Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Puso at Isip ni Jess Santiago (Jess Santiago's Hearts & Minds)

Fifteen years since the release of Obando, Filipino poet and singer-songwriter Jess Santiago is now back in the recording studio putting together his third full length album of original songs.

Puso at Isip (or Hearts & Minds) – the working title of the album in the making, offers us a sampling of some of the best songs in Santiago's rich collection of unrecorded tunes written from 2001-2008.

Like his first two gems, Halina (1991) and Obando (1994), the new album promises to be yet another rich tapestry of words and images woven together by simple yet soulful melodies, a trademark of Jess Santiago's music.

Around 13 songs have been hand-picked by Santiago to be included in the collection. These songs cover a whole range of themes and topics. There are expressions of the Filipino psyche and culture (Onli in the Pilipins) and the richness of the Filipino language (Loob).

There are overtly 'political' songs like Panginoon for example, based on a poem that came out of his Usapang Kanto column in Pinoy Weekly, a stinging commentary against George W. Bush's War on Terror. The song was written eight months before the US invasion of Iraq. Santiago's activism through his music manifests further in compositions like Daloy, a song written as part of a river rehabilitation campaign and Salot, a song with a strong anti-corruption message. The 'anthemic' quality of Santiago's songwriting is perhaps most evident in the songs bayan muna, his tribute to our country's martyrs and heroes and Pagbabago, written for and originally recorded by ASIN, a contemplative song about the struggle for change in this country.

Santiago's songwriting has also drawn inspiration from works of other artists and musicians. Included in the album are Eksenang tahimik, a 3-part poem inspired by a study made by the painter Antipas Delotavo, and Hamog sa Umaga, tagalog version of "achim iseul" (morning dew), a well-loved Korean song made popular by legendary South Korean singer-songwriter Kim Min'gi.

On a personal level, two songs stand out in the collection. 18, a beautiful song about a father's recollections on his daughter’s 18th birthday; and Palatandaan, his tribute to veteran activists. These songs were originally conceived to be part of a concept album of "occasional songs" chronicling the different stages and moments in one's life.

Then there is Laging Ikaw, a masterfully crafted modern Filipino love song; and Pagsapit ng Dilim, a solemn ballad of love and longing.

As in previous efforts, the new album features Jess Santiago collaborating with friends. Ronnie Quesada, Dodjie Fernandez, Joey Ayala, Cynthia Alexander, Popong Landero and Gary Granada, Noel Cabangon and the Radioactive Sago Project all contribute their talents to the album along with very talented session musicians and singers including Simon Tan on Bass and Rene "chong" Tengasantos on percussions.

Pusot at Isip is yet another "labor of love" album by Santiago produced on a shoe-string budget. In order to augment the limited funds for this album and to produce a companion EP of Asian Peoples Music, we are soliciting the support of friends and 'friendly' organizations and network who have loved and supported Jess Santiago's music over the years.

Those who wish to support the project may write to or get in touch with Jess at 09292520120 or Joseph at 09173874531.