SAMBA FOR MARIA LUCILLA is my tribute to my late sister, Marilou (Maria Lucilla) Peñera-Miranda who passed away last August 29, 2009. This is one of two songs I wrote for her during her most difficult time until she finally succumbed to cancer. The other song WHO ARE YOU-MARILOU will be posted soon.
LINER NOTES to
SAMBA THROUGH LIFE: THE BEST OF BONG PEÑERA
(c)2004, Penny Rose Records
If the test of truly good music is that it defies time or rather transcends it, then this collection, SAMBA THROUGH LIFE: THE BEST OF BONG PEÑERA is a testament to that adage. Of the 22 tracks in this CD, 10 are from his original A SAMBA SONG album that debuted in 1976, an album that made a dent in Philippine music history and that has since then been unforgotten, often revered and sometimes kept religiously by those who still do have copies of this work. The remaining tracks come from his second album of original songs, BATUCADA SA CALESA, originally released under the CBS/Sony label, and still some tracks come from SAMBA CHICAGO, his 1989 US jazz album. Two come from a never before released album entitled DIVERSIONS.
Bong Peñera's music is indeed like wine, and of finest vintage quality. And this is why people search for his music, for every recording he had ever made. He writes his own songs, sings and plays his own songs and when he does, a certain kind of magic resonates again and again. Three years ago I made a search through the net and when I typed in Bong's name and I came across a message from as far back as Japan saying, Will pay any price for Bong Peñera album. Not too long ago his album, A SAMBA SONG was sold at two internet auctions for over $350 each. I made another search and I found a very interesting wish list from a famous former beauty queen now based in Europe. She was asked that if she could invite twenty people, dead or living to an only party she could ever have, who would they be? Bong Peñera's name came along with Tom Cruise, Gandhi, JFK, Liz Taylor, etc. Somehow, Bong has cast some kind of magical spell, and one that lasts a long, long time, over his listeners. As of this writing a film, spearheaded by Jojo M. Gonzales and through a grant from the Philippines NCCA, is being made on his music and contribution to Philippine music. Magic? Indeed. Randy Ray who wrote the liner notes for Bong's 3rd album pointed this out. There is magic when he plays, there is magic when he performs. There is magic in his music, his soul, his being. And because of this, Bong's journey on wings of samba songs has been one for the books.
Take, for instance, his first album, A SAMBA SONG. In 1976, Joe Mari Gonzalez's Cinema Studio in San Juan housed only 2 studios. One was an eight-track recording and the other, sixteen tracks. The 32-track was under construction and about a few months away. For penniless, struggling musicians like Bong and his friend and business partner, Chito Silva, the eight-track was the way to go. But it had to be carefully and painstakingly orchestrated and conducted in such a way that the recording would be classy and yet done in the least amount of time without sacrificing quality or content.
Bong began to work feverishly with the limited amount of funds and personnel. There were eight sessions, one session per song and eight tracks per session. When each of the sessions began, track 1 included the guitar, bass and drums. There was Bong with his acoustic Raón-bought guitar, Ding Poblete on drums and Sonny Nabong on bass. The next session had two tracks for over dubs. Track 2 had Bong playing the Yamaha upright acoustic piano solos and fills and track 3 had him playing the Fender Rhodes 88 electric piano. Track 4 had the percussion overdubs. Nick Boogie took good care of this track session. Track 5 had all of Bongs vocals on all songs or on those that needed vocals. Track 6 had the flute overdubs performed by Pete Canson. Track 7 had the female vocalists: Maria Dulce Soares da Silva for the Brazilian Portuguese version of the title track (which she translated from the Tagalog and English) and Quito Colayco of the group Cinderella who sang the English version.
One track remained and for this Nick Boogie again filled in for maracas and other percussion instruments. Chito and Bong did great production work at such low cost efforts. After the Cinema Studio recording Bong and Chito moved the project to Sampaguita Studios. Here only one song was meant to be recorded: Rosita Maria which had only Bong singing the song in Tagalog and playing the acoustic guitar and piano. But while there, the happiest of all accidents happened. "Why not close the album ala Gilberto, Getz and Jobim, when Joao Gilberto sang the Portuguese of Girl From Ipanema and wife Astrud sang the English?" Bong thought.
