US-based Filipino singers wow ’em in LA
LOS ANGELES—Lirio Vital, Ivy Violan, Mon David, Djhoanna Garcia and Joseph Gelito proved in a show last Saturday here in LA that they still had it—in fact, lots of it. In a concert called “Power Voices,” these entertainers, performing together for the first time after a long time, showed what years of experience could do to hone their considerable talents.
Seeing the singers onstage at the Celebrity Center of Hollywood in their opening number, Ryan Cayabyab and Jose Javier Reyes’ “Hibang sa Awit,” made many in the audience smile and giddy with anticipation, eager to find out how the performers have evolved over the years.
We’ve been fortunate to watch Mon occasionally so we know that he’s grown into a consummate jazz artist.
Lirio, whom we have not seen in a long while, was as charming onstage as ever, with the winningest smile. She brought exuberance and extra verve to a medley of Filipino folk songs she was best known for—“Pandanggo sa Ilaw,” “Kung Ako’y Mag-aasawa,” “Katakataka” and “Sinisinta Kita.”
She shifted gears with an English ballad, “If I Could.” Saying the song resonated with her as the mother of two grown sons who were establishing their independence, the US-based singer exhibited deep emotional connection to the lyrics—a mom telling her child, “If I could/I’d protect you from the sadness in your eyes/Give you courage in a world of compromise.”
Lirio’s heartfelt rendition had the audience in rapt attention, caught in the poignant story.
Mon, who has also evolved into a singer who makes us appreciate the nuance and meaning of the pieces he interprets, said his first song, “Bukas, Sisikat ang Araw,” which he composed, was inspired by lines from Jim Paredes’ short poem: “Ginto ang kulay ng liwanag/Asul ang kulay ng langit/Kulang ang bahag-hari/Sa kulay ng pag ibig.”
That set the tone for Mon’s quietly effective rendition of his own song, with lyrics like: “Mga pagsubok may hangganan/Lahat ay may kasagutan/Ating pasalamatan/Bukas, sisikat ang araw!”
Then Mon segued into a mesmerizing version of Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Dave Grusin’s composition on the power of love, “What Matters Most.”
It had been a long time since we last saw Ivy Violan perform. Introduced by Djhoanna as the original “birit” queen, Ivy was the powerhouse belter in the 1980s. She brought the house down with her versions of Jennifer Hudson’s “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” and Bette Midler’s “Stay with Me.”
It was refreshing to see Ivy go for substance over flash. In “Yakapin Mo Ako,” her own composition, she subtly but effectively essayed a lover clamoring for an embrace: “Sa tagal ng panahong paghihintay/Ako’y umibig muli/Huwag kang mag-alinlangan/Pag-ibig na alay ko ay langit ang kapalit/Yakapin mo ako.”
Ivy, a very spiritual person, sang “God Bless the Child” without vocal hysterics, putting her own stamp on the Billie Holiday song with exquisite vocal adlibs and nuanced delivery. Ivy now sings with more fervor, coming from the wisdom and experience she has gained through the years.
Visibly overcome by emotion after “God Bless…,” Ivy then sang a duet with Mon, “If I Ruled the World.” Mon also had a duet with Djhoanna, “Because of You,” with lines from “Dahil sa Iyo” thrown midway. Both songs were simple yet wonderful opportunities to hear again these three artists.
Nothing prepared us for the impact of Djhoanna, resplendent in a black gown by Carlyn Nuyda Calloway of Thumbelina Cnc, who performed a Shirley Bassey medley. We don’t remember watching Djhoanna before so her performance was a total surprise. Taking the stage with a bit of winking, knowing camp stance, powerful vocal chops and charisma, Djhoanna gradually won over the audience as she segued from one Bassey classic to another: “Diamonds Are Forever,” “Something,” “Never Never Never,” “Yesterday When I Was Young” and “This Is My Life.” At the end of the last song, the audience rose to its feet and gave Djhoanna a standing ovation.
Providing welcome comic relief was Joseph Gelito whose visual gag about what Djhoanna should have done when she reached the line “This is my life and I don’t give a damn for lost emotions” still makes us chuckle as we write this. Joseph actually has a good singing voice, as he proved in his version of Journey’s “Faithfully,” but the comedian in him just couldn’t resist mining the pop rock classic for laughs. Joseph also proved he was one of the “Power Voices” when he sang “Hanggang sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan” in the show’s finale, a medley of George Canseco classics featuring the entire cast.
“Power Voices,” which also featured guests Terence Panganiban and Heidi Tann and musical direction by Roy Venturina and the Power Band, should tour the United States and other cities around the world, as well as back home, to enable more Pinoys to catch up with Lirio, Ivy, Mon, Joseph and Djhoanna and to see how they have wonderfully matured as entertainers.
E-mail the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.