I'm a baby boomer, so I'm already an AARP member. If you're not familiar with AARP, people make fun of the non-profit organization as a national group for old people, like grandpas and grandmas. People who aren't members feign shock when AARP is mentioned and joke about how they're too young and dread getting the promotional mail from the organization when they approach 50, which is when you qualify to be a member. A lot of people I know who are even over 50 joke about how they're in denial and won't consider joining AARP.
They should, though. It's a pretty huge, pretty amazing organization, and since as of this year, every Baby Boomer (the boom ran from 1946-1964) is 50+, it's an organization that's not just for "seniors" or "elderly."
The music is straight ahead jazz -- the classic, swingy stuff with lots of space between instruments and a smoky, sultry voice caressing the lyrics. It's jazz, the classic American artform. But the words... aren't... English. The words to the lovely "Dahil Sa Yo (Because of You)" are sung in Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines. It's a jazz standard nonetheless, written for a Filipino movie in 1938 and better known for an English-Tagalog version recorded in 1964 that made the charts in the US.
The singer is Charmaine Clamor, the self-described "Queen of Jazzipino," who sings with a lovely voice in both English and Tagalog, a range of songs from traditional jazz to a fine jazzy version of the U2 rock hit "With or Without You," to traditional folksongs of the Philippines in her jazzipino style.
Clamor's built a loyal following of Filipinos worldwide by bringing her jazz chops to songs in Tagalog, updating her cultural heritage with a modern sheen. She was born in the Philippines and started singing when she was just 3, entertaining bus riders. She later learned to play the piano and accompanied her mother, who sang Filipino torch songs called "kundiman." Her family moved stateside when she was 16 and she retained her cultural ties to the Philippines.
She's released four albums, including the wonderful, low-key "My Harana: A Filipino Serenade" that's almost entirely in Tagalog, and mostly sparingly accompanied with just a guitar or percussion. For fans of Brazilian jazz and samba sung in Portuguese, sitting back with Clamor's Tagalog songs has the same lilting, lulling effect.
Clamor kicks off her 2007 album "Flippin' Out" with a wonderful take on "My Funny Valentine," "My Funny Brown Pinay," a powerful affirmation of her ethnic identity that starts out with a spoken poem backed by piano, bass and drums before she breaks into the melody:
I know it's several months late, but I didn't see a lot of sites spreading this around. Back in 2007, after the prison in Cebu, Philippines started using dance as a way to rehabilitate its prisoners by having them participate in a group creative endeavor and letting them perform for visitors, a video of the inmates grooving in the prison yard to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" became a runaway sensation on YouTube -- as of this writing, there are a mind-boggling 34,505,236 views and counting.
They've danced since then to rock, classical, R&B and Filipino music. The prison's security consultant, Byron F. Garcia, the man who came up with the idea, even has a byronfgarcia YouTube channel where he shares the prisoners' awesome performances.
But the coolest and most moving of them might be the above 10-minute tribute to Michael Jackson, which was choreographed and rehearsed in a 10-hour-straight session after the prisoners heard about his death, and performed performed on June 27 (Jackson died June 25 in the U.S., but it was June 26 in the Philippines by then).
It's a testament to Garcia's progressive thinking on rehabilitating criminals, that these men (and some women, who are in a separate wing) can pull together and create what are essentially great performance art. Back in 2007, on the video of the Pointers Sisters' "Jump," Garcia notes, "This is a tribute to all Prison facilities in the Philippines (8 and counting) who are now adopting this non-violent approach to rehabilitation! Thank you, inmates deserve a second chance! If we make prisons a living hell for them, then we might just be sending out devils once they are released. Cruel methods to achieve discipline are a thing of the past! So, keep on dancing!"
Here are the original "Thriller" video, and a performance of "Dangerous" (you can click to see all the videos of the inmates, and subscribe to them on Garcia's YouTube Channel page):
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