Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


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I love World Music 0

Posted on January 14, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – January 14, 2018 – 12:00am

I am a big fan of music. Everyone knows that. Through the years, I have listened, enjoyed, grooved on, examined and analyzed all types of music. I never went to music school but my intense interest taught me a lot about music and how to write songs and understand what makes songs tick. I have also learned to appreciate musical patterns in chords, themes, motifs, styles, etc. I can sit down with schooled musicians and not get lost in the conversation.

During the past years, I have grown a bit tired and weary of Western pop music. By this, I refer to music mostly from the US and England. In the past two decades or so, I feel it’s lost much of its rawness and vitality. There are so few artists now who can speak with authenticity and still manage to shine despite the given dictates and demands of commercialism.

Because of this, I have opened myself to other music from different parts of the world. I am always trying to look for “organic” stuff. By this I mean music that is original and new. In the ’70s. I could find “organic” artists like Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Joan Baez, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Santana, Steely Dan, etc., who made you wonder where they came from and what music they listened to.

They all seemed unique. They were very original. They were like prophets who said important things. Their songs hit us on a gut level. They were mostly writing not to please anyone but to express themselves. They did not cater to an audience. The people bought into them.

There are very few artists these days who can make music like the great ones did. For me, a lot of it had to do with the emergence of music videos. All of a sudden, the world and music business changed. Overnight, gloss was suddenly more important and started to lord it over substance. Bad music could now look “good,” and good music could look “bad.”

Discovering music from Brazil was one of the best things that ever happened to me, musically. Often we discover foreign sounds only when they hit the US charts. That’s how I discovered Jobim and Sergio Mendez. In 1992, I went to Rio de Janeiro to attend the Earth Summit. I discovered more artists and completely fell in love with Brazilian music. I felt I was at the very source of it. Music was everywhere. I saw one guy playing his guitar at Copacabana Beach. In a few minutes, some people had joined in and started playing percussion with cans and bottles while dozens danced and sang with them. I saw so many brilliant artists. Some of them I even met. Many of them I “met” because I bought their records.

It was like discovering a new planet, listening to artists like Joyce (Moreno), Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Chico Buarque, Maria Bethânia, Jorge Ben, Milton Nascimento, etc. Their beats were new, their chords complex. The sounds were varied and the percussion was simply out of this world. Yes, they sang in their native tongue (Portuguese), which made their songs sound more authentic to me. They seemed immune to Western pop conventions. They were reveling in their own music and culture. It was refreshing, wonderful and inspiring.

Since 1981, I have bought 13 more albums by Joyce, and a few more of Caetano Veloso and other Brazilian artists.

For almost two decades, I almost stopped following and keeping track of the US Top 40. I liked just a few new artists but continued to follow my old favorites. I did not buy any Top 40 CDs for years. Instead I began exploring music from other countries and continents. From Africa, I liked Fela Kuti, Olatunji, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. From Mongolia I learned about throat singing and bought an album by the group Huun-Huur-Tu called “60 Horses is My Herd.”

When I would go to record bars abroad like Tower records (before the company closed down), I would ask shoppers in the World Music section what countries they were from and which artists from their own countries they could recommend for me to buy. It was the best way to discover new artists.

I bought more music from Latin artists from Cuba, Mexico, Argentina. I also listened to some old and new Indian music, from Ravi Shankar to Bollywood artists. From Russia, I had an album called “Time Machine” given to me by artist Andre Makarevich whom I met at a conference. It was at the time Gorbachev was still promoting Perestroika and Glasnost. The USSR was on the verge of disintegrating. The title of one of Andre’s songs was I Want to Defect. I also bought an album by a Russian pop group called Karnak. From Estonia, I met the Urb brothers who were former political prisoners, and we exchanged albums. There was so much to discover.

Listening to pop songs in another language really gets me excited. Although one can detect Western influence in a majority of them, their cultural identity remains strongly intact.

During the last five years, I have made songs with strong Latin influences. I also wrote songs that were directly inspired by Caetano Veloso and Joyce. I still want to write a song similar to the Urb Brothers’ Moonsong, which I like a lot.

I feel liberated, being freed from the dominant influence of US and British pop music. I do not care to listen to the newest, nor the latest songs on the radio, like I used to. I have avoided being influenced by music everyone else listens to. I have become a snob, in a good way.

World Music is one of the topics I touch on when I teach at ADMU. I introduce my students to music beyond what they are used to. Their first reaction is mostly shock, which immediately turns into surprise and delight. I see them get really interested. Some of them actually expand their musical tastes and follow some artists I expose them to.

The world is so rich. It is a pity that most of us appreciate music that only comes from the usual sources, through the usual channels. Commercial music, to me, often means something already preselected for us by the big, greedy establishment and pushed down our throats.

I like discovering new sounds and artists from all over the world. Their music can touch us in a way that can be a real life-altering experience. Someday, I hope more Filipino music can be heard and liked by people from other parts of the world. But for that to happen, like the rest of the world, we must speak authentically about our own experiences, sing our own songs and dance to our own tunes.

World Music is a big party. There is no dress code. We must learn to come as we are.

Read more at http://beta.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/01/14/1777674/i-love-world-music#lFlbOVw6u95rq6Fj.99

As the world turns: Predictions for 2018 0

Posted on January 07, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – January 7, 2018 – 12:00am

I thought that I would be freed from this task of making my yearly projections for 2018. But, just like every year since five years ago, Nostradamus, the master of predictions, has once again forcibly entered my dream state and whispered to me what to expect for 2018.

I can’t help it. His spirit has overtaken me. I have become a humble vessel of good tidings and bad omens which, in the end, may or may not be nothing. To warn you, the accuracy of my predictions yearly has been dismally low at best. Therefore, please tread cautiously. In an era when alternate facts, and fake news rules, read this at your own peril.

1) Every single person on earth who is still breathing will be one year older by the end of 2018.

2) Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs will be outed and exposed as extraterrestrial beings. Scientists will confirm that they are ETs from a planet with a superior civilization. Surprisingly, Rody Duterte will almost make this list. But in the end, he will fall short. But they will all agree that he is someone who is “out of this world.”

3) North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, in a act of defiance, will suddenly and finally quit the United Nations. The headlines will be read, “Un quits UN.”

4) A new Mayan calendar will be unearthed that will predict the end of the old Mayan calendar.

5) Astronomers will discover two small moons very near Uranus. They will be called “Urscrotum.”

6) After race, skin color, sexual preference, social status, educational level, the next big discrimination will be about blood types, zip codes, types of phones and Zodiac signs.

7) WiFi companies will create technology that can be attached to humans so people can be used as data access points. They plan to attach these to celebrities, which will increase their following more than 10,000 times. The simplicity of this invention is truly amazing. When you need to reset the WiFi, simply insult the celebrity access point so he/she “turns off.” After a minute, flatter him/her so he/she “turns on” again.

8) Filipinos will hardly show any shock when China occupies 20 more islands and shoals in 2018. It will hardly be news. Life will go on as usual in the new People’s Republic of the Philippines.

9) Internet trolls will form a union and ask for a raise from their financiers. They will be turned down. As morale sinks, they will stop their strategy of threatening people with rape and murder, and will withhold saying mean insults. In place they will be very mild and say things like, “I hope you have a bad day,” “I will unfollow you,” “Wow… Labo mo.” And when they really want to be mean, they will say things like “I fart in your general direction,” and “Your mother is old.”

10) As people become immune to fake news, someone will register the name “FAKE NEWS” to make outright lies and false stories appear somewhat “official” in the hopes that blatant lies become “respectable” and more credible.

11) Bato will retire early in 2018. He will be placed by Papel or Gunting!

12) Polong Duterte, the vice mayor of Davao, will completely resign from politics. He will have a career change and will become an actor. His first movie will be a remake of Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon.

13) Filipino psychics will make their usual predictions about the usual tragedies, the deaths of unnamed but famous persons, and the marriage of unnamed personalities. All will claim 100 percent accuracy at the end of 2018.

14) Archeologists will be astonished to discover Neanderthals still living on earth in great numbers. By looking at the results of surveys, and reading Facebook accounts, they will realize that there are actually close to 16 million Neanderthals living in the Philippines alone.

I love Paris 0

Posted on December 31, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – December 31, 2017 – 12:00am

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PARIS —

Since I stepped out of the plane at the Charles de Gaulle Airport more than a week ago, I have been singing the song I Love Paris by Cole Porter which the world first heard in 1953.

The last time I was in Paris was in the late ’80s. APO was touring Europe then. Paris was one of the places where we performed. We arrived on a Friday, did the concert the next day, had a free day on Sunday and left on a Monday. I hardly saw anything. I saw the Eiffel Tower but only from a distance. I spent an afternoon at Versailles. That’s about all l can remember.

I am writing this now from Paris more than 27 years since I last visited. We arrived last Dec. 20 to visit our daughter Erica who is now based here. We brought along her daughter Ananda to be with her this Christmas. And yes, we are all having a wonderful time.

I hardly connected with Paris the last time I was here. I was just too busy then since the time we had was way too short. Everything then was about the concert we were going to do. Paris hardly made an impression then.

This time around I am falling in love with the city, its sights, people and everything else it has to offer. From all indications, it seems like a serious love affair.

These past five days, we have been doing so much walking around and eating out. Paris has endless monuments, restaurants, beautiful buildings, statues, shopping boutiques and metro stops. On our first day here, we took about four Metro rides, and walked 212,000 steps in 230 minutes. We went to Montmartre and visited the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. We also went to the tinier St. Pierre Church which was the church where St. Ignatius of Loyola took his vows as a priest. It all began in that little church for the Jesuits.

We also enjoyed a meal at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (or the Robuchon, for short), a Michelin-star restaurant where Erica worked for awhile after finishing a culinary course at Le Cordon Bleu.

It was pretty steep but well worth the price. During parts of the meal, we would all stop eating just to savor and discuss how sumptuously delicious the food was.

We have been around the past three days. But there is so much to see. In the next few days, I will experience so much more of Paris. Right now I am enjoying this wonderful city in a way I could not before. I was 39 years old then. I was not as curious then as I am now about French culture, cuisine, art, language, history.

A city with a history that spans centuries has much more to offer its visitors than many other destinations.

Through the centuries, Paris has been one of the world’s major players, affecting much of history. The Bastille was where the French Revolution began and the revolutionary cry of “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” shaped the values of liberal democracy everywhere. In its streets, cafés and universities, France’s philosophers, artists and thinkers contributed much to the art and intellectual movements that influenced Europe and the rest of the world.

As a Filipino I am so proud at the thought that Rizal lived here and that Juan Luna showed the French a thing or two about art by winning contests here.

A few days ago, I went to a cemetery close to us to visit the grave of Jean Paul Sartre, a leading philosopher who died in 1980. I remember reading him in college. It is amazing that people still visit his tomb, which he shares with his partner Simone de Beauvoir, to leave letters and flowers. I will also be visiting the graves of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf in Père Lachaise Cemetery in another part of Paris.

My wife Lydia and I are currently staying at a flat which we booked through Airbnb. It is a typical one-bedroom apartment in Paris. We sometimes cook but mostly go out to eat. In some ways, we are living as Parisians do.

We also hang around my daughter Erica’s flat which she shares with her boyfriend Cyrille. A few nights ago, we spent Christmas Eve there together with Cyrille’s brother Alex and their mother Dyna.

Today, we saw the Seine, the Louvre, the Musee D’Orsay, Jardin des Tuileries, and a few more sights. I was in awe! Beauty was ever-present and inescapable. I was so enthralled at the beauty and art that seemed to ooze out of everywhere. In the cold of winter, I felt a thrill and a giddiness, a warm glow of appreciation for everything I could see.

Every day, Erica takes us to experience something new. I love discovering new destinations, trying new food, and learning how Parisians live. Cyrille and I talk about history a lot. He is quite well-versed on the French Revolution, Napoleon’s impact on the history of Paris, and France during and after World War 2. It is interesting to know that the main entrance to Paris, the Arc De Triomphe, was widened by Napoleon to make sure the military would not be blocked in this once-narrow street by people throwing furniture out of their apartments. He also built much of Paris’s sewage system which works to this day.

n Paris, the past and the present live side by side.

As much as Paris is an old city, it is also home to the new and the cutting edge. It is still bursting with life, old and new art, and its artists and intellectuals continue to contribute to the world of ideas.
Every time I walk its streets of cobblestones, I think of all the great writers and artists who have spent part of their lives here. Victor Hugo, Jules Verne, Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Marc Chagall, Yves Saint Laurent, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Pablo Picasso, Jose Rizal, Juan Luna, Moliere and many more who breathed its air, enjoyed French cuisine, marveled at the city and its people, and imbibed and enjoyed its rich culture. And I am thrilled at the thought that I am doing the same even if only in very small measure.

Maybe someday I will come back and be able to afford to actually Iive in Paris, even for just two years. I am an old soul. Otherwise, how do I explain my lifetime curiosity and love affair with history and museums? Hopefully the Muse or the spirit that moved and inspired these artists to be great and prolific will work on me, too.

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One off my bucket list: Paul McCartney in concert 0

Posted on December 17, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 17, 2017 – 12:00am

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“Watching Paul McCartney made me feel a lot of things,” says author Jim Paredes. “Paul influenced me so much that I got to understand myself when I was growing up. He became my constant peg in my own songwriting career.”

They announced in the news that Paul McCartney was doing a show in Sydney five months ago. I immediately tried to get tickets within the day. Alas, the show was sold out quickly.

That night, they announced a second show for Dec. 12, the next day. My friend Charlie Moraza was lucky to get four tickets.

I wasn’t going to miss this, I told myself. Watching Sir Paul perform has been on my bucket list for the past few years. The only other time I ever saw him was more than 50 years ago when the Beatles performed in Manila. Back then, I watched with my brother Raffy. The sound was terrible. We had really lousy seats, but hey: it was still the Beatles.

I had bought a plane ticket back to Sydney months ago for this. I arrived four days early for the concert.

Last Tuesday, I was at Qudo Bank Arena with Charlie, his wife Malu, and my son Mio. It was a massive venue that seemed like it was more than twice the size of Smart Araneta Coliseum. It was packed to the rafters.

When Paul McCartney and his band entered the stage, the whole place instantly lit up with energy and excitement. Amid screams and applause, Paul struck that famous complex chord that starts the song A Hard Day’s Night, and very soon after, everyone went wild and crazy. He segued into Jet, one of my fave songs he wrote for his post-Beatles group Wings.

The hits kept coming like an avalanche. Can’t Buy Me Love, Drive My Car, Let Me Roll It, You Won’t See Me — and he went on and on. Except for his new stuff, everyone sang along with him through every tune. The whole audience was in good spirits.

Paul once in a while would talk a bit about his personal history. He talked about some of the songs he wrote, and about his friends in the business. He mentioned Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton with fondness and admiration. He also narrated seeing Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on a taxi in London decades back, and John and him flagging them down for a ride. During the cab ride John and Paul offered to write a song for them.

It was quite a surprise to learn that John and Paul gave the Rolling Stones their very first chart-topper, I Wanna Be Your Man (a song Ringo sang in the Beatles’ version). He also paid great respect to George Martin, the producer of the Beatles who helped them immensely with their records. It was interesting to hear that when the Beatles recorded Love Me Do, he was asked by George Martin to do the solo vocal parts. And to this day, he can still detect a bit of that nervousness in his delivery when he listens to the record. “But not tonight!” he said to the audience delight before launching into the song.

A high point for me was his tribute to John Lennon. Before he sang Here Today (a tribute to his friend and former songwriting partner), he talked about how people should not wait to express their feelings to people they love. He narrated that when they were still young musicians in Liverpool, none of them went and said, “I love you, man” to each other. It just wasn’t the norm, he explained.

When John died, he wrote Here Today to express that love that was sometimes unrequited. I actually teared up when he sang it.

Well, knowing you,

You’d probably laugh and say

That we were worlds apart.

If you were here today.

Uh, uh, uh, uh… here today.

But as for me, I still

Remember how it was before

And I am holding back the tears no more.

Ooh ooh ooh… I love you Oooh.

Paul’s voice had a sadness to it. It was honest and heartfelt and moved the entire arena.

He also paid tribute to George Harrison whom he said loved to play the ukulele. He started singing George’s Beatles hit, Something,while accompanying himself on the uke. The band joined in soon after. It merited wild applause.

