Serenata Filipina is back (version one took place in 2014) with an evening so jam-packed with performers that I spend most of my interview with organizer and singer Annie Nepomuceno just getting them all straight.
But she is clear that, despite the full slate, this show is not a music festival but rather a tightly-woven concert. “The concert builds and builds until at the end when everyone [in the audience] is on their feet dancing,” says Nepomuceno. The focus of this year’s show is on female songwriters and performers, “a vibrant celebration of the female voice.”
“The Philippines is an archipelago with over 7,000 islands and 100 languages – it’s so diverse that it’s hard to convey a unified group identity,” Nepomuceno tells me. She endeavors to educate young Filipino Americans who may have a cultural divide with their parents but still enjoy their cultural expression. She hopes this performance will attract families and build bridges between generations. “It’s important to have the opportunity to be exposed to everything and figure out what you like.”
Nepomuceno started her own music career in the Philippines at age eight and after touring the U.S. 10 years ago, settled in Los Angeles. Her co-star Louie Reyes also lives in LA, where both she and Nepomuceno work as vocal coaches. The parallels between the artists’ careers are abundant – both come from backgrounds in established vocal groups and both played the same role - Lady Thiang - in The King and I. Their shared role now? Mentoring a next generation of Filipina talent, a focus that is illustrated in the trio of powerhouses who join them onstage.
There’s wunderkind Odette Quesada, who penned her first hit at 17 and hasn’t stopped since, and Filipina teen star Geneva Cruz, who became famous in the Philippines as part of Smokey Mountain and is now based full-time in the U.S. The trio is rounded out with G Tongi, a professional actress and TV host.
Also representing the next generation are the Los Angeles Young Ambassadors on vocals, teen dancers Revolutionary Steps and Kayamanan Ng Lahi-Pamana children’s folk dance troupe.
For expats and children of immigrants alike, Nepomuceno says, “It’s hard to find something that connects them to home. Music can do that, especially in live performance.” It’s one thing to listen via headphones, but quite another to be in community, hearing old favorites and discovering new ones. That’s what Serenata Filipina is all about.
Serenata Filipina takes place at the Ford on Sunday, October 7 at 6:30 PM. For tickets and info, click here.