Monday, April 25, 2011


HUMANFOLK is a world music project between Johnny Alegre (guitar, bamboo percussion, voice), Susie Ibarra (kulintang, drums, percussion, voices) and her husband, Roberto Juan Rodriguez (drums, percussion), together with renowned Philippine musical artists Cynthia Alexander (guitar, vocals, bass, bamboo percussion, gongs), and Malek Lopez (keyboards, synthesizer and sound design).

In June of 2008, they recorded a musical suite by Alegre, entitled “Humanfolk”, which consequently became the name of the concept band.

Humanfolk's music combines indigenous Philippine elements of bamboo and gong instruments, with folk-jazz, Brazilian, Cuban, Indian and Iberian strains, with overlays of electronica and urban Southeast Asian sounds. The amalgam becomes a rich electro-acoustic environment, replete with modal improvisation, wordless songs, rambling melodies and exotic harmonic progressions. Their seminal recording, catalyzed by the Phil-American percussion avant-gardist and indigenous music advocate, Susie Ibarra, with the Cuban-born drummer Roberto Juan Rodriguez (whose musical chops were honed in the orchestra of the great bassist-composer, Israel “Cachao” Lopez), have brought these adventurous musicians together into the same room: guitarist-composer Johnny Alegre; singer-composer and multi-instrumentalist Cynthia Alexander; and the electronica exponent and sound designer, Malek Lopez. In the succeeding months, they also recruited the keyboardist-vocalist and Chapman Stick player of Fuseboxx, Abby Clutario to supplement the vacuum created by the US-bound departure of Ibarra and Rodriguez. .

Johnny Alegre is a recording artist whose pioneering albums and performances have received favorable notices from the jazz press in London and Los Angeles, as well as his native Philippines.

Cynthia Alexander's award-winning albums and endearing repertoire have captured the imagination of a formidable following in the contemporary Philippine indie music scene. Her exquisitely-crafted music, compelling melodies and prose-poetry are distinctly Asian yet warmly assimilative of popular western influences with touches of classical.

Malek Lopez is the keyboardist and electronic musician behind groups such as Drip and Rubber Inc. His collaborations with kindred artists such as Chris Brown and the Teichman Brothers have brought Manila's underground electronica culture to venues of convergence in Berlin and Kuala Lumpur.

Susie Ibarra's name is legend in the rarefied ethno-musical and avant-garde jazz genres in the global landscape, with a cachet of recordings and formidable collaborations with Derek Bailey, John Zorn, Mark Dresser, David S. Ware and so forth. She was voted "Rising Star" in the 57th Annual Critics Poll (2009) of DownBeat Magazine in the Percussion category.

Roberto Juan Rodriguez, from his heady days with Cachao and the Miami Sound Machine, is breaking ground afresh with his and Susie's fusion of electronica, ethnic music and jazz in Electric Kulintang, and with his own Afro-Cuban ensemble, Septeto Rodriguez.

The brave Philippine endeavor, HUMANFOLK, could very well be one of Asia's more compelling musical associations in recent years.

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