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Charmaine Clamor's 'Jazzipino' Swing
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Charmaine Clamor's 'Jazzipino' Swing
Charmaine Clamor's 'Jazzipino' Swing
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(Soundbite of song, "Candy")

Ms. CHARMAINE CLAMOR (Singer): I want candy.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

Charmaine Clamor sings some straight ahead jazz with a little scat on this cut from her new disc. That's not surprising. She grew up listening to Ella Fitzgerald on the radio.

(Soundbite of song, "Candy")

Ms. ELLA FITZGERALD (Singer): (Singing) Candy. I call my sugar candy because I'm sweet on candy and candy's sweet on me.

HANSEN: What may be surprising is that Clamor grew up in the Philippines. When she was 3 years old, she used to sing to passengers travelling on the bus to Manila. Clamor is now a star in her homeland, and she's becoming one in the United States.

Her second CD, "Flippin' Out," introduces a hybrid sound, which Clamor calls jazzipino. Charmaine Clamor is in our L.A. studio.

First, welcome to the program.

Ms. CLAMOR: Thank you, Liane. It's my pleasure.

HANSEN: Jazzipino? What is jazzipino?

Ms. CLAMOR: Jazzipino is the new musical genre that results from melding traditional Filipino melodies, languages and instruments with the soul and swing of American jazz.

HANSEN: That sounds like the kind of musical environment you grew up in.

Ms. CLAMOR: That is true.

HANSEN: Yeah. Tell us more about that. Your mother was a singer, correct? She used to sing traditional - I don't know. Are they traditional? It's kundiman, which is sort of the Filipino version of American torch songs.

Ms. CLAMOR: Oh, you got it. You got it. Oh, my God.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CLAMOR: It's actually kundiman, which is - you're right - the Filipino torch song. And my parents exposed me to beautiful music early on in my life, including kundiman, jazz, opera and classical music.

HANSEN: There's a Filipino suite on the CD. It's five songs. And one of them - please forgive me because my Tagalog is not very good. But it's "Dahil Sa 'Yo."

(Soundbite of song, "Dahil Sa 'Yo")

Ms. CLAMOR: (Singing in Tagalog)

HANSEN: Tell us about the song. What are you singing here?

Ms. CLAMOR: "Dahil Sa 'Yo" is one of our most beloved kundimans. It is translated in English, because of you. When the Marcos was still in dictatorship in the Philippines, they basically - Mrs. Imelda Marcos - they adopted this song because this is her most favorite song. So the melodies and lyrics of "Dahil Sa'Yo" was very much connected, related to the dictatorship that the Philippines was suffering from for 20 years.

And so when I redid this song, I'm hoping, if we swing it enough, Liane, that we could rob it from the old ghost of the Marcoses and bring it back to the people where it belongs.

HANSEN: I would never have thought that on first listening because it just sounds like a love song.

Ms. CLAMOR: It is a love song. A lot of the kundimans are love songs. Filipinos are very, very romantic people. And a lot of our kundimans are love songs, beautiful melodies, haunting melodies and beautiful lyrics.

HANSEN: So the lyrics that we hear are Tagalog. What are the English lyrics of this song?

Ms. CLAMOR: Because of you. It basically says, dahil sa 'yo - because of you - (Tagalog spoken) - I want to live. Dahil sa 'yo - because of you, I also want to die. That's the chorus of the song.

HANSEN: Oh, my.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: It's very intense.

Ms. CLAMOR: It's very intense. You're right.

(Soundbite of song, "Dahil Sa 'Yo")

Ms. CLAMOR: (Singing in Tagalog)

HANSEN: You did some very traditional, very American tunes. You opened up the CD with Rogers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine." And you take some liberties with it as a way of introducing us to you and to what's called a Pinay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CLAMOR: You're so goodly, Liane.

HANSEN: Explain that. I mean, "My Funny Brown Pinay."

Ms. CLAMOR: Pinay means Filipino woman. Since our country was conquered by the Spaniards for many, many years, the Filipinos, the native ones, lost pride in their indigenous beauty. And "My Funny Brown Pinay" celebrates the unique attributes of an indigenous Filipino woman: someone who has flat nose, black hair, dark skin, brown skin. And this is what I'm trying to communicate to my Pinay sisters.

And I took the essence of Rogers and Hart, "My Funny Valentine" - the essence of the song - to communicate the sentiments to stay. Don't change your hair. Stay.

(Soundbite of Song, "My Funny Brown Pinay")

Ms. CLAMOR: (Singing) Don't, don't, don't you change your hair for me. Not if you care for me. Stay, my funny brown Pinay. Stay. I want you to stay. I want you to stay. Each day we celebrate our way. The Filipino way. The Filipino way. Pinay.

HANSEN: Are you someone who tried to lighten her skin and become different from who you really are?

Ms. CLAMOR: Yes. I was a victim of this. When I was growing up in the Philippines, I remember using every type of cream, every type of papaya soap — because we believed the papaya soap lightens the skin — and I used it to hopefully wake up the next day and be fair-skinned.

My cousins and I would pinch our noses - the bridge of the nose - so that they could be pointy. And I would do this every day when I was young hoping the next day I would have a pointy nose. And as you look on my - the CD s my cover, none of this worked.

HANSEN: No. But you know what? That's okay. One critic called you having the voice of Sarah Vaughan and the body of a supermodel.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: The song made famous by Mario Lanza, and you heard his records growing up. You sing this version slowly and, in part, in translation. This seems like a very emotional way to end the disc.

Ms. CLAMOR: "Be My Love" is the very first song I remember hearing. Whenever I hear Mario Lanza or "Be My Love" being sung, it just reminds me of my mother and my father, my beautiful childhood when I was growing up in the Philippines. And I wrote Tagalog translation and dedicate it to my mom.

(Soundbite of song, "Be My Love")

Ms. CLAMOR: (Singing in Tagalog)

HANSEN: Has your mom heard the disc?

Ms. CLAMOR: Oh, yes. She loves it. She plays it every day.

(Soundbite of song, "Be My Love")

Ms. CLAMOR: (Singing) This need that you and you alone create just fill my arms.

HANSEN: Charmaine Clamor, her new CD on FreeHam records is called "Flippin' Out." And she spoke to us from Los Angeles.

Thanks a lot. Good luck.

Ms. CLAMOR: Thank you, Liane.

(Soundbite of song, "Be My Love")

Ms. CLAMOR: (Singing) The dreams that you inspire with every sweet desire. Be my love…

HANSEN: You can listen to songs from Charmaine Clamor's new album and discover hundreds of interviews with jazz artists on our new music Web site. That's npr.org/music.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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