Self-taught musician writes about his self-taught band

SUNDRY STROKES - The Philippine Star

For those who have been reading the essays of my regular contributor Joseph R. Atilano, an authority on popular music, he is now a blogger for inquirer.net. The name of his blog is “MusicalMatters” which is in the Entertainment section of the website of the PDI.

An essay of Atilano appearing in this column has led lawyer-self-taught musician Ferdinand E. Laguna of Sorsogon to write me a letter starting with “When I read Atilano’s Lessons Learned in Music, (Aug. 18), I felt that I must follow what he said: Music must be shared.”

Here are portions of Laguna’s letter.

I have no formal training in music, I play only basic guitar, but I can write verses and compose melodies. My older brother, a Regional Director at NCR of a government bureau, founded a band consisting of out-of-school youth. One day, he chanced upon three youngsters making music with empty plastic drums. He must have felt these guys deserve a band. So he bought them instruments and the band grew. When he was assigned to Manila, I offered my compound to the band.

I don’t join the band whose members, like me and my brother, have no formal training in music. But they can play music and more importantly, make people happy. They are a “variety” band, playing ballroom music, performing at weddings and even at necrological services, e.g., singing a tribute to the late Rep. Sonny Escudero, father of Sen. Chiz.

Three of the pioneer members are still with the band. The virtual band leader, a mechanic by day, has learned to play the guitar, the drums and key board aside from being the vocalist who has learned to sing Spanish songs. The third member, who plays bass, is a 4th year college student.

I give the band members lyrics to which they provide the melody. Or ask them to arrange songs for the melodies which I myself compose. I have written the lyrics of all the original songs, and between me and the “melody” writers, we have written no less than 25 songs in English, Pilipino and Bicol in as many genres as possible: from ballad to jazz, reggae, kundiman, disco, rap and rock.

The latest song I wrote, which the band arranged for keyboard, violin, acoustic guitars and flute, was for Rep. Escudero entitled “The Greater Father in the World”. It was recorded and published, minus the flute part, on YOU TUBE as a tribute to Sec. Jesse Robredo.

A band member, a teacher in a local college who has taught himself to read notes, prepares the scores for our original material, including three of my latest songs: the aforementioned, “A Song for the Greatest Mother in the World” and “Kiss Me Goodnight”. I wrote “A Song” for my wife, Mother Mary, my mother, all mothers and everyone’s mother. As we know, a loving mother never leaves her child. My own mother, 84, can still sing. I wrote “Kiss Me Goodnight” for my wife.

I have emphasized to the band that before we write about anything else, we should first write about our own place and people under the tenet pride of place. Thus we have songs like “Love in Sorsogon City”, a ballad that rhapsodizes about two of the most beautiful sights in the city: moonrise and sunset. “The Music Man of Montupar” is a jazzy tribute to a departed saxophone player from a town then named Montupar. He taught his children music which became their passport to better lives.

Many other tributes have been written.

We are a strictly private group, even if we have been trying to highlight our own place and people. Our endeavor has been a private sector initiative.

We have also written about peace (The Emperor is Naked, Rock), charity and heroism (Hail, Rock) which I wrote for Tomas Leonor of UP, immortality of music (This Song Will Live Forever, Blues), true friendship (Friends Never Die) and true love (My Love, violin Ballad).

I have tentatively named the smaller, five-man group “In Cor Audi Sonos Sorsogon” roughly, the heart listens, sounds from Sorsogon. The full band, which has a core of nine members, and which can sometimes expand to 15 or 20, is named BandAniGogo, or the band of “Gogo”, the nickname of my brother F/General Santiago E. Laguna, regional Director of the Bureau of Fire Protection and member of the PNP Academy. He has taught himself to sing and play multiple instruments. He founded the band in 2007.

The band performed at the Kasanggayahan Festival last Oct. 9. I was invited initially to provide “entertainment” and I asked the organizers to let the band play an original program of songs for Sorsogon and he Sorsoganon.










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