The Ne Pomocena (sic) Quartet, circa 1917

"Enchanting Melodies on Native Instruments" was the phrase used to introduce the Ne Pomoceno Quartet to mid-western audiences in 1917. Nowadays, those words are ironic, considering that, outside of the International Expositions, Filipinos playing in clubs and chautauquas rarely played native instruments, although they did play Philippine adaptations of European string instruments. This website is dedicated to Filipino musicians in the United States, especially those "old-timers" who performed during the early 20th century. My father was one of them: he played in a band in New Orleans and other cities during the 1930s. My grandfather and granduncle played in the Philippine Constabulary Band in international expositions. Filipinos have been entertaining audiences with their music since at least the early 20th century. Considering that "Manilla Men" first began settling in the Louisiana territory during the 18th century, it's possible that Filipino musicians have been making music in the Americas since the 19th century or earlier. My aim for this website is to post information on these little-known and under-appreciated musicians, and update as often as possible. This is a labor of love. Thanks to the "Redpath Chautauqua Collection and Traveling Culture exhibit, Special Collections, University of Iowa for making some of this material (photographs and documents about Filipino musicians in the Chautauqua) available.

If you have information or photos of Filipino musicians or bands from the early to mid-20th century (1960s) and would like it posted on this site, contact me at okir2k@gmail.com.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

BIG CHANGES AFOOT! I am transferring this blog to http://filammuse.wordpress.com Please be patient during the transition, which should take about 3 days. On wordpress I'll be able to more easily upload videos and graphics.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Music/Arts - Concert
Date: Saturday, April 3, 2010
Time: 1:00pm - 5:00pm
Location: San Francisco Main Public Library
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA

April is Jazz Appreciation Month. Designated by Congress and by the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, Jazz Appreciation Month was launched in 2001 by the Smithsonian Institute as an annual event that pays tribute to jazz both as a historic and a living American art form. It has since grown to include celebrations in all 50 states and 40 countries.

Celebrate this uniquely American art form with a free afternoon concert in the Koret Auditorium at the San Francisco Main Public Library. Located in the lower level of the Main Library at 100 Larkin Street in San Francisco, the Koret Auditorium is an excellent facility to hear jazz as performed by Bay Area artists.

The artists featured will include vocalists Jo Canion, Kenny Washington, Anna Maria Flechero, and Ann Marie Santos along with renowned musicians Boy Palacio, Vince Gomez, Bo Razon, Melecio Magdaluyo, Danny Kalanduyan, and the jazz-fusion band Little Brown Brother .

Concerts at the SF Public Library are free to the piublic and everyone is welcome. This annual event is sponsored by the Filipino American and African American Centers at the San Francisco Main Public Library and by the San Francisco Filipino American Jazz Festival, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization under the fiscal sponsorship of the Filipino American Historical Society, East Bay Chapter.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


For those who can’t wait until September for Burning Uke, the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz presents:

A winter ukulele retreat in Carmel Valley at Hidden Valley Music Seminars:
When: March 26-28 Fri evening 4pm through Sun. 2pm

This is NOT a campout. We will be sleeping and playing inside and meals will be included.
Dinner on Fri night:
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner on Sat:
Breakfast and Lunch on Sun:

Cost: there are several options;
Basic meals, facility use and administrative costs: $115 (everyone will pay this part)

Sleeping options: (per person, all 3 days included)

Single room * $150
Double room * $100
Three to a room * $ 80
Sleeping bag on the dance room floor* * $50
Bring your RV $50
Tent (if you want to try it) $50

* Each room has a private bathroom/shower
**The Dance Room has bathroom/shower facilities for use by those in RV’s as well as those sleeping on the dance room floor.

Example of cost options:
Double room and meals: $215 per person for the weekend
RV (or tent) and meals: $165 per person for the weekend
Sleep on the dance floor and meals: $165 per person for the weekend
No overnight accommodation, just the event and meals-- $115

Play-a-longs on Fri and Sat night
Workshops, structured jams and impromptu jams on Sat and Sun.
There are many great places to play indoors as well as outdoors if the weather is good.
To register send your check payable to: Marty Carlson (The Uke Club has no bank account)

225 Mount Hermon Rd Space 176
Scotts Valley CA 95066

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I've gone to more than half a dozen meetings of the Monterey Uke Club, and I think that last night was the first time I remember us doing any blues. We did WC Handy's Saint Louis Blues. To my surprise, it inspired some nice vocal improvisations.