He sang so many hits like We Can Work it Out, Band on the Run, Live and Let Die, Blackbird, Obladi-Oblada, Let It Be, I Saw Her Standing There, Eleanor Rigby, For the Benefit of Mr. Kite (a John song, actually), And I Love Her, A Day in the Life and many more. It was noteworthy that he sang Helter Skelter, one off the Beatles’ most controversial songs because it was apparently a favorite of the killer Charles Manson. I never liked that song, because of the Manson association. But I loved the high-energy performance that night.

And as much as he sang the hits, it was impossible to sing ALL of them. He DID NOT sing, ‘Till There Was You, Here, There and Everywhere, My Love, No More Lonely Nights, Silly Love Songs, If I Fell, and so many others that I love. A three-hour show was still too short. He must have sung at least 30 songs. I eventually lost count. He ended the show with the audience singing Hey Jude along with him.

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Before responding to encore calls, Paul and his “band on the run” ran around the stage waving British, Australian, Aboriginal and LGBT flags, much to the delight of everyone. After a short break, he sang five more songs. His final encore was a medley of songs comprising one-third of Side B of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album. It included Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, and The End. The last song was so majestically performed and a perfect ending to the concert.

Watching Paul McCartney made me feel a lot of things. I felt that Paul had influenced me so much that I got to understand my own feelings and myself when I was growing up. He has become my constant peg in my own songwriting career. He is a very talented, playful, generous performer. His capacity and effort to give the audience a great experience through his songs and performances resonated with me. That’s what we also always aimed for when we were performing as APO!

Clearly, his music will be loved and remembered for all time. More than just being a great performer, he is an icon, someone who unites people in a way that makes them feel good. We all grew up with Beatles music playing as the soundtrack to milestones in our own lives.

The concert was more than 60 years in the making. That’s how long he has been writing songs and performing them. Six decades! The show had the right songs and repertoire, the best lighting effects, the most magical graphics and visuals, and a truly iconic great performer to deliver the songs. And he still does them well and with great passion. Remarkably, he still has the mannerisms of a guy in his 20s. He is still so young at heart, energetic and competent at age 75. He is still slim and wears tight pants. He seems ageless. No tummy or sag at all.

It was a concert I will never forget. It was the best I’ve seen in my entire life. While the technical support was awesome, ultimately it was about THE MAN himself — so legendarily accomplished, so gifted and yet so humble. He has given the world his gift of music. And the world has responded again and again with resounding gratitude.

Throughout his adult life, he also stood for the right things —vegetarianism, animal rights, saving the planet, cancer awareness. What is there not to like about Paul McCartney?

I can’t imagine how my life would have turned out if the Beatles had never happened, or if Paul McCartney had not written and performed his songs. Honestly, I may not even have become a musician at all.

Thank you, Sir Paul McCartney. That’s all I want to say. And though there were thousands of other people there that night, in some way it was a “one-on-one” experience we had, just like the name of the tour promised.

You validated me, and I remain a huge fan!

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Sold-out concert of Paul McCartney in Sydney last Dec. 12. It was a massive venue, packed to the rafters.

The invisible, the ‘others’ and you 0

Posted on December 09, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 10, 2017 – 12:00am

Waiters, waitresses, cooks, salesladies, security guards, maids, houseboys, delivery people, drivers, street vendors, garbage collectors, and the like are like invisible people.

They work for us, do services that benefit us and yet we hardly interact with them on a really personal level. They can be replaced by other people and it would hardly matter to many of us. Sometimes we may take notice, but it would hardly affect many of us.

We interact with them only because of the services they do. They are appreciated and needed for the functions they offer. But we are not interested in knowing more about them for the most part. It is a simple interaction that we have with them and we like to keep it that way.

They cook our meals, serve our food, wash our clothes, clean our houses, guard our properties, take our orders, check on our health, pick up our garbage, assist us in the way they are supposed to.

Sometimes, I try to imagine the lives of the invisible people in our midst. Surely, they have lives just like we do although perhaps different. But like us, they have families, people they love and care for. There are also people who love them. Like us, they have opinions shaped by their education, upbringing, etc. They also have their own dreams and live their own stories. They also go through pain, seek pleasures in life like we do. They wake up every day to do what they have to do.

When you think about it, there is so much to know about them.

When we are with people we do not know, or people who are different from us, we often put them in a category of “other.” We feel safe by doing that. We don’t have to relate in a complicated way. Expectations are minimal. We don’t need to have elaborate relationships that are physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual. That’s okay. Maybe it is not even possible to have elaborate and deep relationships with all people.

Is there a right way to treat the “others” and the invisible? Some of us opt to be purely business-like. Some of us, perhaps because we perceive them as lower on the social ladder, may opt to treat them in less civil ways. Many people can be condescending at times, especially when they demand that the job be done in a certain way.

I often make small talk with strangers. It can get interesting. Sometimes, they may say something that connects or resonates with me, or vice versa. Recently, a waiter at a restaurant in Tagaytay asked me if I remember APO’s gig in Surigao during the ’80s. He told me he was the driver who brought us from our hotel to the concert venue and back.

I lit up. I mentioned how it seemed like only yesterday when the show happened and marveled at how people can meet again after so many years under entirely different circumstances. I asked him how he ended up working in Tagaytay. He said he needed a higher paying job and so went to Manila and eventually was transferred by his boss to another restaurant he owned in Tagaytay.

