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"Leading Filipino Jazz Vocalist to Serenade Juneau Tonight" from Klas Stolpe with Juneau Empire

It took Charmaine Clamor three months to formulate and compose her first song. Laying in her crib in Subic Zambales, Philippines, Clamor seemed destined to show that singing was going to be more important in her expression of Filipino culture than speaking.

"My parents said I was singing before I could talk," Philippine-born recording artist Clamor, 32, said. "Then they could never shut me up."

The sounds of the ocean on the white sands of Kale beach, the more than 600 bird species from 7,000 tropical islands, the familial lifestyle of the culture, even the radio near her crib that played Philippine ruler Ferdinand Marcos' propaganda song every hour, all combined to stimulate a critically acclaimed singing style, "Jazzipino," and a voice with two consecutive albums in the JazzWeek World Music Top-10, including a No. 2 World and No. 4 Traditional Jazz simultaneous radio ranking.

"We had a lot of family gatherings and celebrations that involved getting together around water and the beaches," Clamor said. "It definitely contributed to my love for exploration which may have had impacts on my singing."

Her mother, Eve, was a pianist with an operatic voice, father Bal adept at indigenous instruments, and grandfather Josefino a jazz band bass player in a World War II marching band in Manilla. Clamor became a musical flower of sorts, listening to opera and jazz, Filipino torch songs called Kundiman and serenade songs called Harana.

The impacts of Clamor on audiences, from neighbors to the bus driver, was instantaneous and lasting. She was singing hello's and goodbye's as a toddler to her kababayan (countrymen) when passing them on the streets. On bus rides she would plant herself at the back and sing for hours.

"I think my parents may have been a little embarrassed," Clamor said. "But the passengers seemed to like it."

Some buses would even keep their seats full minutes after a stop to let the young singer finish a tune, or ask her to sing another before getting off.

Soon she was in elementary school and performing in high school productions and writing poetry and articles for the school paper. After graduating from St. Columban's College-Seniors' high school at age 12, she moved with her family to Los Angeles for better economic opportunities.

During her first year at Our Lady Of Loretto Catholic High School, no one knew she could sing, as she worked toward an eventual Valedictorian honor.

"We came here for economic stability," Clamor said. "So I was concentrating on school work, and not entertaining arts that much."

Winning a talent show her senior year by performing Gloria Estefan's "Anything For You" changed all that.

Clamor began winning karaoke competitions while obtaining a masters degree in physical therapy from Cal State-Northridge. She sang at weddings and parties and became the karaoke hostess, or KJ, at Max's Filipino Fried Chicken restaurant. It was there, at Max's, that she was discovered by the founder and musical director of the jazz group Crescendo.

"A fried-chicken restaurant," Clamor laughed. "I am very proud of it, man!"

She began touring with Crescendo in 1996, and released her first solo album, "Searching for the Soul," in 2005. She has since released "Flippin' Out," "My Harana," "Jazzipino" and "Something Good."

Based in Los Angeles for the past 20 years, Clamor still travels to the Philippines at least once a year.

"To stir the musical pot," Clamor said. "I miss my family and the relationships we have and the memories."

Memories that include her favorite delicacy - lumpia, a type of egg-roll filled with meat, carrots, onion and other bits and tastes of the land.

Memories of the Simbang Gabi celebration in December, with its pastries and fiestas, and spending every weekend with her parents at Kale beach. Memories of walking in rice fields and biking in the mountains and watching the sunset. Memories of the Ylang-Ylang tree's scent in the cool night breeze and the fruit of the Duhat.

Memories of her first poem and her first 'love' at age 10. Memories of courtship in the Filipino culture that last a year before a kiss is granted.

"But that is the most thrilling kind of relationship," Clamor enthused. "Can you imagine the thought of anticipation? I think maybe that poem was about love. Always love. Filipinos are all about love and serenading (laughs). My first album was all about love. It was all about 'I would die if you don't return my love back,' or 'my life is all about loving you.' We are very romantic individuals. And I think I am no exception."

Clamor will perform tonight at the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium, singing a mix of Filipino and jazz songs which she has named "Jazzipino."

"The music came up organically," Clamor said. "I have been singing jazz and been in love with jazz a long time and started incorporating my heritage's indigenous music in my live acts."

Clamor hopes music from her Filipino culture will be enjoyed by those yearning for it.

"Usually what I sing, the older generation especially, will not have heard it live," Clamor said. "I want to connect with them, ask them how they got here and what made them choose to live in Juneau. And to other Alaskans I want to show them how beautiful our culture and music is."

Juneau's Filipino community will relish hearing the "Kulintang" gongs from Mindanao in the Southern Philippines and the Laud (similar to the Spanish Rondalla).

Band members include Filipino's Abe Lagrimas (drums/Cajon/Ukulele) and Bo Razon (Kulintang/Percussion/Laud), and Americans Eli Brueggemann (piano) and Dominic Thiroux (bass).

When Juneau hears Charmaine Clamor sing they may feel themselves lifted onto wings of tropical birds and set down upon beaches of white sand with curls of green blue water.

They will imagine the taste of lumpia... the touch of a hand.. the sound of indigenous instruments... all reflected in the shiny ivory keys and black top of a piano in the sand.

They will imagine a little girl with a voice of the stars standing before them in the body of a woman singing to her Kababayan.

by Klas Stolpe, for Juneau Empire, JULY 15, 2010

POSTED ON JULY 15, 2010