your goal! Go for your dream. It doesn’t matter if you’re not black or white. What matters is that you can deliver and you deliver well! Sorry racists, it’s time for a shoutout!
I’m not sour-graping, i’m just saying. No more racism in jazz , after all, music is a universal language.

Amor Se Paga Que Amor (Love begets Love)

imageAmor Se Paga Que Amor (Love begets Love)
Minutes after I finished my vocal teaching sessions, I spoke to my dad over the phone and told him how much proud I am to be able to contribute to the vocal skills of my students, and how my students inspire me in return. I told him how much effort, energy and love I put every time I teach and what’s amazing is the more I teach, the more I learn. When I told my father about giving love to people he uttered ‘love begets love in the Spanish language. ‘Amor Se Paga Que Amor’ ! He even added that because I love my students, my students give me  love in return by becoming better performers and decent human beings as well. He’s indeed the genius in the family. Of course, next to my mom, I have to write this down too, otherwise, she would edit this blog. In any case, my parents and the whole family have always been my inspiration in everything I do.

Their unconditional love and undying support are the reasons why it is easy for me to be generous in giving love to the people surrounding me.
Being a good performer and being a good mentor are two different things.

Much as I love to sing and write, teaching gives me a sense of purpose too. Bragging aside, I have had 6 recitals for my students, 3 of them has released their own CDs, became winners for jazz vocal competition, some of them turned from amateur to semi amateur, and the semi amateur to professional. It did not happen overnight. Long years of hard work in teaching , practice, rehearsals with bands, session attendance, studio orientations, working with different musicians, a lot of breathing and vocal exercises, and workshop attendance, moreover, lessons in public speaking or emceeing. I make sure that my students get to experience being on stage and perform with live accompaniment, with seasoned musicians as a much and often as they could. After so many years, I can see that all the hard works are paying off! They surprise me with better vocal control, better repertoire, new ideas, hitting difficult notes, surprising syllables in their scat improvisation, better phrasing and expression, impressive articulation, much better pronunciation and style, my students make me cry!
I expected all of these to happen because I know that when you give genuine love to people, you are compensated in return, thus ‘Amor Se Paga Que Amor’!! Thank you Dad and Mom for your overflowing love to your children and grandchildren. We will never fail your legacy of love.

No One Has the Right to Bully/ MMK

MMK or otherwise known as Maalaala Mo Kaya, dated February 8, a weekly television drama anthology of the network ABS-CBN in the Philippines did it again!
The story centers in the character of Tirso (played by Sam Concepcion) who was consistently bullied because of his looks. His left eye couldn’t see because of a freak accident , followed by a not so conventional cosmetic surgery and looked by many people in conformity as ugly, ridiculously distasteful and do not want to be seen walking along with him or being a friend to him. Instead of being bullied, he stopped going to school during elementary level. The parents seconded his motion and agreed that he should not be forced to have a proper education in an attempt to save their son from bullying. At 15, he started working.
Not having a good education, being bullied every minute, not having the proper guidance specially by the parents can leave someone like Tirso hopeless and see himself as a person of very low self-esteem, or perhaps he lost it all. To this day, there are still a lot of Tirsos out there. Of course at the end of the story, he finds someone who loved him for what he is and not for his looks. Unconditional love and undying support changed his life and eventually got his self esteem back.
Sincerity and real life stories of ordinary people are just some of the reasons why MMK of TFC Channel remain to be the longest running TV drama anthology program in the Philippines, reaping a lot of accolades and bagging all the trophies from the most prestigious award-giving organizations in the Philippines and other countries. So, why am I writing this?
Pipo Cifra, the music director or MMK for the past 15 years or so contributed to the phenomenal success of the program. His original music score for MMK changes every week. I am a regular viewer of MMK and more on the story, I listen to the scoring. The funny scenes, wouldn’t be funnier , the dramatic scenes wouldn’t be heart-wrenching, the fighting scenes, exchange of heavy dialogue in a disagreement wouldn’t be really convincing if not for Pipo’s original music creations. Today’s score is exceptionally well done. I would give it a 5 star (perfect)! I am like watching a movie or a drama series in the US. Let’s face it, Hollywood is still the deal when it comes to music scoring. Pipo seems to be a part of Tirso’s life as he injects his musical score from light to moderate , from moderate to heavy scenes. He knows how to tickle the hearts of the viewers and yet not compromising his work of art. After all, scoring for a TV program requires real talent, hardwork, a course in the conservatory, and most of all love for the job. I feel how passionate Pipo Cifra is in all original scores he makes, whether it’s TV, movie, commercial, theatre, chorus or an orchestra, his heart is always present. I believe that MMK and Pipo Cifra is a very good combination. MMK should stay on air forever and so is the music scorer Pipo.
A person with real talent and passion for his chosen path is hard to find these days, what will all the technological advancement in scoring and how applications of Android or Smart Phones can turn an amateur into a professional overnight. Pipo spent years and years of education, training, hardwork, doubled with a gift to write original, very melodic compositions, tripled with a very big heart and a pure soul he puts in every composition he makes. More than the heaps of awards that he already has and still getting more, what is truly important for him is to touch the lives of every person in every music that he creates.
To know more about the artist , google PIPO CIFRA Imdb…..You will understand what I am saying.

