Banig’s comeback heats up iconic Grammy Museum
LOS ANGELES, California — Loyal fans and friends of LA-raised child singing sensation Josephine “Banig” Roberto got what they had missed most when she treated them to trademark suave moves, vitality and sensuality – plus new compositions — at her comeback performance July 19 at the world-famous Grammy Museum at LA Live.
The intimate Clive Davis theater inside the Grammy Museum turned out to be the appropriate venue for reliving the singer’s powerful performances as the champion of the “International Star Search” in the ‘80s, representing the Philippines. Dubbed as “Unplugged Series” the concert was produced by her company, doubleplayent.com.
Launching her composition, “He Wants to Get It,” Banig excitedly declared on stage “I’m baaack!” She had been on hiatus from stage performances since 2003.
Her repertoire ranged from R&B, soft ballads spiced up by collaborative compositions with her and her sister, Jhoanna (“Let Me Know,” “Hooked on You,” “He Wants to Get It”). Saying she and her dad, Freddie, were fans of country music, she obliged her audience with a couple of favorites including “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin, who coincidentally was being celebrated at the museum as part of the Laurel Canyon Blvd. music scene.
Banig grew up in San Fernando Valley, some seven miles away from the more affluent historic canyon, which in the ‘60s became a place where musicians from Los Angeles’ exploding rock scene retreated, including “British invasion” celebrities such as the Beatles.
The electrifying energy that catapulted Banig to stardom in her pre-teens was still evident as she ranged through her repertoire of 16 songs, pausing only a few times for a drink of water.
Her interpretation of Whitney Houston’s “Didn’t We Have It All,” brought the proverbial house down.
“I cried for days and months after Whitney died. She was my idol and will always be,” she told the audience. “And I hope to be one day like her, when I grow up.”
She told members of the LA press that she halted her US stage performances to write songs and establish her music production highlighting other independent artists, particularly in radio.
“I wanted to get more experience through my own company in the music industry. Mahirap, it’s a struggle, but I will go on,” the former child protégé told her doting audience. Her rendition of Pink’s “Try” brought home her resolve.
Fans remembered that at a very young age, Banig delivered memorable performances on several TV shows in the US, such as “The Arsenio Hall Show,” “Into the Night with Rick Dees,” “Maury Povich Show,” “Super Dave Osborne Show,” “Good Day LA,” just to name a few.
She headlined major solo concerts at landmark venues such as The Hollywood Palladium, Wiltern Theater, Trump Taj Mahal, among others. Her last two albums “Silent Whispers” and “Josephine Roberto” were released in the US and included three of her singles, “Boogie on the Dance Floor,” “Walk” and her very first US released Tagalog single, “Igalaw Natin,” which charted on trade publications CMJ and DJ Times.
On the night of her Grammy theater performance she became emotional at times, particularly in dedicating a Tagalog composition, “Mother’s Love,” to her mother, Gloria, which was composed on Mother’s Day.
“Nanay is attending for the first time,” she announced. Her father, Efren, and only sister, Jhoana, a choreographer and composer herself, were also in the audience. When she was nine she remembers being the opening act for popular singer Gary Valenciano. The crowd sang with her as she dished out a Tagalog standard from Valenciano, “’Di Na Natuto.”
“I tried to follow her career since I was 12,” says Peter Gonzaga, who is now a music and news producer based in LA. “Somehow we lost track of her performances here in the States after 2003. I was excited to hear that she’s performing in this theater, amazing talent with a diverse repertoire from country, hip hop to rock.”
Claudia from Glendale came as she’s also been a fan of “Banig” since the singer landed on Filipino American scene more than two decades ago. “She was magical then, I expect her to have the same charisma.” She was yelling “More!” at the end of the performance, obviously satisfied with the show.
“I only met her a week ago,” says her talented drummer Tiffani Walker, “and I’ve become a fan. I’m now half- Filipino,” she laughed.
Kristine Manalili and Sheila Lee, from Tustin about 50 miles away, came to catch up with their childhood friend, Josephine.
“Not only are we family friends, we’re devoted fans,” said Kristine. “We watched her in ‘Good Day LA,’ and we loved her album “Can You Feel my Heart.”
“We have many friends waiting for her stage comeback”, said Sheila. Kristine attended her wedding two years ago.
A myth was dispelled: Many of Banig’s fans, believed that the young singer beat Christina Aguilera in “Star Search,” as argued by fan Claudia.
In an interview with Inquirer.net, Josephine Roberto clarified: “No, I didn’t beat Christina – she was in the ‘American Star Search’ and I competed in the ‘International Star Search.’ She said she was familiar with this myth, which is currently being debated in blogs. “I don’t know where this crazy idea originated.”
As to her signature moniker, she will keep it. “I would have preferred Josephine Roberto as a stage name, but it just doesn’t have the same sizzle and name recognition as ‘Banig.’ So there, I will keep it,” she told Inquirer.net.
Her mother recalled it was comedian “Bert Tawa” who first popularized the name “Banig” while introducing the child singer during his shows. The name stuck even as the singer became world famous.
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