And so, almost at random, Bong grabbed a yellow pad and pen and wrote the Tagalog lyrics for that song and recorded the Tagalog and English combination of A Samba Song which featured Norma Ramirez singing the English vocals with her Lani Hall-esque style and with Bong singing the Tagalog part. Of course the result is history. Bong's singing it in Tagalog and Norma's rendition of it in English became the national anthem. But credit must be given to the recording engineers, Jun Orenza of Cinema Audio for the January 20 & 26 sessions; and to Jess Payumo from Sampaguita Studios for the March 3 & 10 sessions, both done in 1976. Both worked with commendable perfectionist artistic mentality and succeeded in doing so.
Twenty seven years have now passed since that recording. It's incredibly hard to believe that especially when you now listen to this recording again with very little enhancement made whatsoever. The recording quality is still just as fresh, pristine and sophisticated as when it first burst into the limelight of Manila society and changed the face of Philippine music forever. There's not much use really in repeating what had already been well said in the original liner notes of that recording. No one could have written better words or more accurate and truthful testimonies than Ding Quejada and Dado Roa. Their well written notes published as liner notes for the LP are reproduced in this collection.
A SAMBA SONG was a project that started as a family affair, quiet,and with utterly no intentions of making it. The occasion was to pay posthumous tribute to Bong's late mother, Penny Rose, formally known as Rosita Sotto Peñera who passed on June 19, 1975, just after Bong's May 23, 1975 highly successful and standing-room-only concert at the Thomas Jefferson Cultural Center. Linda Peñera, Bong's sister who had just graduated in Fine Arts from the Holy Spirit College did the cover design for the LP as well as the Penny Rose label logo. Bong's sister, Marilou (Mrs. Victor G. Miranda), spearheaded all the business and public relations stratagems, the printing, the private distribution, etc. It was going to be one of those parties where mementos or souvenirs are given away and thus the production of 100 records that Bong would sign and give away. But it was Bong who did the liaison. He arranged with Telly Albert Zulueta, owner and manager of Pension Filipina to have the record launching there. Telly knew the late Penny Rose. And Bong and his band had been performing in Pension Filipina.
The record launching was well attended. The revelers were mostly friends and relatives and a few of the radio big wigs that Bong had already befriended because of his night club performances with his band. There were Brother Wayne Enaje, Ron de Assis, Bob Magoo and Little Rock (Sonny Pecson) from DZRJ, and a slew of other radio and TV hosts. There weren't any goals beyond this. But the radio people who grabbed the record played it often enough to get the interest of the local record producers such as Vicor and Octo-Arts, International. But the unexpected thing was the record really was played because of listener request and feedback. There were no payolas involved. There were no business agents or managers intervening. Listeners called and asked for song after song to be played. And the DJs played them because they like the record anyway.
As this base of listeners grew by leaps and bounds, Bong had become a star accidentally. Pressured later by public demand for the recording, Bong, at first, did the rounds of book stores and little venues to sell the remaining of the 100 records he had pressed by himself, with the help of his own family, his father, his brother and sisters, his colleagues at Saint Joseph's College where he taught, notably Chito Samson and Ding Quejada. Later, as his fame grew to national proportions, he yielded to Vicor's persistent overtures and sold the distribution rights to them. Bong's star status grew even more and did so as if he had a team of managers, a team of publicists, a team of writers, a team of this or that when all he had was his music but all under Gods watchful eye.
And now, lucky for us, all that magic is in this collection. This is SAMBA THROUGH LIFE: The Best of Bong Peñera CD #1. Tracks 1-10 are from the original release of A SAMBA SONG. Personnel are: Bong Peñera-piano, electric piano, guitar and vocals; Sonny Nabong-bass, Ding Poblete Drums, Pete Canson-flute and Nick Boogie, percussion. Maria Dulce Soares da Silva sings the Portuguese lyrics she translated from the original on track 1. Track 15, Love Notes and Track 16, Samba Chicago, are from the SAMBA CHICAGO project recorded in Chicago in 1989 and co-produced with friend Lorenzo Katigbak, Jr. Two songs from this album, Longing and A Samba Song are revisited and rehashed and are now in the The Best of Bong Peñera # 2 which is the second installment of this 3-CD collection. Track 10, A Samba Song now and by far is the most recorded and performed of all of Bongs compositions. Eddie Katindig, Lara de Leon, and Tadao Hayashi, to name a few, did their own takes of it. The original, Quito Colayco version, is now in CD no. 3 of this collection.
