A SAMBA SONG is Bong Penera’s debut album. A Samba Song – as bright as the sunny weather of Manila, is one of the earliest compositions of Bong Penera with the Batucadas. This tune is further given an infectious flow with Brazilian guest Singer Maria Dulce Soares Da Silva singing it in her native language. Copyright is 1974 and produced by Penny Rose Production, the back cover has a short story about the album written by Ding Quejada.
When in 1968, Bong Penera organized a jazz ensemble called the "Shades of Latin" there were certain forces which collaborated to dismiss jazz as a popular idiom as no more than an afterthought of the Existential Satre confined to a numbered few. There was no market for jazz or particularly for the Brazilian bag. And yet in was during these times that Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 took the South American fever with them to Intercon and Astrud Gilberto to Sheraton and Gary Burton to workshops. Sadly though, one had to be moneyed to see them, understandably, an elitist sect was the only target and type of audience that could patronize jazz. The "Shades of Latin" played at Carbungco’s in Quezon City and in private parties whose people knew Jobim, Badin Powell, Mendes & Walter Wanderley. Eventually, as commercial music surged higher in the charts and the vitality of bossa nova or jazz was getting down under such groups as the "Shades…." had to stop and give way to the trends. The parties soon disappeared including the Carbanco stint, soon it seemed to have been announced that jazz has gone and that the "Shades…" have vanished to obscurity.
But despite the obstacles and brave enough to cross the currents of commercialization, Penera organized the BATUCADA in 1973 and rapidly made it to the top, a rise which he himself did not expect and which music critics describe as "Phenomenal." Perhaps the audience has matured or the trends have changed but whichever reason, concert after concert, performance after performance, the Batucada drew raves and ovations. Bong first involved his Batucada into the jazz revival movement at the Extension with his good friends Lito Molina & Co. and what happened afterwards is history. Offers for nightclub dates, travel abroad and recordings, television performances, movies scores and concerts soon came, Today, Bong Penera & the Batucada is practically the only jazz group that actually made it while using the Brazilian idiom. But why Brazilian? One may ask. Or what accounts for the wide appeal of the Batucada? What brings the jazz buffs to pack at Pension Filipina, Bacchus Pub and Batik Inn?
Firstly, the Batucada is probably the only jazz group that could remain a trio and still retain the sound of a full band. It’s a tease in a way and its diminutive size has baffled many. It plays music that is versatile, universal and certainly rhythmic. Of all the elements that make up the art we know as music, the most fundamental is rhythm. The pulse, the beat—this is the foundation of it all, natural and inevitable, growing out of life itself. The cycle of night and day, the turning seasons of the years, the beat of one’s heart, the steady pace of one’s footsteps, these things are always with us, we are surrounded by rhythm. Thus explains Bong as he points out the particular adherence to the Brazillian idiom and as to why he chose the name "Batucada" which means, "beat." Their music is just it –pulsating, never giving too much or forcing too much, sometimes aggressive, sometimes funky, or soulful and seasoned with sophistication and a case definitely beyond their years. There are depth but not the kind that is confined to the intellectual alone, and there is the dynamic creativity evident in their performances: not one piece is repeated exactly the same as it was first played. There is always something new to look forward to. This is obviously the reason why Bong’s concerts have always been full packed: the Thomas Jefferson Cultural Center had to drive away people for lack of room. The UP Los Banos Concert had to go on for three hours instead of the original one and half, or why the Phil-am life concert had to have a repeat.
The Brazillian syndrome with which Bong Pinera & the Batucada grew and permeated the local jazz scene is an act definitely arduous to follow. Their music rose out of pure talent and creativity devoid of any limitation so characteristic of our local jazz bands. Pong Penera is unique by and in himself. He is certainly an accomplished musician and one of the most gifted. He is of course many things too, being a poet, playwright, essayist, professor, painter all rolled into one. He plays guitar quite well and is gifted with an intimate, sensitive and poetic singing voice. His band aptly called the "Batucada" is also unique, Sonny Nabong plays bass, Nick Boogie is on percussion and Ding Poblete is on drums. And all these guys swing and sway with the Brazillian spirit you think that were imported from Rio. As you can see in this album. The girl who sings the Portuguese lyrics of the title tune is a Brazilian who goes by the name of Maria Dulce Soares de Silva, while Norina Ramirez does the English version. The fine supporting flute lines belong to Pete Canson.
This is Bong Penera’s first album (probably the first local jazz album) and he‘s naughty enough to pave packed only 10 songs. The feeling it leaves the listener is that of being "biten" and its goddamn great for a maiden LP.
1) A Samba Song
2) A Tear For Sunrise
5) Rosita Maria
6) Beat Contemplation
7) Afraid To Be Known
8) And I Will Sing
9) Samba Madrugada
10) A Samba Song No. 2