And found this cute video from Taj Mahal:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Awhile back I mentioned that my newly received 1950s Kamaka uke had a better sound than my Dad's old [brand name not known] uke, which he picked up somewhere in the South Pacific.

Well, it's funny what time reveals. Sizing-up by expert ukers (and luthiers), and my own continuing practice on both ukes has made me realize that I like my Dad's uke better (you can see it pictured w/my guitar in the "Joan Baez" post of Jan. 11, below). What I once thought was a "muted" sound now seems just a little mellow. Believe it or not, it's still got its original strings, which have been on it since I was a kid (a long time ago!), and I'm loathe to replace them.

The Kamaka has a clear, bell-like tone, which can occasionally sound slightly strident. But I think it also came with inferior strings that need to be changed.
Check out this great video of the Bajan Pied Piper, posted by the Humble Uker. Takes some patience, but everything he says is TRUE!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Last night I attended a ukulele workshop given by L'il Rev, and sponsored by the Monterey Bay Ukulele Club. L'il Rev is one terrific ukulele teacher, and an equally terrific performer and storyteller. He'll be giving two more workshops in Santa Cruz in February. If you get a chance to see him, do so!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Recently I found and bought a copy of the old Joan Baez Songbook, circa 1964, at Book Haven in Monterey. That brought back memories. In my early teens, I bought the book to teach myself how to play guitar. While I did learn to play guitar (great songs, easy chord tabs), there was much in the book that I could've learned, but somehow didn't--and I'm not talking about playing guitar. However, it did give me a preview of adult (and sometimes childhood) life and its travails.

The songbook came out after a long period of dormancy for women who, in the 1960s, were feeling their frustration. No perky Doris Day songs here; the Joan Baez Songbook drew from folk lyrics and laments that lay bare the grief and frustration of men, and especially women, throughout the ages.

The intro by John M. Conley reveals how difficult it was then for women to pull away from a sexualized and romanticized public focus, and to be taken seriously as an artist. In the opening paragraph, he writes, "The paramount fact about Joan Baez is beauty. She has it; she generates it; and she uses it. Lest this seem rhapsodical, be it admitted that she is a human being, with impulses, frailties, and foibles, perhaps even a little young wickedness. But the gospel is beauty." He goes on like this for the next three paragraphs, mentioning "the dusk of [her] long hair," the "deep topaze" of her eyes, her "lithe dancer's body," as well as her odd habit of wearing "purposely shapeless" dresses not unlike "gunny sacks" onstage -- before noting her musicianship.

Love rarely succeeded in these songs. If not betrayal in love, then war, death, or opposition by parents pulled lovers apart--or sometimes just plain stubborness. "I leaned my back against an oak / Thinking it was a mighty tree / But first it bent and then it broke, / So did my love prove false to me." I seem to remember that the song, "I Never Will Marry" did at one point influence me to tell a boy that I never wanted to marry (so much for youthful claims!). "I never will marry / I'll be no man's wife / I intend to live single / All the days of my life."

The "Child Ballads" were not very happy either. "Ah, my Geordie will be hanged in a golden chain" ("Geordie") points to the death by hanging of a young poacher. Young Matty Groves beds a nobleman's wife, and gets stabbed to death by the husband.

Illustrated by Eric Von Schmidt

Eric Von Schmidt's collage illustrations instructed me about the attractions and the dangers of eros; a number of images expressively rendered women nude, or half-nude, or with bosoms nearly bursting from a bodice. In all cases, these pictures accompanied songs in which violence, betrayal or loss was the theme. In "The Lily of the West," Flora is down on her knees, breasts heaving, hysterical as two men go at each other with knives.

Illustration for "Lily of the West."

In at least two songs, women were dressed as men: in "Jackaroe" to accompany her man as he goes to war (of course, he is killed), and in "Ranger's Command" by Woody Guthrie, to join in a gunfight against cattle rustlers.

The folksong laments and high drama of the Songbook were a nice respite from all the "Goin' to a Chapel and I'm Gonna Get Married" songs of the 1950s, and--her amazing voice aside--Joan Baez's presence in the 1960s was a breath of fresh air for women. A photograph of her on page 9 said it all to me. No cinched waist, no girdle, and likely no makeup. She is facing away from the camera, walking off barefoot through a field wearing one of her "gunny sack" dresses, with her guitar slung over her shoulder. It was a good moment.

Babe, I got to ramble,
You know I got to ramble,
My feet start goin' down and I got to follow,
They just start goin' down, and I got to go.

--"Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" by Anne Bredon

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?