EXACTLY ONE year ago, I watched Barbra Streisand in concert for the first time in my life. I've been a fan since 1980, and seeing her live 32 years later was a monumental rite of passage. As I write this, I can still feel the sensation of complete, mind-blowing, breath-taking bewilderment when she walked out and performed on stage. This was for real. It was a collision at the crossroads of memories of listening to her music, watching her movies, collecting every available memorabilia in Manila, and always getting inspired by her commitment and dedication to creative excellence.
13 October 2013
12 October 2013
MARY J. BLIGE has recorded a duet with Barbra Streisand on the 1940 standard “When You Wish Upon a Star” (from “Pinocchio”). The song appears on Ms. Blige's new A Mary Christmas CD, her first holiday collection. This is also the first time the two singers performed together—an inspired choice, considering how their styles so totally differ. Ms. Blige explains to Essence Magazine that she was “definitely not trying to make hip-hop soul Christmas songs or some club music Christmas songs . . . I don't like when people take the nostalgia out of the classics.”
Ms. Streisand and Ms. Blige have certainly taken the nostalgia out of this classic Disney song. It swells with orchestral strings, and then soars with those two voices. Their harmony on the title line is a pleasant sound. Who would have known a hip-hop diva and a theatrical queen would blend so well? Listen to the track; it's bound to be a regular Christmas staple:
05 October 2013
THE MOMENT I switched on my mobile phone after landing in Vijayawada City in southern India yesterday, five missed calls registered. They were from the head office, wanting me to return to Mumbai immediately. Unbeknownst to me (and them), a three-day public strike had formed in Vijayawada on the day I landed. From what they'd heard on media, the agitation in the city streets was ferocious and therefore unsafe. The alarm bells rang too late: return flights were no longer available. I had no choice but check into the nearest hotel for overnight safety. Besides, I wasn't really keen on lugging back to Mumbai a humongous package of display materials that I needed for opening a Globus store in this city.
20 September 2013
TRACK SIX of Back to Broadway is “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods (1987) by Stephen Sondheim. This is a powerful moralistic song that explores the double-entendres of its title. It's a theme that Barbra Streisand has always favored: “Actions have consequences, even for future generations.” She sings it with an irony that recalls her 1985 recording of "Pretty Women/The Ladies Who Lunch” from The Broadway Album. Like that song, this one is a splendid performance.
06 September 2013
TRACK FIVE of Back to Broadway is “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard (1993) by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Along with another song from the musical, “With One Look”, “As If We Never Said Goodbye” is Barbra Streisand's most controversial recording to date. Furore ensued (primarily by the msuical's lead star Patti Lupone) when Mr. Webber allowed Ms. Streisand to record and release the song ahead of the show's world premiere in London. Moreover, there was criticism to the inclusion of these two songs in Back to Broadway, since the musical had not yet debuted in Broadway. For all the wrong reasons, I still think Ms. Streisand's version is the most stunning of all recordings made of this song. It's one of her vocal highlights in the 1990s.
21 August 2013
“DIDN'T WE” is a song written by American singer Jimmy Webb. First recorded by James Darren in 1967, the slow ballad has been performed by such vocalists as Frank Sinatra and Carmen McRae. It depicts a failed relationship, almost similar to the themes that Mr. Webb explored around the time that he wrote the song. (Remember “MacArthur Park” with all its strange similes and metaphors?) “Didn't We” is the least
corny sentimental of those songs, despite the morose message of regret.
09 July 2013
TRACK FOUR of Back to Broadway is "Speak Low" from One Touch of Venus (1943) by Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash. A standard recorded by several jazz singers, the song gets a similar jazzy treatment on this album. The saxophone-infused arrangement by David Foster and Johnny Mandel is evocative of the sensual Ava Gardner, who portrated the goddess Venus in the film version of the play. Barbra Streisand matches the sexiness with a vocal that is both breathy and laid-back. This could have been the album's radio hit.
