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Jazz Music in the Philippines

Jazz music came to the Philippines in 1921, with the help of a Cebuano named Luis Borromeo. Upon returning from a trip to America and Canada, he renamed himself Borromeo Lou, formed a jazz band, and brought the “American-style stage entertainment” of “Classic-Jazz Music” to the country. He since became known as the Philippine “King of Jazz.”

Meanwhile, the 1920s was known as the “golden age” of jazz. It was then that American military troops introduced jazz music to the Philippines. They brought with them phonographs with 78-rpm discs of the blues and early jazz music. During this decade, vaudeville and jazz shows became popular forms of entertainment in the country.

In the 1930s, Filipinos danced to swing music performed by jazz dance bands in dance halls around the country. Jazz was played during social events and fiestas, and was widely heard on local radio. Popular bands during this period included the Shanghai Swing Masters, Pete Aristorenas Orchestra, Cesar Velasco Band, Tirso Cruz Orchestra, Mabuhay Band, and Mesio Regalado Orchestra.

It was during the 1950s and 1960s when jazz became mainstream in the Philippines. Annual jazz concerts like those sponsored by the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity at the University of the Philippines, attracted huge audiences. Prominent jazz musicians during this time included Exequiel “Lito” Molina and the Jazz Friends, Romy Posadas, Angel Peña, Piding Alava, Romy Katindig, and Fred Robles. These artists created a distinctly Filipino jazz sound by incorporating traditional folk tunes with jazz music.

In the 1970s, a new fusion sound—a mix of jazz, rock, and pop music—emerged. Eddie Munji and Ryan Cayabyab were among the local pioneers of this music genre. Other popular Filipino jazz artists included Bob Aves, Boy Katindig, Eddie Katindig, Tots Tolentino, Rudy Lozano, Menchu Apostol, Pete Canzon, jazz violinist John Lesaca, and jazz pianist Bobby Enriquez.

A musical form developed by African Americans, jazz is characterized by “syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, varying degrees of improvisation, often deliberate deviations of pitch, and the use of original timbres (Britannica 2012).” Filipino composer and jazz icon Angel Peña defined jazz as “a high form of art, a language through which musicians can freely express themselves (Quirino 2004).”

Sources:

Encyclopædia Britannica (2012). http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/301986/jazz

Quirino, R. (2004). Pinoy Jazz Traditions. Pasig City : Anvil.

Quirino, R. (2008). Mabuhay Jazz: Jazz in Postwar Philippines. Pasig City : Anvil.

Tiongson, N. (Ed.) (1994). CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, vol. 6: Philippine Music. Manila : Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Tiongson, N. (Ed.) (1994). CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, vol. 7: Philippine Theater. Manila : Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Photo:

The album cover of Jazzmin, a compilation of Philippine jazz hits released in 1982