Leah Navarro: OPM is timeless | Inquirer Entertainment

Leah Navarro: OPM is timeless

Seasoned performer joins ‘Tugtugan Sitenta 2’ 
By: - Desk Editor
/ 02:20 PM September 03, 2023

'Like being in a musical wonderland' is how Leah Navarro describes OPM's golden years. Photo from Leah Navarro's Facebook

‘Like being in a musical wonderland’ is how Leah Navarro describes OPM’s golden years. Photo from Leah Navarro’s Facebook

In 1977, Leah Navarro was barely out of her teens when she debuted as a performing artist in the rock musical “Tales of the Manuvu” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Though singing was in her DNA, being the daughter of jazz artist Nelda Lopez Navarro, Leah said she had no previous professional experience. But watching her mom’s contemporaries — including Pilita Corrales — was enough inspiration. By 1980, Leah ascended as a pop star after interpreting Nonong Pedero’s “Isang Mundo, Isang Awit” at the Metro Manila Pop Music Festival.


In this Q&A, Leah recounts the first golden age of Original Pilipino Music (OPM), as she gears up to join 12 other performers in “Tugtugan Sitenta 2” on Sept. 15 at the Newport Performing Arts Theater.


Recall the year and circumstances that led you to a singing career.

In 1977, Nonong Pedero and Alice Reyes asked me to be part of the rock musical ballet “Tales of the Manuvu” that was to be staged at the CCP. Apart from figuring in a milk commercial as a little girl, I had no previous singing experience.

What really motivated you to become a performing artist?

I was primarily inspired by my mother, jazz singer and television host Nelda Navarro. My sister and I grew up watching her and her friends like Pilita Corrales, The Gentle Rain, Tiongco Brothers, the Minstrels, and many others. They were always happy making music. They were inspiring.

You were part of the first golden age of OPM in the ’70s and ’80s. Tell us what it’s like to be in the middle of a local music revolution.

It was like being in a musical wonderland! Imagine working with some of the best composers and singers of the time — Nonong Pedero, George Canseco, Ryan Cayabyab, Celeste Legaspi, Apo Hiking Society, Basil Valdez, Hajji Alejandro, Rico Puno, Jaqui Magno, Mitch Valdes. I could go on and on!

You became a pop star in the time of the Metro Pop Festivals. How did you end up singing “Isang Mundo, Isang Awit”? Did Nonong Pedero offer it to you?

Yes, he did. I was surprised, but his belief in me was enough to fuel my confidence. There were a lot of rehearsals and I had great coaches in Nonong, Leo Valdez and Ding Mercado. I will always be grateful to Nonong for this wonderful song, and to all Filipinos who continue to sing it.

Which among your other hit songs mean a lot to you? “Ang Pag-ibig Kong Ito” was radio staple. Did you appreciate “Ligaw Tingin” even if it was obviously written to ride on the disco trend?

All the songs I have had the privilege to record and call my own are my favorites. I can’t thank the composers enough. “Ang Pag-ibig Kong Ito” by Carlos Agawa was a surprise hit. I suppose the lyrics about heartbreak resonate with many people. “Ligaw Tingin” did have that disco beat, but it has stood the test of time because it’s a fun song.

Tell us about “Tugtugan Sitenta,” what do you look forward to at the concert?

I look forward to performing together with legendary performers like Sampaguita, Mike Hanopol and the whole cast. There will be a lot of reminiscing!

Photo caption: "I think they will have a wonderful time listening to songs that hopefully bring back happy memories of their youth," Leah Navarro says of fans who will watch 'Tugtugan Sitenta 2.'

“I think they will have a wonderful time listening to songs that hopefully bring back happy memories of their youth,” Leah Navarro says of fans who will watch ‘Tugtugan Sitenta 2.’

What is the relevance of ’70s OPM to present times?

Danny Javier coined the term “Original Pilipino Music” and that phrase continues to describe music created by Filipinos for Filipinos. OPM is timeless.

What do you think is the greatest song of that era, and why?

Honestly, there are too many great OPM songs from that period, it would be difficult to name only one. Each one is a standout.

What do you like most about the ’70s, and why?

The music, definitely. The music scene was vibrant and pulsing with creativity. This is why retro is still so “in”.

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What can you say to fans who might want to watch “Tugtugan Sitenta”?

I think they will have a wonderful time listening to songs that hopefully bring back happy memories of their youth. EDV


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TAGS: Leah Navarro, OPM

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