BY MATRAYI JONEJA
Charmaine Clamor walks onto the stage with the kind of glamour and elegance exuded only by the big stars. She walks with simplicity and ease as if she had long been waiting for this moment to come, and now that the time has come, she will perform the part perfectly, as planned. She has realized her dream. She knows she has come a long way. Yes, she knows simplicity. She is the perfect picture of an immigrant who has emerged a winner after years of hard work and labor. Undoubtedly, she is talented and her talent has helped her through these years of struggle.
Tonight she is setting the stage on fire with her performance. Charmaine Clamor has a plan.
She takes the moment away from us and etches it forever in our memory with her warm, full-mouth smile and glittering eyes. Tonight she plans to take us away to a dreamland with her beautiful, enchanting voice.
Known in jazz circles for her “sultry alto voice,” she is celebrating the launch of her debut solo CD, “Searching for the Soul” on Free-ham records.
This is the night of Charmaine Clamor’s first performance at the Triple Door in Seattle. In the dead of the night, a girl coming from the small town of Subic-Zambales in the Philippines takes on the stage. Dressed for the occasion in a shimmery sky-blue gown, glossy heels and with a lean and tall silhoutte, she is very much the star they predicted she would be.
Her voice hits you with a sharpness and brashness that doesn’t match her fragile and soft persona. Her high alto voice reverberates in your ears as her renditions of love songs leave you tender and consumed. You can feel her charming you into her world of beautiful Filipino music, which she clarifies later on, is called Gundiman.
Her heart, it seems, is still in Philippines. Charmaine talks fondly about her life in Subic-Zambales, which is “four hours bus ride” from the capital city of Manila and has a population of not more than 70,000 people.
Her love for music began at the ripe young age of three, when she would ride on the bus with her mother and entertain the passengers with her songs and performance. The Clamor household was always filled with sounds of music. Coming from a musically talented family, she began appreciating jazz and Gundiman music from a very early age. She cultivated her talent by further studying classical piano.
She also loves listening to Aretha Franklin – the queen of soul music, Marvin Gaye, India arie; contemporary artists like Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson and old timers like Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Horn and Betty Carter.
Charmaine herself is gifted with a voice that on command turns from sweet and seductive to strong and gutsy. She is one of the few Filipinos who have managed to break into the world of jazz music. She recently launched “Searching for the Soul” which has peaked at the number one position on the CMJ jazz charts in several markets. She is also the alto voice of the jazz harmony ensemble Crescendo, based in Los Angeles.
But Charmaine insists that her true story is that of struggle, determination and hard work.
She immigrated to the United States with her parents. While studying in graduate school, she continued to hone her singing abilities and taking lessons. She received a master’s degree in physical therapy in 1998. And currently, she is a licensed physical therapist. Passionately pursuing her love for singing, she began edging her way inside the jazz ghetto, singing with the five-member Crescendo.
Charmaine continues to work her way through the various aspects of singing – handling her business, practicing every day and taking vocal lessons, marketing herself better, building more connections in the world of business and taking time out to experiment with various music styles. She finds inspiration in the fact that all the hard work doesn’t go to waste ultimately and is worth the return.
Charmaine remains as grounded as ever, appreciating the sacrifice and struggle her parents went through to help her chase her dream.
She has performed at the House of Blues, The Hop, Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Los Angeles Convention Center, Glendale Civic Auditorium and Cerritos Performing Arts Center, among others. She has worked with numerous well-known mainstream artists, including Jeffery Osborne and James Ingram, and legendary Filipino artists including Gary Valenciano, Banig and Timmy Cruz.
She is also one of the founding members of Jazz-Phil-USA, an LA-based nonprofit organization that promotes Filipino-American jazz artists in the United States.
Charmaine is ambitious about her next album and excitedly tells me more about it. She has long wished to release an album with Gundiman music – Filipino love songs, dressed in a new combination of beats and sounds. She wants to combine Gundiman songs with jazz music and create a sort of harmonious fusion between the two – a quest never undertaken before. But for determined and passionate dreamers like Charmaine, such dreams could well turn into a reality. She dreams them and then weaves them into reality.