Tag Archives: Oakland

It’s Been A Long Time, But I Can’t Stop ‘Til The Break Of Gong

29 Jul

Hello kulintang fans!

The last blog post was quite a while ago.  Looking at the timeline of content posting stings a little bit, but I am encouraged by all of you who comment, reblog, follow, like, and subscribe to Kulintronica feeds and also everyone who talks to me in person about how they have been looking for music like Kulintronica that brings indigenous Filipino music into today. 

Inspiration is not in drought in the San Francisco Bay Area where a persistent and eclectic multi-cultural artist community won’t let a weekend go by without offering something eye-opening. 

This last Sunday I was inspired by another Filipino musician whom I admire for pushing the boundaries of Filipino music and also his methodically sound approach to life. It was at Porchfest in historic Napa while a reggae band pumped gritty beats from the lanai that Florante Aguilar asked me when the next kulintang electronic dance music show is. 

I told him it wouldn’t be until September 26 and mumbled a couple of words as I went to sip my drink.

“Album launch?” he asked in confirmation.  As someone that has released at least five albums and a movie featuring ground breaking Filipino guitar music, he knows that type of gig well. 

“Yup… I’ve been working on this so long it almost hurts to think about it.”  In that candid moment it was all I could think of saying.  The first tracks for the project were recorded many years ago.  A crowd of Porchfest revelers sitting in picnic chairs or leaning against their bicycles applause as the Trevor Lyon band introduced their musicians at the end of their set on the porch outside. 

“Anything worthwhile takes a long time to do,” he said, as the band outside drops into their encore number. Florante continued to prepare for his set with the Latin Filipino Connection and I went back for another helping of inasal, absorbing what the virtuoso said. 

  
What: OPM Republic presents “‘Til The Break Of Gong” Album Launch

When: Saturday, September 26 at 6pm

Where: Somar Bar in Oakland Uptown

I hope all my treasured kulintang fans have been well, and you all can expect to hear more about this and other recent developments in the Kulintronica world. 

Stay tuned and use the hashtag #TilTheBreakOfGong to hear more about the album launch on all platforms. 

Thanks

Advertisements

Springing Into Action–Kulintang Action!

30 Apr
Shakuhachi and Kulintang

Shakuhachi by Alcvin Ramos and Kulintang by Ron Quesada

April was a busy month for Kulintronica, setting the tone for what will no doubt be an exciting summer season full of festivals, collaborations, and kulintang playing.  Above is a picture from a collaboration with Filipino-Canadian virtuoso Alcvin Ramos.  The instrument he is accompanying the kulintang with is a digeridoo made from an Agave stalk.  Alcvin has studied digeridoo in Australia from indigenous musicians, and has also studied the Japanese shakuhachi from three different master artists from different disciplines!  This travelling musician connected with me and Lizae Reyes (of Kulintang Dance Theater) for a collaborative performance in Historic Filipino South of Market district called, “Shakulintang.”

Taglish feat. Karl Evangelista

Taglish feat. Karl Evangelista

Another collaboration in April was with another virtuoso musician, the amazing Fil-Am guitar player Karl Evangelista and his Grex ensemble.  It was a meeting of two musicians pushing their respective instruments into new territory.  I was personally challenged to find ways to bring the kulintang into his eclectic and sometimes manic sound fuelled by intense improvisational sections.

It was my pleasure to once again take the stage with Asian Crisis for yet another fundraiser to benefit tsunami victims in Japan.  After opening with an Asian Crisis version of “Ditagaonan” I switched instruments and finished the set playing electric bass wearing a malong.

Asian Crisis with Ron on Bass

Asian Crisis with Ron on Bass

Kulintang of Haranistas de Manila

Kulintang of Haranistas de Manila

Spring is also a very active and transformative time of year for California’s abundant population of Filipino college students as Filipino student groups across the state and the country made preparations for their respective “Pilipino Culture Nights” aka PCN.   I was a tender young bar musician when I had my first Filipino Cultural Music experience sitting in with the Haranistas de Manila for a PCN over ten years ago.  Like other Fil-Ams like myself, I was so intensely drawn toward Filipino culture after the PCN experience that I had to immerse myself as much as possible to learn as much as I could as fast as I could, gaining experience presenting the culture to different audiences in different contexts.

