by carl wilson

Charice is a Word I Use to Describe...

Thanks to Jon Caramanica's insightful Celine Dion concert review in The Times the other day, I learned that Celine appeared with a 16-year-old Filipino singer, Charice Pempengco, "who came to her attention through an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show," one of several Charice (as she's known back home) has done on U.S. teevee (the Ellen show, too), complete with weepy family drama. Celine's very popular with Filipino audiences, so it's a savvy hookup, typical of her global-audience-connecting strategies, but I'm sure it was also an immediate identification with a fellow unnatural-pipes-bearing teen star and singing-contest winner from a relatively unrecognized part of the world. (Along with Celine's devotion to the cult of Oprah and its in turn to her.)

I'm most struck by Charice's version of Mama, a wrenching sentimental song (what else with that title?) about migrant work - a major issue for Filipino children whose mothers go off to raise other people's children overseas. There are heartbreakers like, " 'I'll be home in three years time': / Mama it seems like forever/ You've been gone since I was 5," although the one that really gets me is, "They say you were a good teacher/ In the same school where I can't survive" - a whole novel of details compacted into two lines, never elaborated in the rest of the song.

The tune was originally by Smokey Mountain, an early-'90s group that was an unusual hybrid of protest music and boy-band pop - named for Manila's infamous Smoky Mountain waste-landfill-cum-shantytown, and costumed to fit the part. Knowing nothing at all about Filipino music (except what Tom Waits has tried to tell me), I'm not sure how common that sort of blend is there, but it's certainly not one I've stumbled across elsewhere ... kind of Up With People with a twist of Down With Global Capital.


General | Posted by zoilus on Friday, September 19 at 1:46 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (2)



I love this song.

Posted by Elle on September 20, 2008 12:23 PM



I loved this song also.

Posted by Elle on September 20, 2008 12:22 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson