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Filipino singers: Whole world is their stage

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From small bars in Korea to lead singer for US band Journey, Filipino singers have a reputation as good musicians.



Photo above and below of Filipina lead singer Joanna Talibong during a practise session in Manila. If she and keyboard-playing friend Jason Panggoy can get their video-demo right, they stand a chance of securing a series of gigs in South Korea that would enable them to start a long journey out of crushing poverty.

Photos below of Arnel Pineda, probably the most famous of all Filipino rock stars working overseas, chosen as lead singer in the US band Journey.

Click button to listen to Filipina Lead Singers to download

Asia

Philippines' musicians sing their way out of poverty

24/06/2012
AFP News agency
Agence France-Presse

On a mock-up stage in a Philippine music studio, single-mum Joanna Talibong is singing for her life.

The former church-choir girl is nervous and struggling to stay in key as she battles through more than a dozen takes of the syrupy Olivia Newton-John ballad "Suddenly". 

If she and keyboard-playing friend Jason Panggoy can get their video-demo right, they stand a chance of securing a series of gigs in South Korea that would enable them to start a long journey out of crushing poverty.

"I did not finish college, so I don't have many job options... overseas I can earn a lot more," the carpenter's daughter tells AFP during a break from singing at the studio in a rundown quarter of Manila, the country's capital.

Roughly nine million Filipinos, or 10 percent of the population, work overseas because there are so few job opportunities in their largely impoverished homeland.

While many toil as largely anonymous maids, sailors, construction workers and labourers in foreign countries, tens of thousands also stand under spotlights entertaining crowds as singers and musicians.

From high-class hotel bars in the Middle East to Las Vegas casinos, ex-pat pubs in Asia and luxury cruise liners sailing the Caribbean, Filipinos are often found performing near-perfect cover versions of almost any genre.

Talibong is desperate to join them, or she will be forced back to a bar in a small northern Philippine city where for the past three months she and Panggoy have played to tobacco traders and travelling salesmen for $3.50 a night.

Adding to her problems is her nine-month-old son, who has a clubbed foot and lives with his grandparents while Talibong pursues her musical career.

Her manager has lined up a six-month booking for Talibong and Panggoy at bars in South Korea that would pay them each $800 a month, and she knows exactly where her first pay cheques would be be spent.

"My priority is an operation for my son's clubbed foot. That's really my goal. That's what's pushing me to work really hard," says Talibong, who is just 21 years old.

But first the duo's demo tape -- which also includes a Taylor Swift and Matchbox 20 numbers -- must pass muster with the artist review board in Seoul, a review process that takes about a month.

Their manager, Wilma Ipil, who has been sending an average of two bands to South Korea every month since 2008, concedes the duo may not get the gig, amid growing competition from other Filipino talents trying to make it overseas.

"Previously, even inexperienced musicians got hired," says Ipil, who sang in Hong Kong, Thailand and China herself before going into band management.

But now, with the wealth of talent available, promoters have become more discriminating.

Nevertheless, the demand for Filipino performers overseas is enormous, according to Jackson Gan, the head of the music studio where Talibong is recording her demo.

"Our only competition is ourselves. The whole world knows that if you have a low budget but need quality, you get Filipino talent," says Gan, who also acts as an agent for other export acts.

Gan estimates between 25,000 and 30,000 Filipino musicians and singers play in 3,000 clubs, hotels, cruise ships and restaurants around the world at any one time. The pay generally ranges from $800-1,500 a month, according to Gan.

He says even Malaysian, Indonesian, Australian, and Chinese bands tend to recruit Filipina lead singers.

Gan attributes the success of Filipino performers overseas to the deep roles music and dance have in local culture.

Singing contests are often the highlights of village fairs and beauty contests, while song and dance are a staple of the most popular national television game shows.

Karaoke is one of the country's most loved forms of entertainment, with guests at weddings and birthday parties expected to be able to belt out songs behind a microphone to entertain their hosts.

Karaoke is also a mainstay at bars, restaurants and shopping centres.

"Some of my singers were discovered at karaoke joints," says Gan, a 20-year veteran of the business, whose scouting regimen sees him serving as judge at singing contests in remote villages across the country.

Gan says Philippine musicians are also well-known for their warm audience rapport, a reflection of a general easygoing nature for which Filipinos are famous.
 
"That is a very important part of the music. It's not just plain singing," he says.

However Gan says most performers have a short shelf-life overseas, particularly the female lead singers who often have to end their foreign sojourns when they have babies or for other family reasons.

And although many can copy perfectly the world's most popular songs, few cover band members will ever get a recording contract.

But there are some inspirational success stories for those who continue to dream of making it big.

The most famous is Arnel Pineda, who for many years fronted Filipino bands in Manila bars and in Hong Kong.

