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13 October 2013

The night I saw Barbra Streisand

"Back to Brooklyn" 2012-Oct-13

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.

12 October 2013

FOCAL POINT : Mary J. Blige & Barbra Streisand, "When You Wish Upon a Star"

When You Wish Upon a Star

How I would have imagined the cover art
Image source: Paul Ancheta's Photobucket

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

TRAVEL TALES : Stuck in strike in Vijayawada

MG Road in the day

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

FOCAL POINT : Barbra Streisand, “Children Will Listen”

Children Will Listen

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

FOCAL POINT : Barbra Streisand, “As If We Never Said Goodbye”

As If We Never Said Goodbye

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

FOCAL POINT : Jimmy Webb & The CompanY, “Didn't We”

“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

FOCAL POINT : Barbra Streisand, “Speak Low”

Speak Low

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.

FOCAL POINT : Barbra Streisand, “The Music of the Night”

The Music of the Night

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

FOCAL POINT : Barbra Streisand, “Some Enchanted Evening”

Some Enchanted Evening

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

FOCAL POINT : Barbra Streisand, “Back to Broadway”

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 gets married!

Basil Alkhadra Then and Now

Basil Alkhadra, then and now

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!

Restoring "Maynila"

Maynila Poster

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

Turning 48

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!

Related Stories: Turning 41 | Turning 42 | Turning 43 | Turning 45 | Turning 46 | Turning 47

15 May 2013

Five years too many : free the Baha'is!

“Five Years Too Many”
Link reference: Media Makes Us on Vimeo.

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.

Five Years Too Many

The seven unjustly imprisoned Baha'i leaders

14 May 2013

SIGHTED SITE : R City, Mumbai

R City

R City Garden at the R City Mall, Ghatkopar West, Mumbai

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.

SIGHTED SITE : The Visaya, New Delhi

The Visaya

Facade of The Visaya

WHEN I first heard about The Visaya Hotel, I immediately thought, "Owned by Filipinos?" In the Philippines, the term Visaya refers to the archipelago's central group of islands, and to the language spoken by its residents. Digging further, I learned that the term came from the 7th-century Hindu empire called Srivijaya. In Sanskrit, "sri" means "fortunate" or "happy", and "vijaya" means "victorious" or "excellent". In the 12th century, these central (and a few southern) Philippine islands came under the Srivijaya empire, hence, the Visaya Islands. Et voilà! There's an Indian in every Filipino, after all!

Filipinos elect a new council of leaders

ON THE other side of the election front, Filipinos around the world have just voted new members of the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives. Overseas Filipinos and members of the military, police, civil service, and media are allowed to cast an absentee ballot, either by mail or through designation voting precints. As a Baha'i, I am not allowed to identify with a political party or doctrine so as not to negate the very spirit of the Baha'i Faith: to esablish true and universal peace on earth. However, I am allowed to use my right to vote, bearing in mind that I am voting on the merits of the individual rather than the party. In this manner, Baha'is are able to avoid the acrimonious conflicts of partisanship and debates. I voted this year at the Philippine Embassy in New Delhi, where I had the chance to meet the recently-designated Philippine Ambassador to India, Mr. Benito Valeriano.

13 May 2013

Baha'is elect the new Universal House of Justice

THE BAHA'I world has just completed its process to elect the new Universal House of Justice, the supreme governing council of the Baha'i Faith. Representatives of national spiritual assemblies around the world gathered at the 11th International Baha'i Convention in Haifa, Israel from 29 April to 2 May, to vote for nine new members of the House of Justice for the next five-year term. The event also marked the 50th anniversary of the election of the first House of Justice.

The electoral process follows the very unique model of electing administrative bodies in local Baha'i communities. No reference is made to individual names, thus removing all aspects of partisanship, nomination, and campaigning. Adult Baha'is vote for members of their community whom they believe are best qualified to guide their community and serve its needs. The process is marked by an atmosphere of prayer, respectfulness, and solidarity.

Last week's international election follows a five-year cycle. At the national and local levels, however, the elections are done during the festival of Ridvan, an event that commemorates Baha'u'llah’s declaration in 1863 as the Promised One of all religions.

11th International Baha'i Convention

Delegates to the Eleventh International Baha'i Convention

11 May 2013

As 2013 rolls in

No, I've not abandoned Window Views. The year 2012 immersed me in eternal urgencies and priorities, both personal and professional. Writing for this blog took the brunt and got an unfortunate back seat.

There were tons of unprecedented joys and unwanted sorrows in the past eight months. A lot of them were musical in nature. The highlight was experiencing Barbra Streisand, an artist I have been following for the past 33 years, in concert at the Big Apple. It will remain an indelible experience. The downturn was losing Narcisse Sabour, a friend I'd sung and play music with, to the Big C. These moments reminded me of the potent nature of music in shaping relationships with one another.

It's great to write again. I hope you remain with me here in Window Views. And I hope you continue loving one another. It's what has kept us afloat through all the joys and sorrows of the passing year