Tracks 11, 14, 17, 18, 20 & 22 are songs included in the CBS/SONY release of Bong Peñera's 2nd LP called BATUCADA SA CALESA, however they are not the same recordings. The tracks in this current CD are mastered differently even in their original state; the keys and pitches are different and so are the tempos. For instance, Samba for Luisa, in the current CD is in the correct key of D major, the precise key Bong composed it in the first place. There's more acoustic piano and softer guitar in this mastering. Amanda is also in the original lower key. Calesa is slower and in the correct key of F with more percussion and more detail with percussion as well. Here the personnel are: Bong Peñera-piano and electric piano and vocals, Papa Jun Enriquez-guitars, Sonny Nabong-bass, Cesar Yumping-drums and percussion and Mila Garcia-English vocals.
Tracks 12 & 19 are from the never released album called DIVERSIONS. What a refreshing and welcome diversion indeed. Poem Blue was instrumental in his third album, and Two-Themed Samba was again instrumental in his second, Calesaalbum. Here Bong sings his own lyrics to these songs while he accompanies himself with the guitar and his piano as overdubbed. Tracks 13, 15 and 16 are from the Samba Chicago project. In Track 16, Samba Chicago, add Diane Espejo-Velasco, for English vocals. The collection ends with the ever perky and joyful Batucada Sa Calesa.
The title of this CD says it all: Samba through Life. It is like saying, live through life. Bong Peñera may never make the Grammys or the Oscars or the Platinums or the Hits in America. He did win the Aliw Award in 1985, the Philippine equivalent of the Grammy. But take a whiff of this collection and youll see Bong Peñera's music is one rose no one would want to miss when he does wake up and stop and try to smell the roses in this life.
It is hard to believe that twenty seven years have elapsed since that eventful moment of Philippine music history. Music does break age barriers. For instance, the Broadway hit/movie, West Side Story grows younger according to an ad promoting its reissue. I reflected and realized this is true not only for Bernstein or Sondheim but for the truly beautiful music such as Bong's. And still no breaks? - One might ask. But the break itself is that his music still sounds young and refreshing. The answer too should lie in Bong himself, whose boyish and youthful appearance still belie the depth and wealth of talent and genius. The music had not lost its beauty and youth and survived time itself, and this only Bong, the artist who created the music, knows the secret.
SAMBA THROUGH LIFE: THE BEST OF BONG PEÑERA
Vol 1. of the Samba Through Life Collection
CD Cover design and layout by Jerzy Misczczyczyn
Remastered and edited by Bong Peñera; produced by R Peñera for Penny Rose Productions, USA. Original album, A Samba Song produced by Bong Peñera and Chito Silva for Penny Rose Records.
1. A Samba Song (Portuguese Version) Music by Bong Peñera, Portuguese lyrics written and sung by Maria Dulce Soares da Silva.
2. A Tear for Sunrise
5. Rosita Maria
6. Beat Contemplation
7. Afraid to be Known
8. And I Will Sing
9. Samba Madrugada (Dawn Samba)
10. A Samba Song (Tagalog and English version) with Norma Ramirez, English vocals
11. Amandas Theme*
12. Poem Blue (from album, Diversions. Bong Peñera, acoustic guitar, piano and vocals. Words and music by Bong Peñera. Recording engineer - Chito Morales, recorded at Greenhills Recording Studio, Manila, Philippines on May 5, 1980.
13. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter** (Lyrics by Jorge Rodriguez-Florido from his book Visiones de Ventana)
14. Samba for Luisa* (featuring Mila Garcia on English vocals)
15. Love Notes**
16. Samba Chicago** (featuring Diane Espejo-Velasco on vocals)
17. Tell Me (Sabihin Mo)* (featuring Mila Garcia on English vocals)
18. Valse Nova (or Daddys Waltz)*
19. Two-Themed Samba (Same track and personnel info as track 12)
20. Come To Me (Previously unreleased)
22. Batucada Sa Calesa*
*Original compositions that appear in Batucada Sa Calesa originally released by CBS/Sony, Manila & Japan, 1977, although not the same recordings and with different mastering. Personnel: Bong Peñera-keyboards & vocals, composer, lyricist and arranger of all songs; Sonny Nabong-bass, Cesar Yumping-drums and percussion; Papa Jun Enriguez-guitars
**From album Samba Chicago produced by Bong Peñera & Jun Katigbak for Penny Rose Records, Chicago, recorded at Studio Media, Evanston, Illinois, in December of 1988 and January of 1989, recording engineer-Scott Steinman. All words (except where noted) and music by Bong Peñera. Personnel: Bong Peñera-piano, guitar and vocals, Peter Molina-bass, Joe Trekles-drums.
All words & music by Bong Peñera Copyright © 1976, 1987 and 2003