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (why i chose JAZZ)

Needs to be reblogged!

lornacifra

imageI couldn’t sleep, and wouldn’t sleep, when love came and told me I shouldn’t sleep…..But it is not love that’s keeping me awake at this snowy moment this part of my world. Yes it’s 2 degrees celsius outside and everything is covered with snow. I can not find my way into deep slumber because  I have been thinking. What is next after music? Music is my life and has been keeping me alive for the past 20 years. I even tell my musicians that nobody retires from singing. Until death do us part. On the bandstand, we drop dead. Us meaning me and my microphone. Times like this when I am alone, I ask myself, how  did I get in here? In this so-called music industry?

One thing I am sure of is that growing up was very musical for me. From my family, to school, to the church where…

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[44] Chet Baker – Let’s Get Lost

A must read!!!

. . . To Hear Before I Blog

Baker’s simple vocals take a backseat to the trumpet, piano – actually anything else that might be playing – and this laid back, understated blend is honey for the ears – Cool Jazz personified.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although recorded in the 50s, this album has such a modern sound and sensibility.  His phrasing reminds me of Harry Connick Jr. singing a low tempo ballad (and I love Harry Connick Jr. when he’s singing low tempo ballads . . .)

Once more, I am treated to some stunning versions of the Great American Songbook – this time “But Not For Me”, “Time After Time” and “My Funny Valentine” are the standouts, adding new nuance and textures to these oft heard songs.

There is a charming simplicity here, bright and relaxed – like the listener does not have a care in the world.

It is…

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Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (why i chose JAZZ)

imageI couldn’t sleep, and wouldn’t sleep, when love came and told me I shouldn’t sleep…..But it is not love that’s keeping me awake at this snowy moment this part of my world. Yes it’s 2 degrees celsius outside and everything is covered with snow. I can not find my way into deep slumber because  I have been thinking. What is next after music? Music is my life and has been keeping me alive for the past 20 years. I even tell my musicians that nobody retires from singing. Until death do us part. On the bandstand, we drop dead. Us meaning me and my microphone. Times like this when I am alone, I ask myself, how  did I get in here? In this so-called music industry?

