10 November 2011

Kiko Loureiro in Manila by Francis Brew Reyes

Kiko Loureiro of Angra recently did a guitar workshop for Laney amps and JB Music Philippines. To say that people were blown away is an understatement… while he is known for being a metal guitar hero, this is a guy who can, and did, play many styles of music during the two hour showcase. Sweeped arpeggios, two-handed playing, precision-picking, hybrid picking… you name it, he nails it. high speed metal runs? sure! then… he launches into long complex jazz lines, Joe Pass-style solo chordal guitar… and there is a percussiveness to his playing that reveals his Brazilian heritage. even when he plays legato, every note just pops out. to be frank, i got sick of shred guitar years ago… and then this guy comes along and proves that you can shred and be tasteful… and really musical. He makes everything look easy. his playing sure lit a fire that will be good for my own playing :)

Scary guitarist… and i was to join him and the JB Music peeps for dinner. I was anxious. He looked tired after the workshop (he also came from Indonesia, Taiwan, and Singapore) and might not be in the best of moods, although he was always congenial. he did seem nice enough while answering questions during the workshop but what if he snaps?
On the way to dinner, he asked socio-cultural questions; he noticed that most of us have Spanish surnames. He is genuinely curious about cultural stuff and Niña and I briefed him on Philippine history… and how unfortunate that what he was looking for (indigenous music) was difficult to find at that hour. “I guess it’s the same anywhere in the world, ” he lamented, “You have to go to a ‘tourist place’ to experience it. Not in the major cities…” He wasn’t much interested in hitting the bars or anything of that nature… he wanted to experience local culture. (We ended up watching a midget oil wrestling match in P. Burgos after dinner albeit reluctantly… ;p)

We had dinner at Casa Armas in Podium and there was little talk about guitar or music. The topics revolved around geography and it’s effect on the human psyche. i pointed this out and he said, “Ahh, talking about guitar…so boring!” He smiled and said, “It’s more interesting talking about other things… what’s the population in the Philippines? is it 94 million?” We talked about the symbolism of the 7 billionth baby… Niña asked him about a city in Finland (he is based there) and he elaborated on living in Europe compared to Brazil. when he did talk about music, he mentioned meeting Allan Holdsworth and explained, “My wife, she doesn’t know much the music of Allan, so i had her listen to his stuff. And she said ‘His harmonies are European.’ You know, like ECM? but he is based in California, you know it’s a different environment…and Allan said that Joe Zawinul, you know, from Weather Report? (i nod) said the same thing.” After dinner, Mr Joel Fernando of JB Music took us to Martini’s for a couple drinks, watching Joniver Robles. Niña and Loureiro talked about photography between songs.

Kris and MJ from JB Music promised him a tour in Intramuros before heading for the airport; they also promised to get him a souvenir… the man in a barrel with a spring-mounted penis. He respectfully declined and said, “No, no, it’s okay… we also have that in Brazil.” Fortunately within Intramuros, there is a Mindanao-styled house and a bahay kubo: proper examples of Philippine culture and architecture. (i made some dick jokes during the workshop; and between that and the man-in-the-barrel, that was culturally redeeming LOL) Between stops, he noticed something. “I like the uniforms of the guards” he said, referring to the Intramuros guards. Smiling, he continued “You know, Brazil was also briefly under the Spanish, and these uniforms… it’s strange to know i am in a very different part of the world but i see something familiar. similarities…”

The kalesa driver, Boyet (with his horse Rambo), was our tour guide; he pointed out the DOLE office. the door was ajar, and we saw a guy taking a nap on a monobloc. Loureiro commented, “Department of Labor… that guy is sleeping! that is not good.” We all laughed. We also rode a jeepney that took us near Lagusnilad and got another one back to Intramuros. He got a real kick out of that, happy to have experienced something truly Filipino :) We were about to enter Fort Santiago, but, conscious of the time and hungry, we opted to have a late lunch. Nevertheless, he asked about the significance of the place, and i briefly told him about Jose Rizal. We had lunch at the Aristocrat near Malate Church; a waiter named Joel recognized me, and after getting our orders, asked me if perchance i knew any Malmsteen licks. He didn’t know Kiko or Angra, so i explained who the guitar legend who just ordered grilled squid from him is. we gave him an autographed Kiko Loureiro cd which i’m sure, by now, he’s enjoying immensely. And hopefully, he’s now checking out more than Malmsteen licks… :)

On the way to the airport, we finally talked about music. i mentioned that i love Pat Metheny and he said, “In Brazil in the seventies, there was a movement, a club…i forget the name… but it had Milton Nascimento, Toninho Horta, all these guys, and they influenced Pat. If you like Pat, you’ll hear better where he’s coming from.” (i wiki’d it and he’s referring to Clube Da Esquina) i mentioned how i have a photo with Metheny that, unfortunately, was out-of-focus. he then said excitedly, “Oh, but Photoshop now has this thing where you can recover the focus!”

We drop him off at NAIA 2 and he pulls out his passport. I inquired about his ticket and he said, “Oh i didn’t print it out. we’re trying to save paper, the environment, and we get our tickets on email and what do we do? we print it out. on paper.”

i suppose i was expecting this metal guitar hero to have the predictable rockstar behavior, looking for the predictable rockstar indulgences. Instead, we met an genuinely intelligent, open-minded and conscientious dude… who just happens to be a fantastic musician :)