If the history of a culture is told through its music, then Filipino-Americans, Florante Aguilar and Lori Abucayan are orators of their age. While at all times retaining a respect for tradition, the guitarist and singer duo have successfully reinterpreted traditional folk music from their homeland and made it accessible for a whole new global audience.
Their debut album entitled Paraiso captures Florante and Lori's fresh style and successfully illustrates their dynamic musical perspectives. Based in San Francisco, the pair have been playing and singing together since their shared love of traditional Tagalog folk songs led them to cross paths in 2003.
Citing influences as far removed as Led Zeppelin and JS Bach, guitarist/songwriter Florante is an artist who embraces diversity, but having grown up in the Philippines he has a deep respect for his musical heritage.
"The traditional music is very much a part of the Philippine social fabric. The songs paint a way of living, the natives' state of being and the depth of emotion in the history of the people."
Lori names Whitney Houston, Alicia Keys,Lauryn Hill, Aaliyah and Stevie Wonder as her influences. The appeal of this record crosses generational and national boundaries.
Although the songs are recognisable to those already familiar with the warm Filipino sound, Florante's contemporary arrangements and Lori's soulful vocals make this album universally inviting.
Encompassing a range of genres the album allows the listener to absorb all aspects of Filipino culture. Lori's soothing vocal talent is irresistible as she sings traditional kundiman love songs which evoke a nostalgic romanticism. Although beautiful, these songs are not quaint or passé, but instead feel fresh and full of life.
Paraiso is an album that also injects the traditionalism of Filipino music with a comedic postmodern twist. On a track like Bahay Kubo, the duo demonstrates their subtle underlying humor by juxtaposing the sound of a serious melancholic folk song, with lyrics that merely list vegetables: onions and tomatoes have never sounded so passionate.
Musicianship and musicality are of the highest quality on this recording and Florante's classical training at San Francisco's conservatory makes this laid-back tropical music sound effortless.
As either a great 'starter kit' of Filipino songs for non-Filipinos, or as a way for those already familiar with it to rediscover this magical music, Paraiso is a delightful album that is accessible to everyone.
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