One thing I am sure of is that growing up was very musical for me. From my family, to school, to the church where my family attends every Sunday, music is always present. I took up Communication Arts and wanted to be like my mom. A professor of political science. Or like my dad, a businessman. Honestly, I really did not know what I wanted to be. All I know is to follow family tradition which is to  finish college, take up my masters or proceed to Law School. As it turned out, none of the above happened. Friends would ask me, and I quote ‘did you dream of becoming a musician?’ and I would always reply, ‘No, it dreamt of me”. There must be a reason why I ended up in this industry. The powers that be guided me all along to be able to be in this position. The position I am enjoying which means being validated and being recognized for this precious gift that God gave me. I am not like the other artists like Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughn or Anita O’ Day and all the other jazz legends like Satchimo, (Louis Armstrong) , in other words I’m just being myself specially when I’m up there on stage. Moreover, I love all the songs in the American Songbook. Focusing on Jazz as a genre equates long hours of practice, vocal exercises, workshops, lessons in theory, solfeggios, listening to hundreds upon hundreds of recordings, performing the songs live with diverse musicians from all over the world, learning the language of music (musician’s language), amazing but  musicians from different parts of the world team up to have a gig and not speak to each other at all. We use our hearts, our souls, our sense of hearing, sign languages, nodding of the heads so as to know where the intro, solo, coda, finale comes in. Creativity happens on stage! But that skill in Improvising or creating your own sound, own style, own scat scales do not happen overnight. I needed to swallow my pride when my mentor tells me that he hates my sound, insulting and intimidating not to mention belittling words like, ‘I should choose a different career’. You have no idea on the amount of tears I had to shed for feeling so sad that I just couldn’t get it! The more that my mentor would throw a hurtful line, the more I study. The more I hear, the more I watch seasoned performers and will always take on a challenge to sing a highly unfathomable song that would require me to remember the -5 sound, the Mm7 sound, the diminished scale, the #11 and the many scales of the Blues. At first, learning those scales, remembering the notes, practice till I get a perfect pitch (there’s a trick on that) , was nerve wrecking. Perhaps being able to play the piano and the guitar helped a lot in remembering the sound of a particular scale. And lo and behold,  I just woke up one morning and I am creating my own sound, my own style, my own phrasing, my own scat riffs, I was IMPROVISING and I was having so much FUN! Finally I decided that i’ll just stick to this genre but not forget to listen to the new songs of this generation. This generation is blessed with so much talented and gifted musicians. I learn from them as well. Yet, there’s more to that. Here are some tricks to be a better jazz performer.

1) Get a good mentor and stay, don’t be lazy to attend your sessions.

2) Learn Basic Music Theory

3) Perform as much as you can in front of an audience. Your family can be your audience. And don’t feel bad when you’re criticized.

4) Listen to as many artists as you can, female and male vocalists alike and  instrumentalists and get to hear their solos. Then apply them to yours while creating your own sound and style.

It’s extraordinarily fun if you know what you’re doing, you LOVE what you’re doing and you get PAID for it too!

I chose Jazz because not only  I can be creative, cerebral, relaxed, but Jazz is good for the heart and soul as well…It’s my therapy. It’s my meditation, my prayer and I’m at PEACE when i’m making my music. Needless to say, I will sing until I drop dead.

Love is all that Matters

Next to singing, writing is my passion. I wrote a couple of blogs many years ago about my career, how people see me as a musician, as a vocal coach as a person, as a woman, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend and many other things. I focused on nothing but myself. What really mattered to me then is what I think and not what other people think which I thought was just right. I wrote hate blogs so I can express my feelings more without actually confronting the person vis a vis, while maintaining ethics in journalism. Doing my best not to name names, venues and what not. I was having a ball. But not until 2 years ago when my husband passed away because of a very dreadful disease called the Big C. He was dying. And this is what I wrote after he was buried.
What really matters to you the most? Quite a difficult question to answer. You study hard, work hard, build a great family, and in one shot, they’re ALL GONE. You seem to be on your way to oblivion. All the things that mattered to you, to oblivion. You want to make a choice..That ONE choice to be HAPPY, and you think you’re doing a great job by denying things and putting on a happy face all the time, TRUTH is, you’re confused, disoriented, disappointed, feeling guilty for a reason you don’t even know, or in other words, EMPTY. It’s the saddest feeling one can have. Me, I’m doing my best to really get back to my SANITY..Seems to me there’s a powerful force trying so hard to pull me down and feel EMPTY no matter what i do. I so believe in absolute faith and that if I call on to God, life would be and its’ intricacies would be easier to handle. I ask you all, what are we on earth for?
Remind me and Enlighten me, please…
This is how desperate I was then, and not many people can read it. Thank you WordPress, now I can write better articles (and publish as well) that will hopefully reach out to many people. My life as a vocalist/vocal coach, a musician, a lyricist, a performer, a friend, an observer of the world would hopefully inspire other people to express themselves better through writing or performing and eventually contribute something in their own small ways to make this world a better place to live for. I now realized that there’s always a reason behind everything. Dwelling on my beloved husband’s death will not make him rest in peace. I heard an inner voice telling me what I’m here for. To share the gift, to inspire would be musicians/vocalists , to be a good mother to my daughter, to be a good daughter to my parents, a sister to my brother and a true friend. Kindness and Love to all. That’s what really matters.

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