Monday ∗ 13 Apr 2009

Disparate Voices in Harmony

a version of this was published in The Philippine Daily Inquirer on 13 April 2009.

Over lunch, the foursome more famous as the AngFourgettables talks about their nickname, Charice Pempengco, Arnel Pineda, the all-OPM concert month, and everything else in between.

They haven’t disbanded, if that’s what you’re thinking. In fact they insist on two things here: one, that all they’ve done is lie low as a group which allowed their individual careers to flourish, and two, that they’d really rather be called Ang4. Please drop the “gettables” and use the number four, if only to make them sound younger.

The name AngFourgettables after all was inspired by the fame of Natalie Cole in the early 1991 when she did a remake of Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable”. Then, the group was composed of Dyords Javier, Pinky Marquez, Nanette Inventor and Mon David, and AngFourgettables was doing the rounds of TV shows and the concert circuit. Now, Isay Alvarez and Bo Cerrudo have replaced Inventor and David respectively, and no one’s complaining. Least of all Marquez who says, “Since Isay came, may nunal yan sa paa, we haven’t stopped traveling the world.” To which Javier retorts, “Disente ‘yang si Isay dati e.” And when prompted with “and now?” Javier changes gears and says, “Disente na rin kami ngayon.” Cerrudo meanwhile has become Ang4’s woman magnet, no different really from his appeal as a solo artist. And yet to him, joining the group was about “stepping out of the box”. Being part of Ang4 since 1999, Cerrudo has found an older brother in Javier, and they joke endlessly about how close they are. Javier insists that “Malapit na kaming machismis.” To which Cerrudo retorts, “Buti chismis lang, hindi magkamukha.

The laughter that Ang4’s exchanges illicit has become normal, a reminder that this is precisely what makes the group unique in the midst of many other singing groups. What they’ve always had over everybody else is their use of comedy that’s only about witty repartees and a rapport that is based on a solid friendship. And it apparently is one very fun – and funny – friendship if this lunch with a small group from the press was any indication. The way they threw lines at each other, caught each others’ loss for words, became each others’ punchlines, was just refreshing – this could only be done by people who have nothing to hide. Or maybe who watch out for each other. As they’ve said before and continue to say so now, “Para na kaming mag-asawa.

Which is hardly a stretch. In truth, Ang4 is a marriage, not just of voices that are disparate from each other but which blend seamlessly into one, and not just of distinct humors that brink on disparaging but which are all taken in good faith. They are as well, a marriage of individualities that are as diverse as they come. According to Alvarez, Marquez and Javier provide the comedy, while Cerrudo has the balladeer matrona appeal. According to the rest of ’em, Alvarez takes care of the class. And of prompting them to move on to the next song when the comedy has gone on for too long.

Most importantly though, Ang4 seems to be a marriage of minds. Individually, they are all veterans in the business of Original Pilipino Music, and it is clear that they all come from a time when not everyone could be a singer and when professionalism was key.  Asked about the present crop of performers, Javier retorts, “What can we say… not much really.” An honesty that’s due him, without a doubt. The same is true for Cerrudo and his distaste for teleprompters, as well as Marquez’s insistence that the younger ones must start singing more from the heart, and not just copy their idol’s techniques. With the mention of Charice Pempengco as prime example of this, Marquez says, “She needs feel, but she’s good.” Upon the mention of Arnel Pineda’s name, she continues, “He was chosen at the right time, at the right year, suwerte-suwerte lang ‘yan.” To which Cerrudo says, “The right hair?” and Alvarez responds, “Right hair ba? I don’t like his hair.”

It is obviously difficult to be serious here, because we don’t know when or how to be so. But when Javier says he’d have more to say about “porkchop, Norman Mitchell and Mitch Valdez” than about contemporary stars, it seemed opportune to ask about the proposed all-OPM concert month. Here Javier suddenly turns serious, “Many things miss out on the real substance and meat of the issue which is to give proper respect to the Filipino artist, and support that in every way possible.” He than throws the question to those of us around the table, “Why are the greats like Mitch Valdez not on T.V.? Why are the good musicians all abroad, why are they not given a chance? Maybe <it’s because> they want to put on TV somebody who’s young, with the high pitched voice, with good cleavage….” Alvarez sees her chance to break the seriousness, and looks at her cleavage. The table rocks with laughter, as Cerrudo says, “Seryoso rin si Dyords minsan e,” to which Isay retorts, “May sense naman yan e….” Javier snaps out of it without taking offense and says, “‘Wag kayong magalala, ngayon lang ‘to.” And for the umpteenth time we explode into laughter again.

At this point, we realize that what Ang4 has is in fact more than what exists in most marriages. There is the friendship and love of course, but there is a great amount of respect that goes around this group as well. And it is also this that allows them to sustain their commitment to stay as Ang4, solo careers notwithstanding. And with laughter becoming second nature to the foursome of Javier, Marquez, Alvarez and Cerrudo, it is clear that this commitment has become a lot of fun, too. We should all be so lucky.

Posted in: conversations, kultura, tugtugan

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