Sunday, April 6, 2008

Charmaine Clamor: Jazzy Pinay Power

The passion of singing manifested itself early. At age 3 and being an only child, Charmaine Clamor was singing at the back of buses entertaining passengers on their way from hometown Subic Zambales to Manila. Her mother was the role model then. Young Charmaine provided piano accompaniment while mom sung kundimans. In family parties, singing with cousins and friends was part of the entertainment fare. Quite normal activity for a Filipino party then and now.At age 16 Charmaine left the Philippines and migrated to the United States. She is a board certified Physical Therapist in California. Originally, that was going to be her day job until she got into singing again. Ten years back, she co-founded CRESCENDO which is a foremost American Jazz quintet. Being the vocalist, her indoctrination towards American Jazz was kindled. Her group started performing at the CATALINA BAR & GRILL located on Sunset blvd in Hollywood.

This baptism into American Jazz prevailed and Charmaine Clamor was transformed from your talented singer into a full pledged jazz artist. Her parents did not approve of this transition. Like most Filipino elders, they wanted their daughter to keep on doing the Physical Therapy thing, and make sure there was money for food on the table and the bills paid. However, the passion to sing was too strong and Charmaine kept on doing shows.

This successful breakthrough into the American jazz scenario would have been enough for most to lay their laurels on. However, there was a part of Charmaine that remembered those growing up days in the Philippines. It’s true that in the old country, most women were looked down upon if they were brown and lacked the mestiza features which was a legacy of our Spanish conquerors. Quite frankly, to be a fair-skinned and sharp-nosed was and still is a symbol of aristocracy. Society snobbed a Filipina who was brown and flat-nosed. Even the TV ads and billboards in Manila hawked products that would make women whiter skinned and more western looking.

At 5′7 with a well defined nose, Charmaine is tall for your average Filipina. However, she associates herself with those dark-skinned Pinays who have undergone prejudice because of their color. She remembers childhood days when she was teased for her being Pinay. Ms Clamor wants those Pinays to be proud of their looks. To do away with this colonial mentality that brown is poor. And to realize that wealth lies within us. She believes in kindness. Kindness accompanied with a smile makes a person much more attractive. Charmaine has this killer smile that just melts the heart!

True to contemporary jazz, her style is reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and Cassandra Wilson. Once in a while, she throws in a twist of Anita Baker. My opinion is that her range of style is equivalent to the female version of Michael Buble. She is a bundle of great jazz artists rolled into one persona. I am proud to be Filipino when I hear Charmaine Clamor deliver her stuff.

Going back to her cause to uplift the brown Pinay. She created Jazzipino.

This is a fusion of American jazz melodies sprinkled with Tagalog words. This music praises the dark skinned Pinays and encourages them to be proud. Charmaine co-wrote the song “MY FUNNY BROWN PINAY” which reflects her roots. It is amazing how the power and quality of her voice can mesmerize an audience that do not speak a work of Tagalog. Yet they sit still, enthralled by her hypnotic spell.

Charmaine Clamor is here to stay. For now she has two CD releases. The first one titled “SEARCHING FOR THE SOUL” was cut during her earlier years as a Jazz artists. The cuts are all in English and shows the promise of an uprising star. Her second CD is titled”FLIPPIN’ OUT”. This album reflects her crossover from contemporary jazz to Jazzipino.

She is in the process of cutting her third CD which will delve into HARANA. In the Philippines back then, a guy attracted to a certain girl would bring a guitar and serenade the lass at night. If her window opens and she listens, that would signify acceptance of the guy. If it remained closed, then forget about it! This third album would pay tribute to Ms Clamor’s mother who sung kundimans in Filipino vernacular which included love songs. And by the way, news flash! Her parents have finally accepted the fact that their daughter is more successful in singing than doing physical therapy. So for one and all, follow your passion. Go for it!

Please check out more on Charmaine Clamor via

Written by: John F. Lacson/ Photos by Albert Vargas