That little conversation gave me a bigger handle on him. He wasn’t just a nameless, faceless waiter. He was someone who had served me once before and was serving me again years later, and I had not even noticed this until he talked to me.

When he brought the food in, he was smiling and I felt that it was not just a routine activity he was doing. He exuded positivity and heart. He felt he was doing something special. He was especially attentive to us and served our every need. When we had settled the bill, we even posed for selfies.

Once on a plane, I sat with a lady who in the middle of the flight struck up a conversation and told me that she reads my column in Philippine STAR every week. It made my day.

I have hosted five dinners for groups of total strangers. I invited them at random through social media. These people whom I had never met have affirmed to me that it is okay to allow “others” to enter your life and allow human interactions to happen. I heard their secrets, ambitions, disappointments and joys in life. I shared mine, too. I saw good, decent, even exciting people. It strengthened my belief that every life is indeed interesting and worth examining.

By allowing ourselves to look at the invisible and the “others” beyond the services or functions they offer, we open ourselves to having more faith in mankind. We begin to develop more compassion for others we do not know personally. We go beyond mere self-identity and find our bigger self identified with the rest of humanity.

It can only be good for the world.

5 women in the house 0

Posted on December 03, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 3, 2017 – 12:00am

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The women in my life: (Clockwise, from left) Ala, Ananda, Zadie, Lydia and Erica. Photo by Jim Paredes

The past week has been quite different.

My two daughters visited us here in Manila. Erica came from Paris and Ala, her husband John and their baby Zadie came from Sydney.

They decided to meet and have a short vacation in Manila. Erica took a break from work to be with Ala whom she had not seen in almost two years. During that time, many things have happened to both of them. They had been meaning to catch up since Ala gave birth to Zadie, who has become an internet sensation in our family. Her pictures have been charming everyone and so Ninang Erica HAD to come and see her in person.

Before my daughters arrived, our house had been quiet for some months. We’ve only had a few visitors who stayed a few days. Basically, just Lydia, my apo Ananda and I have been staying here. Our three kids had been living abroad for some years now. And so the past two weeks have been quite a special time for all of us since two of them came home.

Erica has been living in Paris for more than a year now. She went there to study at Cordon Bleu and become a chef. She was among the top in her class when she finished. Right now, she is working at a French restaurant.

Ala has been residing in Sydney for almost 10 years. She studied art and actually has exhibited and sold quite a few of her paintings and art installations. She also teaches English to non-Aussies. She married John Buencamino more than a year ago and gave birth to Zadie nine months ago.

It is such a delight and joy to have them in the house. When Erica is here, she likes to prepare special meals for us and her friends. She serves very elegant, sumptuous dishes and serves them plated. The food is very delicious and the presentation is fabulous. She uses unconventional combinations of ingredients that can delight you to experience palate heaven! She is quite creative and works hard to make her meals special. She has so much confidence working in the kitchen. Cooking is her passion and you can talk to her about food endlessly. She cooks with focus, joy and dedication.

Ala is always great to have around. Her conversation is always interesting. She is quite an artist and I love that. Her observations and her take on things are always fascinating and insightful. She is a cheerful, pleasant person to be with. She lights up a room when she enters.

We are all amazed at how she has taken to motherhood. She is an excellent mother to Zadie. She is nurturing, patient and attends to her baby’s every need. She spares no opportunity to learn how to care for and raise Zadie in the best way. She has compassion and focus.

Lydia and I watch Ala and John parent their baby and we can only smile. It doesn’t seem so long ago when we were young parents ourselves.

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Author Jim Paredes and apo Zadie

Right now, there are five women in our house. Since my son Mio is not here, John and I are the only males. Yes, we are outnumbered! Lydia, Erica, Ala, Ananda and Zadie run the house and have taken over the car and driver. Their schedules are prioritized. Their friends come over often and stay and chat. Some of them even sleep over. John and I spend time in the gym or in conversation. He is easy and quite relaxed and great to have around. Most importantly, he loves my daughter Ala and does his fatherly chores with enthusiasm.

As a doting Papa and Lolo, I take photos and basically enjoy their company. I watch my two daughters — all grown up now — and listen to them talk about their lives, loves, passions and their future plans. They are living the lives they wanted. They have made important choices. They are full adults. I am so happy to see how they have become who they are and am looking forward to what they will be.

It is also great to see my granddaughter Ananda reunite with her mom Erica even if briefly for now. They have clearly missed each other and are trying to catch up. Ananda can seem so grown up one moment and a kid again the next. Sometimes, it seems like mom and daughter are the same age when they are laughing and just enjoying themselves.

I enjoy my special moments with Zadie. When she had just arrived, she liked to look at me and smile but did not want me carrying her. An opportunity came when her mom passed her on to me as she prepared Zadie’s bath. She struggled for a moment until I sang to her while in my arms. She relaxed and stared at me in rapt attention and seemed to enjoy it. Maybe the vibration from my chest was doing the trick. During the following days, she has offered no resistance when I carry her. All in all, I must have sung at least 30 songs to her. It is our bonding activity.

Lydia as lola is wonderful. At her age now, she looks like her beautiful mom and even sounds like her as she coos and makes sounds to amuse her apo. She can really get Zadie to smile, laugh, calm down when she is crying, and easily make the baby sleep.

If this article paints a picture of this writer as an old retired grandpa, let me say that I feel far from being old. In fact I feel I have a lot to look forward to. I feel happy, fulfilled and have much to be thankful for. I have quite a family. I want to stick around see more of their lives unfold.

Hopefully, there are a few more grandchildren to come. I would like to do more singing for my very select audience.