His big break came in 2007 when members of US rock group Journey were looking for a new lead singer and saw clips of him singing the band's songs on YouTube.

Pineda was hired soon after an audition in the United States, and his first album fronting the band debuted in the top 10 of the American Billboard Charts. Pineda and Journey continue to perform at sold-out concerts around the world.

(Source: Bangkok Post, Asia, Philippines' musicians sing their way out of poverty, 24/06/2012, AFP News agency, Agence France-Presse, link


Work as a Musician Vocabulary
 
lead singers - lead vocalist;  the member of a band who sings the main solo vocal portions of a song. They may also play one or more instruments. Lead vocalists are sometimes referred to as the frontman or frontwoman, and as such, are usually believed to be the "leader" of the groups they perform in (See Wikipedia)

gig
- a single performance by a musician or group of musicians, especially playing modern or pop music งานชั่วคราว
securing a series of gigs

Arnel Pineda - famous Filipino singer in the US band journey (See Wikipedia)
Journey - an American rock band (See Wikipedia)

big break - a big step towards success in your career (example: the actor's first big break came when he won a role in a Hollywood film)
audition - a short performance (singing, acting, dancing) that you give to judges who are selecting someone for a performance (an actor for a part in a film, a new member of a band, etc)

album -
a CD or other collection of music with many songs on it

fronting the band - "the person within the musical group who, amongst his/her bandmates, interacts with the audience the most during the performance. The goal of the person fronting a band is to enhance for the audience (and sometimes bandmates) the live musical performance. To do this the frontperson can do a number of things that are musically related (sing, play an instrument), or things that have nothing to do with music (dance, talk with the audience, (call and response), use gimmicks)" (Source)

debuted -
started out in, began in
American Billboard Charts -
the list of the most popular songs in the US (See Wikipedia)

sold-out -
when all the tickets to an event have been sold (no more tickets available)
sold-out concerts


The most famous [Filipino singer] is Arnel Pineda, who for many years fronted Filipino bands in Manila bars and in Hong Kong.  His big break came in 2007 when members of US rock group Journey were looking for a new lead singer and saw clips of him singing the band's songs on YouTube.  Pineda was hired soon after an audition in the United States, and his first album fronting the band debuted in the top 10 of the American Billboard Charts. Pineda and Journey continue to perform at sold-out concerts around the world.

poverty - the condition of being extremely poor ความจน

Philippines' musicians sing their way out of poverty

stage - the place where actors or musicians perform (in front of and above the audience) เวที
mock-up - something made to look like the real thing (a model) and is the same size
mock-up stage - a stage made to look like a real stage (for an audition)

single-mum - a single mother, a mother of a child without a husband (without a father for the child)

singing for her life -
sounds like: "run for your life" which means run or you will die, there is something that will kill you

On a mock-up stage in a Philippine music studio, single-mum Joanna Talibong is singing for her life.

choir - a group of singers who sing together (usually in a church or a school) (See Wikipedia)

nervous -
worried about something; have a feeling that something bad will happen or failure will result
struggling - having serious difficulties มีความยุ่งยาก

in key - 1. following the rules of musical harmony, singing or playing an instrument in a pleasant way with the right pitches and sounds;  2. in harmony with, matching with, agreeing with) (See Wikipedia)
out of key - not agreeing with other things; not following the rules of musical harmony
stay in key

battles through -
works hard to do something (like fighting a battle in a war)

a take
- one part of a pre-recorded performance (music, TV show, movie) that is recorded without stopping (trying to preform perfectly)
a dozen takes

syrupy -
overly romantic or nice (seems silly) 

The former church-choir girl is nervous and struggling to stay in key as she battles through more than a dozen takes of the syrupy Olivia Newton-John ballad "Suddenly". 

demo - a piece of new music that a new singer sends to a music company hoping that they will be selected for a job or to record a CD, etc
video-demo
 

stand a chance of ... - it is possible to successfully do ...

secure
- get
series - many things happening one and then another and another .... etc

enable
- to make someone able to do something, or to make something possible ทำให้เป็นไปได้
crushing - very heavy, very large amounts of something

crushing poverty
- being poor and having a very difficult life 
a long journey out of crushing poverty

If she and keyboard-playing friend Jason Panggoy can get their video-demo right, they stand a chance of securing a series of gigs in South Korea that would enable them to start a long journey out of crushing poverty.

options - choices; the different things that someone can choose to do ทางเลือก
job options - possible work you can do to earn money
don't have many job options - not many ways for you to make money

break -
a rest; a period of rest from work 
break from singing

studio -
recording studio, a place with special rooms and equipment to record music for CDs or MP3s (See Wikipedia)
music recording - การบันทึก,สิ่งที่บันทึกไว้,จานเสียง,จานเสียง,เทปบันทึกเสียง

rundown - old and falling apart, in need of repair (example: the owner tore down the rundown house and built a new one)
quarter of a city - one part or neighborhood of a big city
rundown quarter of Manila

capital
-
the city in a country that is the center of government
the country's capital

