Sabado, Pebrero 18, 2017

The anatomy of a Filipino folk-rock singer


By Mortz C. Ortigoza

MAKATI CITY – “Bilib ako sa mga style mo sa piyesa, wala ng kopya-kopya (I lauded you on your series of singing. You did not use a copy in playing your piece),” I told Jun Lahi, a folk rock singer near the seedy Makati Avenue here, after he finished the third of his fourth one hour each gig  for Cuervolito, a 15 tables’ bar.’
CROONER. Folk rock singer Jun Lahi, 49, who could sing hundreds of country and rock songs 
without any guide of a lyric and guitar chord's book. The crooner belts scintillating songs from
 Neil Young, Eagles, America, and others at Cuervolito and Café Cubana at Makati Avenue in 
Makati City. Photo by Mortz C. Ortigoza

When I and my 21 years old long haired son Niko entered, the bar teemed with European, Japanese and South Korean tourists and their Filipino girl and gay friends they probably picked up from the thoroughfares in Poblacion Makati here, Lahi, who wore the vaunted John Lennon’s style eye glasses, was belting with his electric guitar America’s “I Need You”  (click red words to hear the version), followed by Dan Fogelberg’s Leader of the Band, and Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush complemented with a harmonica wielded on the rack attached to his neck just like the Canadian folk singer Young.
“Look pa, he sings what you sang when I and Jigger (his older brother) were in elementary grades,” my son, a graphic designer of one of the major newspapers in the country, quipped as he gulped the remaining content of his brown bottled San Miguel’s Pale Pilsen while I fished out with my right hand fingers the complimentary fried peanuts given by the waitress.

“Comes a time
when you're driftin'
Comes a time
when you settle down
Comes a light
feelin's liftin'
Lift that baby
right up off the ground
,” as I mimicked too Lahi’s rendition of Comes a Time whose lyrics like Hey Hey My My, Motorcycle Mama, and the rest on its album with the same title I could mentally memorize and sang with gusto when I was in high school in Mindanao.
After his rendition of James Taylor’s Wandering, my favorite in high school, too, Lahi, a thin five foot and two inches 49 years old crooner, told the crowd that his next song was dedicated to a media man from Dagupan City. “This song is from Billy Joel,” he blared his voice on the microphone while seated at an industrial steel stool.
“Just The Way you Are?” I hollered Joel's hit that I used to sing in a band or karaoke whenever I was asked to sing in some social gatherings.
No,” the folk singer retorted.
“Honesty”, “I shouted again another Billy Joel's hit.
“No, it’s “Piano Man” my friend,” as he riffed his guitar on Joel’s opus and started singing:

It's nine o'clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd shuffles in
There's an old man sitting next to me…

“Sir, when I was belting I saw you mimicked almost all of my songs,” Lahi, whose straight hair could be likened to Willie Nelson or our local talent Freddie Aguilar, told me when he dropped by at our table.
Nope, not all. Who sang that Georgia On My Mind? Was it Bob Dylan? Son of a gun, I liked that song,” I posed.
“No, it’s Ray Charles!” he said.
“That blind black guy! I used to sing and play songs  too of England Dan and John Ford Coley’s like It’s Hard to Belong to Someone Else". I told him.

“Oh it's sad to belong to someone else
When the right one comes along,
Yes, it's sad to belong to someone else
When the right one comes along


We started to mimicked the song’s chorus to the amusement of Niko who ordered again his round of San Miguel’s Pale Pilsen.
“Pang matanda ang beer mo anak, nakakataba iyan kahit malinamnam. Mag San Mig Lights ka,” I reminded him in the vernacular.
Dan and Coley’s songs were hit in the 1980s, I told Lahi.
He narrated to me how he became a band member and a singer.
“In the band we sang songs of Led Zeppelin, Beach Boys, Beatles”.
He said he stopped belting in clubs in Ermita in 1993 after he figured in an accident.
He cited he was not an acoustic crooner but forced to intone folk songs at Cuervelito and Cafe Cubana in Makati Avenue here.
“Kasi nga noong bumalik ako noong 2007 siyempre acoustic na ang piyesa ko. Tapos wala naman akong partner, tapos solo na ako”.
He said he has a tandem but his partner succumbed to ailment thus he did solo now.
“Dalawa tapos nagkasakit ang partner ko, lalaki. May partner akong taga Davao si Loloy iyong Southern Rap kaming dalawa”.
He did solo at Cuervolito in 2007, while he has a tandem in  Café Cubana.
How much you earn a night in Cuervolito and at Cubana?” I posed.
“One thousand five hundred pesos in four sets (four hours gig) with thirty minutes interval a night including those tips given by grateful customers at a glass bowl there in front of my seat”.
Jun said he could earn up to two thousand pesos a night that he soldiered on up to two early morning work.
“Apat na beses dito. Sa Cubana Martes at Huwebes. Sa Cubana pang grupo piso lang isang libo”.
He cited that there are few folks singers in Makati Avenue compared to Ermita but the former is a draw to foreign tourists.
“Ito iyong bagong Ermita, nandito na ang mga foreigners”.
With an average of one thousand five hundred pesos a night for six days performance he said the emoluments were just enough to meet economic ends as he sends his children to schools.
“Nagpapaaral tayo e (I sent my kids to school),” he told us in a dyed-in-wool Manila emphatic accent.


 (You can read my selected columns at http://mortzortigoza.blogspot.com and articles at Pangasinan News Aro. You can send comments too at totomortz@yahoo.com)

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