Not your usual school day 0

Posted on November 26, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 26, 2017 – 12:00am

I teach a subject under the Communications Department at the Ateneo de Manila University. It is called Special Topics in Performance and Practice. It is mainly a discursive class tackling diverse topics. The discussions are about World Music, the history of OPM, the Filipino bilingual experience, Filipino humor, Myths and Symbols, and the Creative Mind. We end with a conversation on the relationship between performers, writers, makers of products — anyone who makes a pitch to any audience — and the people who subscribe or buy into them. It answers the questions: “What is the promise?” and “Why do we buy into them?”

I give lots of assignments to my students. Some of them are reflection papers, but the more interesting assignments are the experiential ones. By this, I mean I assign them to do things that will drive the point of the discussions beyond an intellectual discourse and into real “felt” experience.

For example, part of the creativity module talks about how we can actually and proactively set the tone for the kind of day we want to have. On a certain day, I assign the girls to show up in long gowns for the class, and the guys are asked to wear shoes that don’t match, short pants, and a coat and tie. I then ask them what the experience is like walking down the school corridors dressed up differently from everyone they see. It is an exercise in one’s power to break routine and create new experiences. I had a female student who wore a chador, and it was such a personally moving experience for her. It made her feel empathy and compassion for all Muslim women everywhere.

Throughout the semester I give unconventional assignments and homework.

The last assignment I give at the end of the semester is a lot of fun. It is, in a sense, a summary of alI the lessons from the various subjects we’ve discussed in class. World Music and OPM talk about how people contribute and share music that reflects themselves, and how one needs to come from one’s local setting to be able to contribute in a universal way. The bilingualism module talks about how we switch languages depending on the subject and the person we are talking to. We live in two worlds that we cross back and forth between many times a day. We “wear” two cultures.

The creativity module presents five rules that one must apply in real life. It takes the subject of creativity away from a mind exercise and into a real-life application. The subject of myth talks about old and new symbols and narratives that we as a people connect to and which help us make sense of the world.

The underlying values in many of the subjects are about having authentic experiences and being conscious and present to them. It is not just about having an intellectual discussion that you forget once the course is over.

For the final assignment, I ask my students to take me, their teacher, to a place where I have never been. I tell them that the place I wish to be brought to is their world. In four minutes, they must show me something that I have never seen before.

I ask them to present one thing they are very passionate about. I ask them to do so with the aim of helping me to know them better while surprising and delighting me, or giving me an experience of shock and awe in the process. I ask them to share something about themselves and present it in the most interesting manner.

It can be a daunting experience for many of them. They must go inward and share something of themselves. It is a big challenge. They must not only present something they are passionate about but must do so with creativity, truth and passion.

I had one student who loved baking cookies. What she did was recite the recipe in rap form accompanied with a beat box, and then gave out cookies for everyone to taste afterward.

Some students who appeared to be shy and introverted throughout the semester would surprise everyone by breaking into a Broadway song and dance routine.

I have seen students recite poems, do soliloquies, dance, play the guitar, sing, etc. I had one student who designed bags and shared her story about how she managed to sell them in big outlets and establish her own brand.

I had another who shared her love for photography by showing her favorite sunset photos and explaining how she took them. She also gave away photos after.

One of the most memorable presentations was from a male student who was a cross-dresser. Throughout the semester, he would show up in class dressed however he felt on the particular day — sometimes as male, sometimes as female.

During the last day, he showed up as a male. Before his performance, he explained to us how he had to come out twice to his parents, first as a gay man, and second as a cross-dresser. It was traumatic for him and for them, he said. For his presentation, he sat down on a chair in front of a mirror and put on makeup while the Disney song Reflections played. When the song reached the central part with the lyrics, “Who is this girl I see, staring straight back at me? When will my reflection show who I am inside?”, he stood up and in one bold, flawless motion tore off his male outfit and instantly transposed into a woman in a flaming flowing red dress.

It was breathtakingly executed and the performance was shining with authenticity. He got a standing ovation from the class!

I have been teaching this subject for more than eight semesters now. I have received quite a few positive comments from my students. Some of them said it was a class they will never forget. Occasionally, I have foreign students who sign up for my class. I had one French student whose main track was economics. She changed her life path when she returned to Paris. In place of the office job she though she would be doing, she became a writer, a museum curator and a disk jockey. She told me it was my class that opened her to other possibilities.

As this semester comes to an end, I look at my students and thank them for being a great class. I know I have taken them to a place where they have never been and have raised their awareness and consciousness about themselves and the world they live in. They have learned a lot, and so have I. Just as many of my students in previous semesters still keep in touch with me, I am looking forward to hearing from my latest batch.

I can’t wait till I offer this class again.

How to inspire yourself 0

Posted on November 19, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 19, 2017 – 12:00am

People often ask me what inspires me to write songs. I tell them that there have been some special songs that I was inspired to do. Songs about a peaceful revolution, and the birth of my first child were two of them. But not all songs I wrote had obvious or dramatic muses. In fact, many of them were not “inspired” works at all but something I just did because I needed songs to fill an album.

Many of them were melodies in my head that I made years ago and had set aside but then resurrected all of a sudden because they begged to be taken more seriously. Some of them I sat down on the piano and worked on with specific topics or feelings in mind. They were out-of-the-blue creations brought to life in a more deliberate manner.

The best ones were those that were written without fuss. They didn’t take long to write. Almost no pressure. I just followed the flow.

So what inspires me? The answer is everything and nothing.

What I want to actually write about is how anyone can be creative and write stuff even without the so-called inspiration.

Is that possible? Yes, it is.