"I did not finish college, so I don't have many job options... overseas I can earn a lot more," the carpenter's daughter tells AFP during a break from singing at the studio in a rundown quarter of Manila, the country's capital.

population - the group fo people who lives in one country, area or place กลุ่มที่อาศัยอยู่ในบริเวณหนึ่ง

opportunities - a situation where it is possible to do something that you want to do
job opportunities

impoverished
- very poor ยากจน
homeland - the country where you were born, your motherland
impoverished homeland

Roughly nine million Filipinos, or 10 percent of the population, work overseas because there are so few job opportunities in their largely impoverished homeland.

toil - work very hard
anonymous - names not given ไม่ออกนาม

construction - the work of building or making something, especially buildings, bridges, etc. การก่อสร้าง
construction workers

spotlights - bright lights shining down on a stage during a performance (so the audience can see the performers)

While many toil as largely anonymous maids, sailors, construction workers and labourers in foreign countries, tens of thousands also stand under spotlights entertaining crowds as singers and musicians.

ex-pat - a person who lives and works outside of their country in another foreign country for a long time
ex-pat pubs - bars where ex-pats meet, socialize, share stories and drink beer and other alcoholic drinks 

cruise liner -
a big ship for tourists to relax and travel around on (See Wikipedia)
luxury - the best and most expensive of something ที่หรูหรา
luxury cruise liners

performing near-perfect cover versions
- singing a song almost the same as the singer who sang the song for the first time (and made it famous)
genre - one kind of song or writing

From high-class hotel bars in the Middle East to Las Vegas casinos, ex-pat pubs in Asia and luxury cruise liners sailing the Caribbean, Filipinos are often found performing near-perfect cover versions of almost any genre.

desperate - willing to try anything to get out of a bad situation; in great need อย่างสิ้นหวัง อย่างหมดหวัง
desperate to join them

traders - people who buy and sell things
tobacco traders

travelling salesmen - a person who travels around the country selling things (is often "on the road" not at home)

clubbed foot - when a person is born with a foot that is turned inward at the ankle (See Wikipedia)

career - work (job, profession) that a person does for a long period of life (See glossary) (See Wikipedia)
musical career

Talibong is desperate to join them, or she will be forced back to a bar in a small northern Philippine city where for the past three months she and Panggoy have played to tobacco traders and travelling salesmen for $3.50 a night. Adding to her problems is her nine-month-old son, who has a clubbed foot and lives with his grandparents while Talibong pursues her musical career.

lined up - arrange some activity for a future date
booking - 1. an arrangement by a performer to play at a certain place on a certain date; 2. an arrangement to get a hotel room or table at a restaurant at future time

lined up a six-month booking
pay cheque - the money you get for doing your work that you get every month or two weeks

Her manager has lined up a six-month booking for Talibong and Panggoy at bars in South Korea that would pay them each $800 a month, and she knows exactly where her first pay cheques would be be spent.

priority
- something important that must be done first สี่งที่สำคัญเป็นลำดับแรก สิ่งที่ได้รับความสนใจมากกว่า การให้ลำดับความสำคัญ การมาก่อน

pushing
- forcing someone to do something, to achieve some goals
pushing me to work really hard

"My priority is an operation for my son's clubbed foot. That's really my goal. That's what's pushing me to work really hard," says Talibong, who is just 21 years old.

duo - two people (working together)
pass muster - is found to be acceptable; meets standards and requirements

review -
when people look closely at something to check if it meets standards or requirements
artist review board

process
- a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ
review process

But first the duo's demo tape -- which also includes a Taylor Swift and Matchbox 20 numbers -- must pass muster with the artist review board in Seoul, a review process that takes about a month.

concedes - accepts, to say or accepts that something is true (even though it is something you don't want to accept)

inexperienced - not having much experience doing something ไม่มีประสบการณ์ (มือใหม่)
inexperienced musicians

Their manager, Wilma Ipil, who has been sending an average of two bands to South Korea every month since 2008, concedes the duo may not get the gig, amid growing competition from other Filipino talents trying to make it overseas.  "Previously, even inexperienced musicians got hired," says Ipil, who sang in Hong Kong, Thailand and China herself before going into band management.

