MANILA, Philippines – Laura Fygi is no stranger to the Philippines; she first visited the country in 1995, so when asked what she remembers most about Filipinos, the Amsterdam-born jazz luminary replied: “chaos.”
“It’s a happy chaos,” Fygi said. “I’ve noticed that in comparison to Japanese and Chinese [audience], Filipinos are very much alive. They have a lot of temperament.” She believes this nature has been influenced by Spanish culture as the Philippines has been under Spanish rule for over 300 years. “They have a lot of pizzazz in them, and I kinda like that. I like it when people show their emotions.”
The daughter of a Dutch father and an Egyptian mother, Laura Fygi started her career as a member of Centerfold, a widely known girl pop group in the early-’80s. After the band’s break-up, she went solo and recorded an album titled “Introducing Laura Fygi.”
When the album was released in 1991, Dutch listeners were surprised. The former pop singer who belted out dance tunes became a jazz diva. However, she looked at it differently. “I grew up listening to jazz. My parents played Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday around the house.”
Produced by the legendary jazz bassist Ruud Jacobs (who played with numerous jazz titans like Stan Getz and Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong), her album won the Edison Award in 1991, the Grammy Award of Netherlands.
From then on, she has released a dozen albums, spanning a career of more than two decades. She attributed part of that success to her constant search for reinvention, breaking genres and styles.
“I always include my audience and my band. It is not just singing one song after the other. You have 26 songs in a show, and if I would just sit down and sing one after the other, you might as well stay at home and put on a CD, and that’s it.”
Laura Fygi can speak several languages, such as Chinese, French, Spanish and Portuguese. She has extensively toured Asia, and her 13th album “Flower” is specially created for the Asian market. It contains exclusively Chinese songs.
“I noticed that in all of Asia, as soon as a song is recognizable, and there is emotion in it, they love it. It doesn’t matter which language. Even if I sing in French or Spanish, they recognize it, and that moves them,” she said.
She added, “I like entertainment. I like interaction with my audience. I think that’s what people like. That gives it a little bit more magic than just listening to the songs on the CD.”
Laura Fygi will stage a one-night concert together with veteran Filipino jazz singers Richard Merk, Jacqui Magno, and Jeannie Tiongco. Considered “the Herbie Hancock of the Philippines,” the great jazzman Henry Katindig will man the boards as musical director.
Watch “A Magical Night with Laura Fygi” on June 24, 8 p.m. at the Fairmont Raffles Hotel, Makati. For ticket inquiries, call 891-9999.