Thursday, September 14, 2006


"There are things that music can do that language could never do,
that painting can never do, or sculpture. Music is capable of
going directly to the source of the mystery. It doesn't have
to explain it. It can simply celebrate it." - Marsha Norman

On August of 1898, as a measure to suppress the brewing discontent of the Filipinos, the U.S. Secretary of War, Elibu Root, ordered the transfer of American military troops to the Philippine archipelago. Part of this contingent who arrived in Manila were four Negroes — David Fagan, Lester Strongman, Paul Broduck and Waller Colts. Subsequently, having had enough of the racial insults constantly thrown at them by their fellow soldiers who were white, they deserted their ranks and sought refuge at Aguinaldo’s camp. These colored soldiers were then made members of the Filipino revolutionary forces as conscripts.

And during times of leisure, they introduced their Filipino counterparts to their own kind of music — blues and gospel — though still taking shape in the States at that time. These early American contemporary music became the backbone to what would eventually transpire as jazz.

This historical piece was part of Artemio Agnes’ story as featured in the book, Pinoy Jazz Traditions by Richie Quirino. I came across it when searching for listings of foreign musicians who performed in the Philippines after WWII; trying to figure out what concert performances my parents might have gone to during that time. My mother is not one to remember every name of foreign musician she saw with my father at Manila Hotel, Manila Opera House, or other clubs in the city from that period up to the sixties so I have to do some digging on my own.

Also mentioned in this book was the development of a particular style of jazz that was becoming popular in America in the early ‘40s, which found its way to Manila during the liberation. It was called bebop.

Supposedly, "bebop is a word which mirrored, onomatopoetically, the vocalization of the then best-loved interval of the music: the flatted fifth. The term ‘bebop’ came into being spontaneously when someone attempted to sing these melodic leaps.” In the next ten years, the flatted fifth had become a blue note, as common as the open thirds and sevenths familiar to the blues.

But Richie Quirino claimed “the characteristic sound of bebop seemed to be racing and full of nervous phrasing, frenzied and angry. Everything that was obvious was excluded. Most if not all the bebop jazz musicians of that era were addicted to alcohol and drugs. This was a way of deadening their senses and shutting out the realities of a world involved in struggles over power and dominance. As musicians are lovers of peace, bebop was an expression of their frustration and inner turmoil.” And there were many Filipino musicians eagerly learning and adopting this new kind of music into their respective jazz repertoire.

The liberation, among other things, brought with it a euphoric sense of festive mood, which made jazz synonymous with a celebration of victory. With thousands of entertainment-hungry GI’s roaming Manila, the local big bands found themselves heavily in demand.

But even before the liberation period, Filipino bands were playing jazz not only locally, but in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo, as well as in oceangoing vessels plying the Pacific route. Notably, the '20s were known as the Jazz Age, the '30s and '40s were the Swing era. And just as band leaders Count Basie, Xavier Cougat, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman were stars in America, Pinoy jazz had its own stars like Pete Aristorenas, Tirso Cruz, the Mesio Regalado Orchestra, the Shanghai Swing Masters and the Mabuhay Band.

My mother’s sister’s husband, Simeon de Luna, played clarinet for Tirso Cruz. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a big enough name to make it on Richie Quirino’s book, Pinoy Jazz Tradition, which also contains 100 rare photographs, poems and artworks; a must read for jazz lovers. It is available at all popular bookstores.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 6:14 AM


Blogger Unknown said...

dami talgang talented na mga pinoy, lalo na sa mundo ng musika at sining. world class talaga!

September 14, 2006 7:59 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jazz is among my least appreciated music, it's not that I donn't like it but I guess I never really gave time to sit down and listen to it. Maybe I'll give it a shot, hehehe

Nice history piece Eric. Too bad my own blog is down, I have my Bonifacio post ready for posting, :(

September 14, 2006 9:32 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful history Eric.

