Here’s the general idea: It’s the —ber months. Christmas is coming. The malls have activated their mind control protocols to get you into buying early presents. They will blare “Christmas In Our Hearts" on their speakers. You go into a holiday mood trance. And behind all this is Jose Mari Chan. He is coming.
Yes, Jose Mari Chan is coming and there is nothing we can do about it. But he would like you to know that he doesn’t control mall speakers from September straight through December. The man said so himself.
[Full disclosure: we arranged for a meeting because we just had to find out for ourselves if he was, you know, Yuletide Illuminati. He isn’t. But he is a man brimming with so much cheer he could get you to sing Christmas carols all year.]
“I have to protest about that. I don’t deserve the tag. Christmas to me is a meaningful word and is at the center of our faith. To say na kapag Christmas kontrolado ko ang mga malls and the Christmas music they play might appear as egoistic and that I am an ego-bloated artist. I don’t welcome the tag.
“The very fact the songs get played is good enough adulation and an accolade. I don’t need the title of “Father of Christmas Music” to be honest. Just hearing the songs played and sung at Holy Mass, in the malls, or parties is a good feeling enough. It is gratifying,” Chan says, in the most polite way possible.
So that should settle it. Mr. Chan would tell you meme makers to shove it, but his innate goodness—coming from his voice, no doubt, because no evil could possibly sound like it—forbids it.
What is most interesting, though, is that he even knows memes about him exist (or at least the Christmas jokes at his expense). As it is, he doesn’t know what the kids are doing right now, nor is he working to reach them with any new pop song. He is aware that he is old and that most young people probably know very little of the music he’s done, apart from the Christmas carol.
“I am realistic that the music that is contemporary now has a different sound. If I insist on writing the songs I know and am known for, I will not sell. To the young people, my music is old-fashioned,” Chan says.
That is a fair and honest assessment. But it would also be taking away a huge chunk of the musical genius he has shared to original Pinoy music, spanning 50 years. Kids don’t care, but they should.
Here’s why: Have any of you played the game “Name That Tune” recently? You know, that I-can-name-that-tune-in-one-or-two-notes” thing. Have you tried with any of the big hits songs these days?
If you have, it didn’t work, did it? And that is because songs these days are mostly made of beats, not melodies. It’s practically impossible to name a song in one beat.
But it is possible to name a tune in one note. And that, kids, is what Jose Mari Chan does. He writes these songs that are so melodic the notes are like branding irons, enough to sear themselves in your head so you never forget.
Go ask any of your middle-age titos what we’re talking about and they will whip out the Videoke catalog and show you songs like “Can We Just Stop And Talk Awhile?”, “Tell Me Your Name”, “Beautiful Girl,” or “Constant Change.”
We ask you to give these songs a go. Listen to them. Ask your titos to sing them—buy them Tanduay long necks if you have to. Study them. And then, finally, try singing them yourself. Ignore that you’re not hearing any beat. Just sing them. We promise you that after one bottle of rhum, Jose Mari Chan’s songs will never leave you.
“I don’t read notes. I never learned to really play the piano and only know a few chords on the guitar,” Mr. Chan says.
Uh oh. Illuminati!
For the full Jose Mari Chan profile, grab a copy of the September 2017 issue of FHM Philippines.
Photography Kurt Alvarez