TRACK THREE of Back to Broadway is “The Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera (1986) by Andrew Lloyd Webster, Charles Hart, and Richard Stilgoe. This is perhaps the most-performed song from the Broadway play, selling millions of copies in several languages worldwide. Barbra Streisand sings it with Michael Crawford, whom Ms. Streisand starred with in the film version of Hello, Dolly! (1969). It is a dramatic performance. The harmony provides for Mr. Crawford to lead the melody of the song, a nice touch since he made this famous on Broadway and on British Top 10 charts.
08 July 2013
OPENING THE album Back to Broadway is “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific. Written in 1949 by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, the song is the biggest-selling show hit from the legendary songwriting duo. Its catchy melody is in fact quite difficult to sing: there are half notes in between, and it ends with a high note that “soars” away, true to the lyrics “fly to his side” and “never let him go”. Barbra Streisand navigates the song effortlessly, and her voice is supple. Johnny Mandel brings his usual brand of elegance into the string-laden orchestration. The performance is an exquisite way to open the album.
07 July 2013
TWENTY YEARS ago, Barbra Streisand released her twenty-sixth album, Back to Broadway, a collection of songs from Broadway musicals that served as a follow-up to the universally-acclaimed The Broadway Album in 1985. On this new tome, Ms. Streisand interprets the most legendary composers: Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin, Frank Loesser, Kurt Weill, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. It quickly rose to the top of the US Billboard Top 200 Album Chart, her seventh album to become #1.
MY NEPHEW Basil Alkhadra is now a married man. He tied the knot with his girlfriend, Gabrielle Glow, at a seaside spot in California this week. He's the very first of my nephews and nieces to be married, so it's an exciting moment. There are no wedding photos posted yet, except for a couple that my sister Kathleen (his mother) sent me on WhatsApp. From what I've seen, the newlyweds were pictures of youthful joy.
Congratulations, Basil and Gabrielle! May you have a lifetime of healthy togetherness!
ONE OF the greatest films in Philippine history has been digitally restored—wonderful news for those generations who may not have seen the movie in full splendor. Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Light) by the legendary Lino Brocka (1939-1991) tells the tragic drama of Julio (played by Rafael "Bembol" Roco in his film debut), a fisherman who travels to Manila in search of his girlfriend Ligaya (Hilda Koronel). The city's cruel and alien ways disenchants him; eventually it eats him up and leaves him hopeless. Shot during the repressive martial law period of President Ferdinand Marcos' rule, the film carries hard-hitting metaphors for political corruption and decay.
16 June 2013
IN TURNING 48 today, I look forward to the new changes and chapters that will unfold for me as I near the end of my first fifty years. If there's one thing that never changes, it's the commercial celebration of Father's Day on the third Sunday of every June. This year, for the first time ever, it falls on my birthday. When I turned 47 last year, I remembered my father, Catalino Ancheta (1931-2002), and I wrote:
His greatest legacy is my family's spiritual foundation: the Bahá'í Faith. . .a gift that forever changed my understanding of how life must be lived, for oneself and for others. It's a present that remains unmatched and irreplaceable, the greatest I've ever had and will probably ever have.
My thoughts remain on my father's spiritual legacy. Today, everywhere, people are remembering the legacies of their own fathers. I cheer all the sons and daughters who've made fathers the proudest, happiest people in the world!
15 May 2013
WHILE THE rest of us are able to vote for our leaders and talk openly about its results, in the Islamic Republic of Iran are Baha'is who, along with other religious minorities, are not even able to talk because of their faith, let alone vote for their leaders. It's now been five years since seven Baha'i leaders were jailed by the Iranian government for simply being a Baha'i. Yes, it's that bad, that ridiculous, and that true, and that too in the modern age. Go figure.
14 May 2013
AT THE outskirts of central Mumbai is R City, a sprawling mall with one of the best activity hubs I've seen in India. Appropriately called the R City Garden, the hub is a moon-shaped pavillion for people of all ages and walks of life to come together, sit, chat, and take pictures. It's great to finally see a modern shopping center in Mumbai that owns a sense of community. There's no hard-selling commercialization here, just lots of benches, grassy areas, fountains, Indian music, and a carousel.
Watch a clip I took of the garden tonight on YouTube:
Lal Bahadur Shastri (LBS) Marg, Ghatkopar West, Mumbai, India