One of the reasons why we have a hard time finding inspiration is because we always think of it as something that happens or originates from outside of us. In many ways, it is understandable that we see it that way. A beautiful girl comes along from out of nowhere. We get hit by a thunderbolt and fall in love and we feel a glow inside and see the world through rose-colored glasses. We feel so lucky and blessed — as we should. We feel that the heavens made it happen.

Drugs and alcohol can also make us feel “inspired.” Taking them can cause some to open their minds to images and hallucinations that take them out of the ordinary world and inspire them to think outside of the usual. The experience can be terrific and earth-shaking, to say the least. And it can spark tremendous creativity.

The problem with the first example I gave is that it does not come that often. Sometimes it doesn’t come at all. Life is not always that dramatic. And drugs and alcohol can give you that high, but it can also destroy you. We cannot rely, then, on these two types of inspiration to give us the ability to create when we want or need to on a consistent basis.

What if we try to think of inspiration as something that can come from anywhere — not just from the outside, but even from ourselves?

I speak of a mindset or a state of being that can transform the ordinary and the mundane into something extraordinary. This state of mind is aggressively playful, imaginative and creative that can “see” beyond what most everyone see. It is a mind that can connect what has not been connected yet. It is “conspiratorial” in the sense that it finds patterns, themes, relationships and stories where others might not see anything. One might say it is a mind that awakens to mystery and tries to capture its wonder. It is open to serendipity and sees more of it than most people do. It is both sublime and mischievous, sacred and profane.

You can learn and train your mind to be like this with practice and training. There are rules and methods to use and develop.

But you also need a few leaps of faith to be able to totally internalize this. The very first thing you need is to believe that what you want to create is already there.

Often, I look at ordinary things and events as portals that can lead to bigger experiences. There are hidden gifts to be picked up everywhere. Our job is to find them. From conversations, phrases, emotions shared, facial expressions, practically anything can inspire me and make a world out of it and express it through song.

American writer and potter Mary C. Richards hit it on the nail when she said, “Poetry enters through the window of irrelevance.” In short, nothing is irrelevant. Everything is important — that is, if we care to look closely.

The second leap of faith is about believing that God or the Universe is there to help you. The moment I focus on a melodic phrase that pops into my head, I feel an inner force at work that opens me creatively. My melody can go anywhere, but I feel some sort of guidance that is leading me to bring the song where it is “meant” to go. With regards to lyrics, it works the same way plus I can open a dictionary or a thesaurus to match words that rhyme. Assistance is there. Always. You just have to turn on your awareness.

There was a song I wrote for my daughter Erica when she graduated from high school. It talked about trusting yourself and finding your own path and truth. The lyrics in the bridge of the song went this way:

“Everything you need is inside of you. You’re the fire and breath of your own soul.”

What I really wanted to describe was our natural inner power, our built-in creativity to make anything, even to make our own future and create our own life experiences. While life happens to us, I believe we can make things happen, too.

This creative mindset applies not just to songwriting but to a lot of other things I do. And I know many creatives can relate to this. Magic, enchantment, creation of meaning is always at our fingertips. I know I make it sound so easy. Sometimes, it is that easy.

And with more practice, it becomes easier.

Talking about my generation 2

Posted on November 12, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 12, 2017 – 12:00am

Yesterday, I was riding the car from White Plains and as we passed through EDSA on our way to Pasong Tamo, I noticed so many things I never paid attention to before.

There were buildings that had been there before but I never took notice of them. There were some tall ones, too. Some of them stood alone against the sky without other tall buildings near them.

There were also pedestrian overpasses that I just noticed that day.

My wife Lydia was telling me that if I raised my head more and looked around instead of being glued online to my cell phone, I would have noticed all of these things way before. She has a point.

When I look at the billboards along EDSA, I see faces of people that I do not know. New faces everywhere. A new generation of showbiz folks had entered the scene since I ended doing regular television shows.

When I turned my attention to names and faces of Korean personalities on one billboard and asked my granddaughter who they were, she screamed with delight, rolled up her eyes and chided me for not knowing them.

I have stopped getting updated on names of current TV shows, celebrities, new songs, trends, fashion, pop and cultural tidbits. More than half of the people I watch on television are new to me. It doesn’t help that I hardly watch TV except the news. I am totally ignorant of Game of Thrones, Stranger Things and other TV blockbusters that people spend their time on. I hardly recognize anything playing on the radio now, too. I can’t relate to most of the themes, lyrics and melodic lines of the songs playing today. They just don’t grab me.

In the words of my own generation, I have stopped “tuning in” and have basically “turned off” and “dropped out.”

I don’t feel I really am missing a lot even if younger people I talk to are somewhere between being amused and shocked at how alien their celebrities and music are to an oddball like me.

I notice that as people get older, they eventually take stock of what they have gone through, and choose to gravitate around that time in their lives when they felt most alive, powerful, happy and “together.” It is that time when they felt in sync with the world, and everything made sense. They had struggles and won them. It was their time, those moments in their lives when their core tastes in music, culture and values were defined and shaped by their personal experiences. And that specific timeframe becomes the foundation of their adulthood, and will always be a big reference point for the rest of their lives.

In my case, my defining time was between the ’70s to the early years of the new millennia. I was young. I had lots of energy. I felt I could unleash big bolts of creative power and make stuff and achieve anything I wanted. During that time, I wrote tons of music, recorded it all, toured the world with my group and did what we felt were great memorable performances singing the songs we wrote.

I also married and raised a family.

I also participated in the biggest political struggle of my generation that defined my liberal democratic values that I still believe and adhere to today.