Pictured on the left is a snapshot of some of the percussion used for the “Southern Suite” portion of the Bayanihan-inspired repertoire.  Notice their hybrid kulintang set.  The older gongs with the darker metal are more vintage, and years of travelling and performing from Seattle to San Diego to Las Vegas serving traditional music to Filipino audiences throughout the west coast has damaged all of the gongs on this old set except for the two on the low side of this set.  Gongs from a newer hybrid alloy set fill in where the vintage gongs are missing.

Bayani Tan's Oktavina

Bayani Tan's Oktavina

Here is a close-up picture of the road-worn Oktavina owned by Celestino “Bayani” Tan of the prolific Tan Brothers.  Perhaps in a future blog a more complete telling of the Tan Brothers story will be posted that explains the tremendous contributions this family of musicians has made on the Filipino American musical landscape.

Cebuano Tortoise Shell Guitar Pick

Cebuano Tortoise Shell Guitar Pick

On the right is a traditional guitar pick, made a long time ago from the shell of a Visayan tortoise.  The tortoise is cooked and eaten, and afterwards the shell is fashioned into jumbo guitar picks.  The texture is not unlike the plastic polyurethane guitar picks that are mass produced, and has a thickness and flexibility comparable to a medium gauge pick.

And finally, here is a picture of Skyline College of San Mateo’s Kulintang group performing at the grand opening of the new Multi-Cultural Building on campus.  Skyline College is a community college south of San Francisco in an area that is one of the areas most densely populated by Filipinos.  This community college boasts an accredited Filipino ethnic studies cohort and also kulintang class taught by my teacher, Master Artist Danongan Kalanduyan.

Skyline College of San Mateo Kulintang Ensemble

Skyline College of San Mateo Kulintang Ensemble

Kulintang Electronica meets Filipino Vegan Restaurant

31 Jan
No Worries Filipino Vegan Food

No Worries Eat Now Laugh Later

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area it is not uncommon to see cross-cultural collaborations.  Mixed-race mash-ups sprout from the community like wildflowers in Spring.  If you were in downtown Oakland in January 2011 you would have witnessed one such collision: kulintang electronica with Filipino vegan food at No Worries’ event, “Eat Now, Laugh Later.”

Diners were treated to a delicious and healthy Filipino dinner while listening to the sounds of traditional kulintang playing layered over live guitar loops and electronic dance beats before laughing uncontrollably to a heaping serving of comedy delivered by Filipino comedic talent such as Andrea Almario, Herb Diggs, and Kevin Camia.

Diwa Kulintang Circle

Diwa Kulintang Circle

Also, this month I performed with Diwa Kulintang Circle at a very exciting booklaunch for authors Virgil Apostol and Lane Wilcken for their respective books, “Way of the Ancient Healer: Sacred Teachings from the Philippine Ancestral Traditions,” and “Filipino Tattoos: From Ancient to Modern.”

Kulintang residing in West County

Kulintang residing in West County

For a kulintang enthusiast like myself, the only appropriate reaction to encountering kulintang paraphernalia during the course of day-to-day living is to photograph them where they are.  Here’s a beautiful vintage set matched with a few orphan gongs for a truly unique playing experience.   This set lives in West Contra Costa County.

Gongs living in Berkeley

Gongs living in Berkeley

 

 

 

 

Another encounter took place the same day in another part of the Bay Area, in Berkeley.  These gongs keep the house warm, living in the retired fireplace of a sunny Berkeley home.

No Bay Area site-seeing excursion is complete without witnessing some Filipino culture and a walk on the beach to contemplate the elastic distance that separates San Francisco from Manila.

Ocean Beach Sunset

Ocean Beach Sunset offering light rays from the Pacific Islands to San Francisco

A Typical Kulintang Sunday in the Bay

21 Nov
Performing Kulintang in the middle of Powell BART's Hallidie Plaza

Performing Kulintang in the middle of Powell BART's Hallidie Plaza

A Filipino-American artist would love the San Francisco Bay Area.  Today’s blog post is an account of how I spent my Sunday supporting Filipino events, crossing bridges, and taking pictures of gongs.

