Monday, June 25, 2012


The mini-reunion was set ahead of time. But me and my college friends ran out of steam before the meet-up finally pushed through. Say it's because of pressing matters at home - and in my case - at work. But at the last minute, my superior offered a reprieve.

At 8:00 in the evening, I was able to leave the office. The destination is at Conspiracy Bar. I was there to see the last of the send-off gigs of a folk artist, whose songs only few have ever heard.

Her name is Cynthia Alexander and because of a Yahoo article circulated last month, everyone who know her came; to see her perform for the last time before she packs her things and plant her roots in sunless lands where musicians like her thrive and grow. 

She was already revered long before we crawled out of the university and out of our ephemeral dreams. I remember, the mere mention of her name would instantly hurl you to the pantheon of eccentrics - they, who have set themselves apart and lived in their own mind-temples in the Faculty of thinkers.

I was never a hardcore. That I can honestly admit. I just know her music and was able to absorb it. Knowing her was my way of reaching out; to have a place in the realm of the literati. After all, I used to be an apprentice of letters. Her prose have been nurturing my spirit.

Legends trailed her rise to fame. My sister said she's married to a Scottish royalty and in that part of the world, she was a duchess. Another story, which I heard from someone is that she's a Babaylan who turned into a musician. Whatever is true, there is one thing I know. Cynthia Alexander is a highly-respected artist. Her name brought her to many cities around the world - to perform in cultural events.

As for me, I only saw her once - when she showed up at her brother's gig in 70's Bistro many years ago. Mom brought me there to see Joey Ayala perform. It was her surprise birthday present. And Cynthia was there too, bowing her head before smiling, while being acknowledged by her icon-brother.

Guests were already spilling over Visayas Avenue when I arrived for the encore. Even the gates of Conspiracy were barred as the open courtyard where the musician is set to perform can no longer accommodate guests.

"Pasensya na po, intayin muna natin may lumabas" Those who have remained outside patiently waited in line as people from within flee the searing heat.

"Puwede po ba pumasok, kasama po nila kami?" Preference was apparently given to those who have already reserved a seat.

I was able to get in by telling the organizer that I'm a blogger. Said I was there to cover the event when my real reason was indulgence. For 200 pesos I got an ink stamp on my right wrist. It was less than fifty since they ran out of beer stamps.

I was told beforehand that the gig will be packed - to the brim. And it is for this reason many of my friends chose to back out rather than brave the crowd. When I got there, the turn out was simply phenomenal. Around five hundred people were able to fit inside an ancestral home turned into a classy watering hole.

Cynthia Alexander went up the stage at close to midnight. She was two hours behind schedule. But her absence was covered by no-name acoustic musicians, whose artistry yearns to serenade the restless and sweat-drenched.

Draped in her sweetest smile, Cynthia's lilting but potent words put a spell on everyone's hearts. She tells the reasons behind her celebrated exodus. That it is time to share her music, and let her songs become part of the greater human experience. "I just can't leave without saying goodbye," She said while strumming her guitar. "I will return someday. But for now, allow me to do a little soul searching."

The feverish condition at the open-air pub didn't stop the music from touching the audience. The elfin performer sat on a chair as close friends and long-time followers surrounded the stage. Behind her was an assembly of artists extracting harmonies with their musical instruments. While many of the songs were unfamiliar to me, the fusion of sounds and haunting lullabies were a breath of fresh air in a musical landscape dominated by pop acts.

The melodic resonance of the violin, the keyboard and the tabla lured one's unaccustomed ears, that entering a state of trance almost seemed like an organic reflex. I was standing on a monobloc chair with the beastly Iwata fan blowing cold wind against my back. And while being soaked in music, I closed my eyes and swayed my head. There were only a few of us who knows the lyrics but  "The Weather Report." never sounded this good when words flow from the artist herself.

Cynthia Alexander belonged to her fans for almost two hours. And in that span of time, she sang "Daisy Chains," "Walk Down The Road," and the feel-good "Knowing There Is Only Now." These are some of the songs I got acquainted during my exile. At the middle of her performance, she even offered a bottle of beer to all her listeners. But her audience, already spellbound by her voice chose to remain in their places rather than get a Red Horse at the bar counter.

In that evening of solitary pursuits, (I was supposed to attend a reunion with another set of friends) I picked up a few gems which I would carry on for life. As I have somewhat known, a true artist is seldom recognized. But her works are embraced across generations of souls - finding spiritual connection with her creations. As the night wore on, the gig became more of a jam. I won't be surprised to learn that someone was able to pen a prose - even poetry since an audience already did an interpretative dance in one of the acts.

It was a night of reconnection - with me - getting in touch with my old bohemian self. Assured, that no matter what lives I dwell, I would always remain faithful to my roots. And as I leave the gig, calling back the sprawled memories of a time I chose not to forget, I recognize my presence; that I was there to see Cynthia Alexander, not only to celebrate her music.

But to say thank you, and see you in another time.*

* The Lakota people of Native America has no word for goodbye.


N G said...

I agree, her live performance of 'The Weather' report was so good! :D

Nainggit ako sa'yo, you were able find a nice view at Conspiracy that night. :)

MEcoy said...

filipino talents are just so great
what is herr genre?
being a blogger i guess is a huge help isn't it

red the mod said...

Me and my partner had a dinner out that day, one of his closest friends introduced her current boyfriend to us. We would've loved to have watched that show, but sadly Makati is too far from the venue, and the tickets were probably already sold out by that evening. I'm glad you had a great time.

Cynthia Alexander was one of performers I would watch at Mag:Net Cafe Katipunan when I was an undergrad. She will be sorely missed.

Mugen said...


First gig Red, and most likely the last. But as I've said, I braved the odds because she was part of my youth. Kahit kaunti lang. And maybe during that time, I'd like to feel that connection. Glad I did.

Two days later, I was back to listening EDM again. Haha.


She's a folk artist, but her songs are a fusion of many genres. You may want to YouTube her. :)


Naka-chamba lang. Mag-isa kasi ako. Hehe. Thank you for dropping by.

f. jordan said...

Was supposed to be in here but I backed out. So I had just missed a great gig. Tsk.