It was good that during the prime time of my life, I had a very curious mind. I engaged the world boldly. I was active. I was diving, biking and running. I was also reading a lot about everything and learning life skills that would help me adjust to the changing times. I also traveled extensively and saw the world. Today, I am at least technologically savvy. I also have a solid liberal arts education and mindset that serves me well as a human being living in the modern world and trying to make sense of it.

Time seemed to have stopped for me during the ’70s, until around 2007. It’s like I hopped off of the time bus, settled down and built a life and a home in that neighborhood. The worldview I subscribe to was largely formed around my experiences at that time.

I have caught myself telling younger people stories of that heroic time in our history when we kicked out the Marcoses. And I love telling them how glorious a time EDSA was. And that our great contribution to the Philippines was building a big catalogue and repertoire of OPM songs. I am proud of my generation’s legacy. I know I sound just like my uncles who talked to us when we were young about their defining moments during WWII and the rebuilding of our country after.

I still do feel creatively powerful today but I have mellowed. I like doing other things now. I now write a lot more than I used to. I have also become a teacher and I enjoy that a lot. I still do write music and perform but I am no longer on the radar of the millennial audience that has developed new tastes.

Our defining era is really the foundation of the rest of our lives. What we went through and struggled for helped build my generation’s character. Perhaps it was my luck that the ’70s was a time when we were inspired to produce great music. It was also a time when our conscience and consciousness were awakened enough to shape a bit of our cultural identity and history.

My generation’s time is passing quickly. It is now the time of the millennials. I am curious to see how this new generation will act upon the world.

Life at 66 0

Posted on November 05, 2017 by jimparedes

Life at 66
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 5, 2017 – 12:00am

Very often these days, I find myself underutilized. I feel I’m not doing enough. At every single moment, time is passing by and it makes me restless. I feel I am wasting opportunities. That’s because I feel I am waiting for things to happen while time passes by and is gone forever.

To some it may seem like I am a very busy person since I wear many hats — artist, teacher, writer, etc. And so I seem to be doing a lot of things. The truth is, I like to do more. Much more.

I am strong and healthy. I am motivated largely because at 66 years old, I feel time is running out. Life is short. Time moves too fast. I want to do many more things before I get t

Yes, I have made a bucket list and I will be doing as much as I can to fulfill the items on it. But I also have this feeling that there are other callings out there waiting to be answered. I know that I have not lived enough yet. There’s still a whole lot of living to do. There are things that are waiting out there for me. I can sense it although all I have are inklings to go by.

Right now I feel like I am in a lull before some big thing is about to happen. And I don’t know what that something is.

Am I being called to do a mission or just being asked to indulge my passions more? Every day, my radar is scanning my life’s horizon, looking for signs.

During the past weeks, I’ve been staying at home mostly. I go to the gym three to four times a week. I teach at the ADMU twice a week. I practice a little guitar almost every day. I meditate occasionally. I spend a lot of time online. I know there is definitely more to life than doing just these things.

There were times in the past when I felt clear about what I wanted to do in life. I was with the APO Hiking Society, and it had a job description and we did what we felt we had to do. And we did it well.

These days, I do not feel engaged enough with anything, certainly not enough to get me focused 24-7.

I know I am more of a doer. I want action. Sometimes, I can be a procrastinator, too, and postpone things for a future time. But aging has changed that. You know that your time is limited and so you make sure that you are focused on the remaining time at hand. Things can’t wait too long.

I see people my age slowing down to retirement. I can’t see myself ever retiring although sometimes, I ask myself why I need to keep busy.

Why do I need to fill my hours doing “stuff”? Why do I have this need to achieve? Can’t I just be happy and calm while in “being” mode? Should I always be doing something? Do I feel defined by the things that I do? Isn’t the state of just being myself as important as what I “do”? If doing is more important, should people who do not have the physical strength or health to pursue their dreams be considered failures as humans? Are we here to always prove something in this life?

I guess it is just my nature to be active and look for things to do. Asking yourself what or how much how much you have done in life comes up more often as you get older. The truth is, there is always still something to do. I often ask why I must still try to fix the world, or respond to the call of doing what I think is right. Shouldn’t we leave that for younger people to worry about? I wish I could say yes. In truth, I can’t.

Even if we can’t solve all the problems of the world, we still have to try. Ultimately, people have to pick up the cudgels, and I am afraid I have always been one among the not-too-many who have not and will probably never go gently into the good night. It would be so easy to just drop out and use the excuse of being too old to avoid answering the call of one’s conscience. But to do so, you also have to be the type of person who can live the rest of your life knowing you are bullsh*tting yourself.

There are many things we cannot change. But I don’t think we should give up trying to change what we can.

When I was younger, I sought to change the way things were because I wanted to alter the trajectory of where the country was heading then. I knew my generation would be living in that future. That future has become the present and is rapidly becoming the past. So why I am still fighting for another tomorrow I will no longer be living in?

At my age I know that more and more often, to be true to yourself means to challenge the ways of the world instead of accepting them passively. It means one may have to be “unreasonable” and even unpopular and choose to stand by the side of truth. You can’t live a real life if your aim is to gather as many “likes” or live for the approval of others. The great temptation is to succumb and say we can’t change things and just give up. I detest that.

This battle between oneself and the world may never be won with finality, but at least you try to change the little corner where you live while you still can. Every ripple you make counts if you want to contribute to the making of a formidable wave of change.

And so here I am waiting out this lull. Eventually, I will hear the call clearly. I know I will still be up for it.


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