wealth - a large amount of จำนวนมาก มหาศาล
talent - the natural ability to perform some job or task well ความสามารถพิเศษ

wealth of talent -
a lot of skilled people with talents in some area (or many areas)
wealth of talent available

promoters - people who help and encourage something to happen ผู้สนับสนุน

discriminating
- not so easy to be chosen, standards have become more difficult 
have become more discriminating

demand
- the need and desire to buy goods and services by households and businesses
demand for Filipino performers overseas

enormous
- very large ที่ใหญ่โตมโหฬาร  มหาศาล มหึมา

competition
- when two or more people are trying to get the same thing (example: a singing competition to find the best singer)
our only competition is ourselves

budget
- an amount of money able to be spent on something งบประมาณ (See Wikipedia)
low budget - when only a small amount of money is available to spend on something

agent - a person who does some kind of business or activity for another person (example: a real estate agent sells real estate for people)

But now, with the wealth of talent available, promoters have become more discriminating. Nevertheless, the demand for Filipino performers overseas is enormous, according to Jackson Gan, the head of the music studio where Talibong is recording her demo. "Our only competition is ourselves. The whole world knows that if you have a low budget but need quality, you get Filipino talent," says Gan, who also acts as an agent for other export acts.

estimates - guesses of what the size, value, amount, cost, etc. of something might be การประมาณค่า

tend to - to be likely to behave in a particular way or have a particular characteristic มักจะ
recruit - to get someone to work in a company or join an organisation รับคนใหม่, จ้างคนใหม่ จัดหาเจ้าหน้าที่หรือบุคคลากร

Filipina - a woman from the Philippines
Filipina lead singers
recruit Filipina lead singers

Gan estimates between 25,000 and 30,000 Filipino musicians and singers play in 3,000 clubs, hotels, cruise ships and restaurants around the world at any one time. The pay generally ranges from $800-1,500 a month, according to Gan. He says even Malaysian, Indonesian, Australian, and Chinese bands tend to recruit Filipina lead singers.  

highlights - the most important and visible thing
staple - something basic and essential; an important product, especially a food, that people eat or use regularly อาหารหลัก, สินค้าหลัก

expected
- believe will happen คาดว่า (จะเกิดขึ้น)
hosts - the person who is giving a party

mainstay
- the most important part of something, providing support for everything else หลักสำคัญ

Gan attributes the success of Filipino performers overseas to the deep roles music and dance have in local culture. Singing contests are often the highlights of village fairs and beauty contests, while song and dance are a staple of the most popular national television game shows. Karaoke is one of the country's most loved forms of entertainment, with guests at weddings and birthday parties expected to be able to belt out songs behind a microphone to entertain their hosts. Karaoke is also a mainstay at bars, restaurants and shopping centres.

karaoke joints - karaoke bars (where the customers sing) 

veteran
- a person with a lot of experience อาวุโส
a veteran of the business

scouting -
the job of searching for people with great ability and talent for sports teams or in the entertainment industry (for singers, actors, etc)
regimen - a special program or routine to achieve some goal (treatment of a disease, scouting to find talent, etc)
scouting regimen - a work routine to search for and find good singers or actors

remote - far away, difficult to go to ไกล ที่ห่างไกลจากความเจริญ (ของเมือง)
remote villages

"Some of my singers were discovered at karaoke joints," says Gan, a 20-year veteran of the business, whose scouting regimen sees him serving as judge at singing contests in remote villages across the country.

audience - the people who watch an event happen ผู้ชม
rapport - a relationship in which people are friendly with each other and respect each other
audience rapport - being a performer who interacts with audience making them happy, getting to know them

easygoing - relaxed and not easily upset or worried อย่างเป็นกันเอง, อย่างเพื่อน
nature - the basic quality or feature of something or someone ลักษณะที่แท้จริงของสิ่งต่างๆ, ธรรมชาติของสิ่งต่างๆ
easygoing nature

Gan says Philippine musicians are also well-known for their warm audience rapport, a reflection of a general easygoing nature for which Filipinos are famous.

plain - very simple in style, without a lot of decoration เรียบง่าย
plain singing - simple singing
not just plain singing - complex singing; not simple
 
"That is a very important part of the music. It's not just plain singing," he says.

shelf-life - how long something lasts or exists, the period of time it can be used, life-span 
short shelf-life - can only be used for a short time

female - of a woman สำหรับผู้หญิง
female lead singers

sojourn - living in a place for a period of time
foreign sojourn - living in a foreign country for a period of time

However Gan says most performers have a short shelf-life overseas, particularly the female lead singers who often have to end their foreign sojourns when they have babies or for other family reasons.  

contract - a written (or oral) agreement that is legally binding สัญญา
recording contract - when a singer has an arrangement with a music company to make a CD or MP3 recording for sale

inspirational - giving you energy and enthusiasm to come up with new and creative ideas
inspirational success stories

making it big
- being successful in your job and career (example: becoming a famous singer)
dream of making it big

And although many can copy perfectly the world's most popular songs, few cover band members will ever get a recording contract. But there are some inspirational success stories for those who continue to dream of making it big.

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