Well, Jazz really is beautiful but I find that these days not many are into Jazz anymore. I guess you really have to listen to it so that you'd be able to appreciate the music. But Jazz really is amazing and it makes you sway with the music. Hehe.


September 14, 2006 9:52 AM  

Blogger ipanema said...

I love jazz. Though it's the Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald that I grew liking to.

Speaking of my generation, it was the height of Michael Franks, George Benson, Chick Corea, The Manhattan Transfer, and of course, Kenny G. to name a few.

Thanks for sharing this Eric.

September 14, 2006 12:13 PM  

Blogger Rey said...

Hey I've watched a documentary about this around late July in TFC late night.
It was narrated by Enage (forgot the first name)and produced by Quirino and Cillis Davis.

Quite an enlightening segment since all i knew about philippine jazz before was only Eddie K (laughs).

September 14, 2006 3:27 PM  

Blogger ladybug said...

Wow, very enlightening post. I did not like jazz at first, but I have grown to love this genre. :-)

September 14, 2006 7:16 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Yes, Cruise ... tama ka dyan! Unbelieveable talaga ang talent ng Pinoy. Kaya kita mo naman, di sila nagpapahuli sa ano mang sangay ng musika, sining, pagsayaw, at sa pagsulat ng mga dula :)

Quite understandable, Jhay. Jazz has become so vast that there's so much varying styles. Tell you the truth, I can't appreciate some of them, either -- especially, acid and fusion jazz.

But time will come when you'll discover on your own which particular style of jazz suits your soul :)

I beg to differ, Kyels ... it's just that most people into jazz don't rave about it as much as rockers and hip hop die hards do with their music. And a lot of rockers sort of delve into jazz every now and then such as Sting, George Michael. There's also a recording, "Mozart After Midnight," in which a group of classical musicians jammed on some classics and jazzed it up to the hilt :) Point is, jazz is mostl;y improvisation, and accomplished musicians tend to do just that -- improvize -- to showcase their talents.

You've got some fine names there, Ipanema -- class acts, actually. Of all the names you mentioned (your generation) it was Michael Franks I always went to see whenever he performed in NYC. Cool guy. A true Jobim fan. He was an English professor, you know?

BTW, if you like Ella, then you will like Sarah Vaughn :)

Rey, you are so lucky! I haven't seen it :(

I think they are doing the college circuit -- showing this film to every campus. Richie Quirino is also part of that production, I believe. There is a DVD available.

Ladybug, I recommend that you check out Michael Franks. You will love his music :)

September 14, 2006 8:05 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The other night I saw on TFC that one of japan's famous and best-loved jazz singer is a Filipina. She also has a Jazz school in Japan.

As TFC puts it "Japan's pride is a Filipina." Sorry, i forgot her name.

If my memory serves me right, David Fagan became an officer under Aguinaldo who was hanged by his fellow American soldier (after he was caught).

Another excellent post. Is there something about reggae music?

September 14, 2006 8:26 PM  

Blogger ipanema said...

How lucky of you to watch Michael Franks perform live Eric. Thanks for info by the way, hmmm...English professor eh? :)

September 14, 2006 9:40 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't know that jazz entered the Philippine music scene. But you know what, if it weren't for Reggie, I probably wouldn't be interested in jazz. But since he is into it, I've learning to love it too. The only artist I recognize from your list is Duke Ellington. He listens to his music and also Miles Davis.

I'll see if I can get him to read this post. :)

September 14, 2006 10:33 PM  

Blogger ipanema said...

I just re-read your comment Eric. Yes, I like Sarah Vaughn. :)

Can you imagine I still have Michael Franks in tapes which was the 'in' thing then. and they're still good after all these years.

September 15, 2006 5:41 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

You and Rey are so lucky, Myepinoy. I don't think that film has ever been shown on local television. Now, I'm going to have to get a DVD copy of it :)

I can imagine why that poor guy, Fagan, was hanged. Come to think of it, most jazz musicians from that era on had to endure racial discrimination.

