Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Better Late Than Never: Coming Late to the Game of Thrones Mania

I have poor timing. I am a latecomer to the Game of Thrones mania. Imagine being hooked to a series at episode 4 of a seven-episode Season 7. It's like catching the tail-end of a parade. And I have to wait one year for the next and final (ever) season! Talk about withdrawal syndrome.

My reluctance to join the Games of Thrones fanbase could be explained by my irrational (for some) preference of books over movies. Most of the screen adaptations have frustrated me, so I have always been loyal to the original books. I was spell-bound with the writings of JK Rowlings of Harry Potter’s wizarding adventures. My imagination soared with the Hunger Games book. These books whetted my appetite for the movies, so I promised myself that I will read the books before I see the movie versions. Also, I did not have the time to read any more fantasy books.

I had enough escapist ventures to keep me satisfied, well away from epic fantasy productions such as GoT. Such was my immersion in Harry Potter that I mistook Gandalf for Dumbledore during a Lord of the Rings movie. I blurted out “Dumbledore” inside the movie theater. My son slid down his chair in shame. He said it was a blasphemous moment in a roomful of LOTR fans.

I managed to live through six years of GoT-fanaticism from my niece who swore that this is the best show EVER, despite the excessive violence, blood and gore, gratuitous nudity, incest, and sexual abuse. I was horrified that she obsessed over a show that glorified treachery, lies, and greed, all to capture the Iron Throne. Besides, I was not in a mood for dragons, direwolves, and the undead. My niece could not believe that I didn't keep up with the hype. Pop culture be damned.

Then, I got hold of George R.R. Martin's best-selling book series "A Song of Ice and Fire". I discovered that audiobooks are wonderful creations to keep one engrossed through the long drive home. The world of Westeros and fire-breathing dragons beckoned to me. It was a rare reading/listening experience. And I was hooked and addicted. I must, I must, I must watch the GoT HBO tv series and see what the hoopla is all about.

Facebook was afire with all the dire warnings of “Winter Is Coming”. I overheard some of my staff enthusiastically rehashing the twists and turns of the latest episode. When I finally watched episode 4, I regretted the time I wasted in watching some of the mundane and insipid shows on tv.

David Benioff and D. B. Weiss did an excellent job in adapting Martin’s book to the small screen and created what would be a global phenomenon. The Game of Thrones is superbly written and produced. It is a compelling, must-see television with each episode a water-cooler event, or rather a world-wide viewing party, with both gen-x'ers, millenials and baby-boomers engaging in twitter-frenzy celebration.

The four episodes I saw left me reeling and wanting for more. The climactic ends made me looking forward for Sundays. Did I mention I love Tyrion for his cunning and wit? I was not shocked nor scandalized by the coupling of Jon Snow and Daenerys. Pssst, they didn’t know that they are related. I am hoping that somehow Rhaegar Targayen was really a bastard and not a brother to Daenerys. And maybe, everybody will live happily ever after (fingers crossed).

Yes, I'm late, but better late than never. I am emotionally invested, and addicted. I cannot wait for Season 8. Meanwhile, I will pass the time away reading all the books (five more books to go) and binge-watching all the episodes (64 eps more) I missed.

Winter came and the Wall has fallen!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Da Coconut Nut

Over a month ago, up in the skies on an Emirates flight, a group of men went “NUTS”.

No, there were no security concerns; just a delightful impromptu performance by a group of young men from the Baylor University School of Music Men's Choir returning from a chorale competition in Kenya. The upbeat melody and the group’s infectious joy and energetic choreography caught on. The video clip went viral when the airline proudly posted it on the company Facebook. As of today, the video had garnered 14 million views. That’s nuts!

The “Da Coconut Nut” song started from across the ocean, in a land where the slender trees tower over rice fields. The dwarf trees reach up to 20 feet and the tall ones grow up to 98 feet. The song was popularized by Smokey Mountain, a group of young singers from the Philippines in the 1990s. The song written by Maestro Ryan Cayabyab, songwriter/arranger/musical director has since become a favorite piece in chorale compositions around the world.

Cayabyab himself marveled how the song that he wrote almost thirty years ago as a novelty song has become the most popular song he has ever written. He disclosed that he had consented for his song to be played in American choirs since 2008.

The acclaimed composer wrote the song “to channel master songwriter Yoyoy Villame's spirit and style.” The "Da Coconut Song" conveyed exactly that, a joie de vivre, an exuberance for life. It is a proclamation of the Filipinos' love for music and the simple things in life and their resilience for whatever life brings, just like the resilient coconut trees which can live up to 20 years, even 100 years in the wild.

The song celebrates the many uses of the coconut, which is "a coco fruit from the coco tree of the coco palm family". If you drive along the Philippine countryside, you can see kids scurrying up and down the tall trees with the prized coconut which they will then present to a thirsty tourist with a straw for the cool juice, and maybe, a plastic spoon for the fresh white meat, all for less than a dollar.

The coconut (which is a fruit and not a nut) is versatile. It can be used as milk for exotic dishes, flakes, jam, cooking oil, firewood, shampoo, and even beauty products. The husk can later be saved to polish the wooden floor (done that). The tree can be used to build a small house, and also as “cannonballs up against the eaves” (will never try this one).

And please, just watch out for the falling coconut. Concussion beware.

