Richard Poon revives big band standards in local music

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"Kung sama-sama talaga lahat na mag-play ng ganung music, I think, people will catch up with it later on," says Richard Poon about reviving the standards and introducing the music to the younger generation.


Dati'y walang pakialam si Richard Poon sa big band music, o ang tinatawag na mga awiting standards. Ngunit ngayon, ang celebrity singer at ang big band ay magkasingkahulugan.

Ang big band ay isang uri musical ensemble na karaniwang nauugnay sa jazz, isang uri ng musika na naging tanyag noong Swing Era-1930s hanggang 1940s.

Binubuo ng isang big band ang 12 hanggang 25 miyembro. Ilan sa mga instrumentong gamit dito ay ang saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, at gitara.

Sa press conference na ginanap kamakailan para sa katatapos lamang niyang concert, ang The Crooner: A Concert with a 25-Piece Orchestra, inamin ng binatang mang-aawit na isa siya noon sa mga bagong henerasyon na hindi tumatangkilik sa makalumang musika, isang dahilan kung bakit unti-unti na itong nawawala.

"Ako mismo, I'm guilty of that. I don't listen to standards. In fact, I told Erik [Raymundo, his talent manager] before, 'Ayaw ko ng standards kasi pang-daddy ko 'yan," sabi ni Richard.

Gayunman, dahil na rin sa payo ng kanyang manager na ipagpatuloy ang pagkanta ng mga standards, natutunan na rin ng Kapamilya singer na mahalin ito.

Paglalahad pa niya, "I erased everything on my iPod except standards. Habang nag-aaral ako, I found myself in love with the melody. Sabi ko, ang ganda-ganda ng melodies, very technical pero hindi nakakasawa.

"I find that today's music is very melodic pero melodic na in a way simple melody lang, nasa isang chord lang. Then, after a while, after two months ayaw mo nang pakinggan kasi parang nakakasawa, nakakasuya.

"These old melodies are harder in melodies pero kapag pinakinggan mo 20 years after, parang buhay pa siya, parang hindi naluluma."

FOLLOWING HIS DREAM. Hindi ikinakaila ng 29-year-old singer na noong umpisa hirap siyang ipatanggap sa publiko ang kanyang musika.

Naalala pa niya noong nag-uumpisa pa lang siya, "It is very challenging at first kasi I'm also criticized even by my close friends. You know, I might not make it because, 'Your songs are just not played on TV and radio.'"

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Dagdag pa rito ang pag-aalinlangan ng mga magulang niya nang mag-umpisa siya sa kanyang bagong career sa musika. Si Richard ay anak ng may-ari ng isang restaurant chain, kung saan naging cook ang celebrity ng mga anim na taon.

"You know, I told papa na I have to go my way, try out music. Siyempre sila, protective, 'Chard, baka hindi stable ang pera sa music. They were afraid. Medyo may konting friction."

Dahil na rin sa paghihikayat ng kanyang manager, ipinagpatuloy ni Richard ang kanyang nasimulan bilang solo music artist. Sabi pa ni Richard, isa ang kanyang manager na nagmungkahi na haluan ng pop music ang mga lumang kantang karaniwan niyang ginagawa para mas matanggap ng publiko.

Kuwento ni Richard, "Nag-usap kami ni Erik. I really wanna give credit to my manager, he's really been the force behind who I am. He talked to me and said, 'You know, Richard, don't get depressed or taken aback by people criticizing you.' Sabi niya, 'Kung standards lang, if you're gonna go hundred percent pure old songs, baka talagang hindi ka kainin ng masa or ng wider market.'

"He was also reminding me, 'Richard, you're a half-fusion of popular music and standards. So, don't measure yourself up to... Kasi, sobrang idol ko sina Richard Merk and Arthur Manutag-these are people who are like my idols in the industry. One hundred percent pure standards 'yan, e.

"So, if I compare myself to them, honestly, I don't measure up. I really don't. so, ang ginawa ko, I just create my own category, which is pop standards, a fusion, and what [Michael] Bublé was doing. He's doing old songs pero mayroon nang halong pop music."