Reggae ... wow! Only entry I might post is personal experience of "accidentally" partying witb Bob Marley and his Wailer family backstage at the Beacon Theater in NYC -- heady, indeed :)

September 15, 2006 6:13 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Yes, Ipanema, he got bored teaching and went into writing and performing his music instead. My favorite is "Antonio's Song" and "Lady Wants to Know." I don't like "Popsicle Toes" at all (his big hit).

I think he has a Website. He is extremely popular in Japan.

Sarah Vaughn I saw last at Carnegie Hall. She was amazing.

September 15, 2006 6:18 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

What I didn't realize, Irene, is that the history of jazz in the Philippines dates back to Aguinaldo's time. But it was my father who introduced me to it.

Actually, Carlos Celdran, played a Benny Goodman tune in his tape player during our Intramuros tour and he was surprised I knew its title, "Moonlight Serenade." It was one of my father's favorites.

Please check out Michael Franks' music. Get his greatest hits CD. You will love it.

There's a line i love from his song, "The Lady Wants To Know:"

Daddy's just like Coltrane
Baby's just like Miles
Lady's just like heaven ... when she smiles

John Coltrane is another artist whose music Reggie ought to check out.

September 15, 2006 6:39 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

He also has CDs of John Coltrane, and many others. He might have Michael Franks too. I'll check with him.

September 15, 2006 11:58 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Reggie is far advanced in jazz than realized then, Irene :)

Good for him!

September 15, 2006 12:13 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Eric,

And you had to write about jazz! =)

There's this place within UP Diliman Campus, a bar actually, that has live jazz sets. My uncle told me about it. I'll check it out soon and I'll be sharing the experience.

More power, Eric! =)


September 15, 2006 4:21 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! "Partying with Bob Marley and the Wailers." That must be a great experience of a lifetime.

Remember this one"None but ourselves can free our minds."

Happy Weekend.

September 15, 2006 5:03 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Is it Silungan at Balay Kalinaw in UP campus, Hb00?

Only read about it at pinoyjazzsociety:

but their concert listing is old and not updated at all.

Please share with us your review of it.


September 15, 2006 8:15 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Ok, Myepinoy, I'll compose an entry and I'll let you know when it's posted. But be forwarned, Mr. Marley is not at all like those images of party animal rock stars with groupies galore. He was a family man and .... ok, I'll just write about it :)

September 15, 2006 8:20 PM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

As expected in any discussion of Jazz, Ella, the queen of scat, was mentioned, and Sarah Vaughn, too.

But to complete the elite trio, we should also mention Billie Holiday. Critics are quite in disagreement as to who ought to be numero uno.

September 17, 2006 1:26 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Goodness, they are all grand dames, Amadeo.

If allowed to add another one -- Shirley Horn. She passed away only about a year ago.

Her style is truly unique which is incredibly slow, but it requires superb musicianship to be able to sustain playing in such tempo. Her renditions of "My Funny Valentine," "It Had To Be You," and Jobim's "Estate" are classics.

September 17, 2006 6:15 AM  

Blogger PhilippinesPhil said...

David Fagan, Lester Strongman, Paul Broduck and Waller Colts... I'd never heard of them or of their intriguing story. Sounds very tragic. For me, those little human interest stories behind the "big picture" is where one finds history's texture...I LOVE details! Where did you hear of them? I'd like to learn the complete specifics on what happened to them from start to ugly finish. American blacks couldn't win for losing for sure. I'm mostly proud to be an American, but we certainly have our distasteful skeletons, don't we?

September 19, 2006 9:07 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Those personalities were all from that book "Pinoy Jazz Traditions," but I've a feeling that there must be a more detailed book regarding the fate of these four Afro-Americans.

As all cultures, Phil, but I guess our ability to acknowledge what is wrong and correct it assures a greater civilization (spiritual maturity) for all of mankind.

September 19, 2006 9:24 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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