Sison the Poet Sings His Poetry
Poetry in Songs: Jose Ma. Sison Sings His Poems
Produced by the Euro-Philippine Inter-Cultural Solidarity
While the album Poetry in Songs is
not Jose Maria Sison’s “first shot” at having an album, this is the first
album where he sings his own poems – set to music by himself together with
Levy Abad Jr., Danny Fabella, Jos Linnebak, Tony Palis, Empiel Palima,
Chickoy Pura, and Aldeem Yanez – with musical accompaniment by classical
pianist Ariel Caces and arrangement by Josefino Chino Toledo.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Jose Maria Sison –
current chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS),
founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and
award-winning poet – has said in a number of interviews that if he had not
become an activist, he would have wanted to be a balladeer.
He had a “first shot”
at that in 2004, with the release of Joma Sings: Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang
Lupa, produced by multi-media group Kodao Productions, where he
renders songs by different artists. Among the songs he performs in the
album is Andres Bonifacio’s “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Bayan,” set to music in
the 1970s by Luis Salvador Jorque into the song “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang
He now gets a “second
shot” at that wish with the release this year of Poetry in Songs: Jose
Ma. Sison Sings His Poems, produced by the Euro-Philippine
Inter-Cultural Solidarity (EPICS).
While this is not
Sison’s “first shot” at having an album, this is the first album where he
sings his own poems – set to music by himself together with Levy Abad Jr.,
Danny Fabella, Jos Linnebak, Tony Palis, Empiel Palima, Chickoy Pura, and
Those who have been
able to listen to both albums would notice a marked improvement in Sison’s
In Poetry in Songs,
Sison’s vocalization has more power and is able to express a wider range
of emotions. He is now also able to tackle more difficult notes. The voice
lessons he is reported to have taken in preparation for this album appear
to have paid off well for the man.
But there are still
aspects of the singer’s style that could use a little additional work. In
some of the more melodically-challenging songs – like the rally favorites
“In Praise of Martyrs” and “What Makes a Hero” – Sison’s vocalization
comes across as tense. A little more work in this area could surely enable
him to be more relaxed, and thus come across as more natural, without
necessarily reducing the emotional expression.
accompaniment for all the 15 songs in the album is done by classical
pianist Ariel Caces. As in the earlier albums which featured or included
Sison’s songs set to music – Songs of Love and Struggle and
Songs of Struggle and Liberation – Caces with his sophisticated piano
moves does justice to the Sison poems set to music. As a pianist, he knows
just when to hit the keys strongly and when to just almost tap them.
Poetry in Songs
includes all the Sison poems in
Songs of Love and Struggle: “The Guerrilla is Like a Poet,” “The Giant
Oak,” “What Makes a Hero,” “In Praise of Martyrs,” “Sometimes, the Heart
Yearns for Mangoes,” and “The Bladed Poem.” In addition, we are given
classical-music renditions of “The Coming of the Rain,” “A Cool Breeze,”
“The Forest is Still Enchanted,” “A Furnace,” “Gold,” “In the Dark
Depths,” “The North Star is Always There,” “Poems and Rest,” and “Rose for
a Waking Woman.”
As in Songs of
Love and Struggle and Songs of Struggle and Liberation, the
musical arrangement for Poetry in Songs is done by Josefino Chino Toledo.
Sison, who took a
degree in English Literature from the University of the Philippines (UP)
with honors in 1959, has been noted as a writer since his university days.
Considered the Philippines’ leading revolutionary, he has authored several
books, including two poetry anthologies: Brothers and Other Poems
and Prison and Beyond. He won the Southeast Asia WRITE Award in
1986 in Thailand.
Fabella, Abad, and
Palima are members of Musikangbayan, a protest folk group that has
released three albums: Rosas ng Digma, Anak ng Bayan, and
Songs for Peace. Fabella is also with Sining Bulosan, the cultural arm
of Migrante International.
Linnebak, a Dutch
composer, provided the original Dutch rendition for “Sometimes, the Heart
Yearns for Mangoes.”
Pura is the frontman
of the progressive-oriented band The Jerks, and has portrayed slain
activist leader Leandro “Lean” Alejandro in a musical play. The band is
well-loved by activists and non-activists alike for its protest rock
classics like “Rage” and “Sayaw sa Bubog” among others written and
composed by Pura.
Pacis is an English
teacher based in Laguna, who believes English should be taught to the
poor, and is also an organic agriculturist.
Yanez is a member of
the church-based activist chorale Haranang Bayan. He was national
president of the Youth of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI or
Philippine Independent Church) and vice chairperson of the National
Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).
Toledo, who teaches
at the UP College of Music, is the founding director of the Metro
Orchestra and the UP Festival Orchestra, among other music groups. Caces,
besides being an accomplished classical pianist, is also a conductor.
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© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
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