ACPA summons the dancers with music

ACPA summons the dancers with music

The day began with a new Filipino Festival, the American Center of Philippine Arts‘ “Fall Festival” held in Oakland Chinatown at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center.  This one is a little bit different than your summer-variety gathering, smartly held during the apex of the autumn season, indoors.  Vendors set up behind tables instead of canvas picnic tents, and the audience could watch dance performances in the round with musicians playing from the stage.

This festival is a welcome addition for the East Bay Fil-Am community that does not have the luxuries that exist in San Francisco. San Francisco boasts four separate venues dedicated to the Fil-Am  community, while East Bay Fil-Ams roam from venue to venue like sea nomads in an archipelago.  Kudos to the Fall Festival organizers, let’s do it every Fall!

jKulintronica at ACPA's Fall Festival 2010

Kulintronica at ACPA's Fall Festival 2010

I was unable to watch the other dancers, performers, and speakers, or participate in the Pangalay Jam that occurred towards the finale.  To keep up with the demand for Bay Area kulintang, I had to depart the festivities in Oakland and cross the Bay Bridge…

The Bay Area is itself somewhat like a collection of islands.  Each neighborhood, separated by ridges, valleys, and water systems, has a different climate and community, tied together by freeways, buses, and the Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART).  The Powell BART station is a major downtown SF stop that takes you to the theater and shopping districts, and the South of Market neighborhood (SoMa), also known as the Filipino Social Heritage District, the site of our next adventure.

The Filipino community is deeply rooted in San Francisco, so when the city began a performing arts series at this heavy-traffic train station in the heart of downtown, it went to the premier presenter of contemporary and tribal Pilipino art, Kularts.  I have so much gratitude for Kularts, who in a previous era, had its own brand of kulintang fusion brewing, and today provides me with inspiration, encouragement, and support.

James "Ganyan" Garcia skate jamming with Kulayan

James "Ganyan" Garcia skate jamming with Kulayan

Kularts presented Kulintronica with the Kulayan Arts Program, creating cutting edge visuals direct from the Filipino American imagination.  Hanging out with these artists puts me in just the right mindset to pull Filipino traditions through the looking glass into the urban jungle.

The mixed crowd of commuters, shoppers, and homeless locals were all intrigued by what to them is a new and unusual instrument.  Heads were turning, small crowds gathered, and the boldest walked right up to the kulintang stand and asked questions in the middle of a song.  I welcome the interest and enjoy the wide eyes of music enthusiasts hearing a new sound.  To my surprise, a visitor from Las Vegas sat down to play an impromptu Kaluntang with me after a few words of encouragement.  I should have expected kulintang players to emerge out of the woodwork at a Kularts (formerly known as Kulintang Arts) sponsored event.

This double-header of kulintang gigs was a blessing in itself, but Fil-Am art is in abundance in the Bay Area, so despite having performed at two separate and successful Filipino events, it was time to go to event number three as a spectator.

Lendl San Jose with a gong electronic setup of his own

Lendl San Jose with a gong electronic setup of his own

Over at the Bayanihan Community Center (one of the four SF Fil-Am spaces) was closing night for Aimee Suzara‘s “History of the Body” performed by the Pagbabalik Project.  Three years ago I was musical director for this collective and produced the recorded theatrical soundtrack for Pagbabalik (Return) with Diskarte Namin musicians Juan Calaf and Jen Soriano.

Their current work, History of the Body, is in the capable hands of Lendl San Jose, pictured here playing a beautiful silver-tinged gangsa gong while triggering samples in the pit.  His cello and ukulele are not pictured, but he played those too.  History of the Body is a thought-provoking piece about body image and the legacy of colonization told in a non-linear style accentuated by world-class acting, dancing, and music.  It stirred up emotional reactions from the audience and is a story that resonates beyond the Filipino community.

Thanks for tagging along with me on this re-telling of a typical Sunday in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Fil-Ams can either have their choice of Filipino event to attend, or commit to a marathon commute itinerary and try to see it all.  I tried to see as much as I could, but even I was unable to do all of this and watch the Golda and the Guns/Julie Plugg show the night before.