(Si Michael Bublé ay isang Canadian na kilala rin sa pagkanta ng big band music.)

At dito na nga nagsimulang pasukin ni Richard ang puso ng publiko. Unti-unti ay nagkakaroon na siya ng mga tagahanga. Hindi nagtagal, umabot sa Platinum sales ang kanyang debut album na I'll Take Care of You (2007) at Gold naman ang kanyang ikalawang album na For You (2009).

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Itinanghal din siya bilang Best Concert Performer sa nakaraang Aliw Awards.

Ang mga recognition na ito ay naging daan para makumbinsi ni Richard ang magulang, lalo na ang ama, na tama ang desisyon niyang ituloy ang kanyang music career.

"Every time I win an award, I go back to the house of my dad and give him the award. So, parang doon niya nakita na parang, 'You know, anak, I'm proud of you. I was afraid na baka mahirapan ka, but you made it.' He's very, very proud of me."

PROMOTING THE STANDARDS. Isa pang dahilan kung bakit napili ng dating miyembro ng bandang U-Turn ang pagkanta ng mga standards ay upang maibalik muli ito sa industriya.

Mas naengganyo siya nang lumapit sa kanya ang musical director na si Mel Villena na tumugtog, kasama iba pang big band musicians, sa kanyang ikalawang major concert nitong Nobyembre.

Ayon kay Richard, "I'm in awe of Mel Villena and the 17 people behind him that are playing this music for free. When I asked them why, they said, 'Kasi, Chard, kaya nga hindi alam ng mga bata ito. Ayaw naming mamatay itong music so, we're gonna play for free.' Ako, when I heard that, parang... For a person of his caliber to play for free for the advocacy of standards not to die, for me, wow, that's beautiful and worth respecting."

Naniniwala rin si Richard na, "Kung sama-sama talaga lahat na mag-play ng ganung music, I think, people will catch up with it later on. So, I'm happy to be part of what Mel is doing, binabalik nila 'yong big band and standards."

Pero kung sakali, handa ba si Richard na baguhin ang kanyang istilo para mas maabot niya ang masa?

Hindi man direktang sinagot ni Richard itong tanong ng PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal), mahihinuha naman sa kanyang sagot na hindi pa siya bukas sa ganitong ideya.

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Gayunman, nabanggit naman niya na may ilang performances siya, lalo na sa weekly variety show na ASAP, na para naman sa masa.

"If you really watch ASAP, that's really what I'm doing. I'm not singing pure standards. They're all OPM na ginawang big band. That's what ASAP is doing for me. When you see me sa Eastwood or my shows, big band talaga. Pero kapag sa ASAP, mga pop songs talaga na ginawang big band.

"I really thank ASAP for doing what they say na, 'You're gonna sing something new, we're gonna arrange it.' Everything is bago, e. Nakaka-pressure din pero masaya. I think, it [takes] me half through that C and D market, nakakapasok ako sa masa."

Mainam din daw ang paghahalo niya ng mga popular na kanta sa mga lumang musika dahil mas madali itong maipakilala sa mas nakababatang henerasyon.

"I really wanna reach the younger people," sabi ni Richard. "Initially, medyo risky but later on, in [a show] in Eastwood, I find little kids listening to our Beyoncé, big band arranged my songs. So, later we realized that we made a mistake, pero eventually adjusting. Nakita namin ni Erik na, 'Uy, it's working.' Younger people are coming when I'm singing Lady Gaga with the big band. So 'yon, I just positioned myself na pop and standards. And we got a very big C and D following later on so, okay naman."

Dagdag pa niya, "Like in my third album, same pa rin, iniba ko lang 'yong arrangement so, medyo bata na ang arrangement. But it's still the old-school feel, the notes are still old school. Para lang ipakita sa mga bata na, 'Okay, you like Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, but there are songs that you've never heard, that are more timeless than what you hear now.'"

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Richard Poon launched his album I'll Be Seeing You last Friday, November 26, at SM City North Edsa The Block.

He will promote the album in different malls starting this month until January next year. (CLICK HERE to read related article)


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