Original version, Smokey Mountain

The coconut nut is a giant nut
If you eat too much, you'll get very fat
Now, the coconut nut is a big, big nut
But it's delicious nut is not a nut

It's the coco fruit (it's the coco fruit)
Of the coco tree (of the coco tree)
From the coco palm family

There are so many uses of the coconut tree
You can build a big house for the family
All you need is to find a coconut man
If he cuts the tree, he gets the fruit free

It's the coco fruit (it's the coco fruit)
Of the coco tree (of the coco tree)
From the coco palm family

And behold, there are several You tube versions of the “Da Coconut Nut” song as performed by Filipino choir groups as well as by other international choirs who were bemused by the light-hearted song about the coconut fruit. This song has crossed over to the prestigious world of chorale music.

The University of the Philippines Madrigal Singers is one of the world’s most awarded chorale group, and the first choir in the world to win the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing twice. Their repertoire includes folk music like “Rosas Pandan” (another popular chorale composition) and of course, the “Da Coconut Nut” song.

Philippine Madrigal Singers

RCHS Chamber Singers

The St. Mary's Varsity Ensemble

Festival No.6 2013 presents The Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir - 'Chic - Good Times'

Moana version

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Music is Universal, Di Ba?

I’m not a linguist. And definitely not a singer. But how wonderful it would be to sing in different languages. What’s even more amazing is that a listener like me can be touched by music even if I do not understand the lyrics. Truly, music transcends the barrier of language.


A month ago, in one of my infrequent forays in the subway, I heard a most beautiful rendition of Nella Fantasia. The music was incongruous with the singer. The man’s face and clothes were covered in grime, but he sang so beautifully in a language I didn’t understand. His baritone voice rose above the din of the subway train. He was in a world of his own, for once he had an audience who appreciated him. I fought the tears as I just listened and imagined that he sang of hope and peace. The words “Nella Fantasia” remained with me.

As soon as I got home, I came upon Sarah Brightman’s performance of this Italian song. "Nella Fantasia" ("In My Fantasy") is based on the theme "Gabriel's Oboe" from the film The Mission (1986). The music was composed by Ennio Morricone with lyrics by Ferrau.

In my fantasy I see a just world
Where all live in peace and honesty
I dream of souls that are always free
Like clouds that soar
Full of humanity in the depths of the soul


The Youtube views of the La Vie en Rose English versions of Louie Armstrong and Daniela Andrade are staggering with more than 26 million views each. Edith Piaf wrote both music and lyrics to what will be her signature song.

But the French version by Laura and Anton of the Foxtails Brigade is spellbinding. It has a sexy vibe to it.

Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose
When you kiss me, Heaven sighs
And though I close my eyes
I see la vie en rose


This is the Queen of the Night's Aria from Mozart's The Magic Flute opera.
The English lyrics are dark and foreboding, but they don’t take away from the incredible vocal acrobatics. Mica Becerro from The Voice Teens Philippines earned the four-chair turns from the judges. Just seventeen years old, she’s my bet to be the grand winner. I don't even care what the song means; I'm just flabbergasted at how the song soars into the unknown.

C'EST SI BON- French

C'est si bon is a French popular song composed by Henri Betti with the lyrics by André Hornez. Eartha Kitt’s version was so sensual and seductive that you could almost hear the purrs in her voice. Romance in a candle-lit room. Sultry music delivered by a charismatic singer.

It's so good,
Just wandering around,
Arm in arm, arm in arm,
And Singing songs.

It's so good,
To whisper sweet words - ,
Little nothings,
But little nothing that can be
said again and again.

"THE PRAYER"- some verses in Italian
Written by David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager, Alberto Testa and Tony Renis.

Just listen and remember the name Marcelito Pomoy. It's a tour de force performance. Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli who? (just kidding). Oh, yes, he sang in Italian, too.

La luce che tu hai
(I pray we'll find your light)
Nel cuore resterà
(And hold it in our hearts)
A ricordarci che
(When stars go out each night)
Eterna stella sei
Nella mia preghiera
(Let this be our prayer)
Quanta fede c'è
(When shadows fill our day)

DAHIL SA IYO- Tagalog (Filipino)

Dahil Sa Iyo" was composed by Mike Velarde, Jr in 1938 and has become a classic Filipino love song. The song was translated in several languages: English, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and the local languages of the Philippines. A certain First lady with the thousand shoes loved the song.

The American great singer Nat King Cole lent his smooth vocals to this song. He crooned his way to the hearts of the Filipino people.

Because of you, I yearn to be alive
Because of you, ‘till death (you) must realize
In my heart I know there is only you
And ask my heart, you’ll know that this is true

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Songs of Praise

Even in quiet reflection, my heart swells with love and inspiration when I listen to songs of praise. My voice may not soar with a melodious tone, but my soul is energized by the music and the lyrics. These songs of praise bring comfort and hope. Several years ago, in a time of personal turmoil, these songs strengthened me and reminded me that I have God by my side. The spiritual gifts are heaven-sent.

How Great Thou Art by Anne Murray

How Great Thou Art by Sam Santiago

The Prayer by Yongxin Chen

You Raise Me UP by Jai McDowall & KHS

You Raise Me UP- Jeffrey and Celine Tam

Hallelujah by Pentatonix

Hallelujah by Renee Dominique

Amazing Grace by Home Free

Amazing Grace by BYU Noteworthy

Gethsemane by Claire Ryann