By Ramon Jorge Sarabosing
If you ask me, my favorite Pinoy female singer of all time is Grace Nono, who in case you don’t know is a native of Agusan del Sur.
I am sure you hardly know her because she is not on pop radio and TV, but who cares, she’s a sensible singer and musician original and visionary, very much unlike many others who are copycats of so-called Hollywood divas.
So, when she was featured recently in the lifestyle section of a national daily last month, I was proudly thrilled and even more excited to learn she has a new album and set to tour Visayas and Mindanao.
I anticipates, of course she’ll be performing in Caraga, her home region. And its about time.
Grace Nono, the world-class musician( and also a doctor in ethnomusicology from New York University), heard in many parts of the planet but not in her home region.
She is back and for good I learned as she has some plans, one of them a school of living traditions.
I will always remember her first album many years ago though, ironically, I forgot the titles and melodies. but I can never forget the powerful yet subtle messages and inspirations set in fine indigenous music.
Her songs affirmed our connection to the land and rivers and life itself.
One thing is clear: she is grounded to the land of her birth. (And maybe like Grace, who has traveled extensively with and for her music, I, who’s into writing, will always be grounded to the land of my birth.)
I became her fan when I got involved in cultural work in the late 80’s and exposed to ethnic inspired and homegrown music.
I befriended Popong Landero (of Davao) and Titing Trinquite ( SINAG-Butuan) and other cultural workers who taught and guided me to appreciate real music from the heart.
Hearing and later befriending Joey Ayala made me more appreciate ASIN’s music which was simply folk music to me then, later realizing it was much more deep.
Grace Nono’s songs caught me off-guard, so to speak. It was revolutionary to me. I have never heard anyone honor and celebrate her native land.
Maybe it was something i wanted and needed to do with my writing and Grace works opens the way.
Believe it or not, I assumed I saw her for the first time on a bus. I was riding one from Davao to Butuan when a petite, sophisticated-looking lady climbed up.
There was something different and extra-ordinary in her, I thought. I knew it was Grace. I wanted to approach her and tell her I love her songs but there was no time.
Many years later I saw her in a concert and like all artists and cultural workers that night, it was a concert to remember.
Mae Oclarit, a stage actress and ethnic singer and aspiring chanter herself who along with others performed with Grace, considered it a boast and inspiration to her blooming career.
Now if you’re a Caraganon or a Mindanaoan, it’s time to be (re)introduce to Grace Nono, the native from Bunawan, Agusan del Sur.
We should be supporting and hearing her more because for quiet some time her music carried our collective sentiments and told who we are and where we come from.
The author is the editor/publisher of Bai Magazine, a people-oriented magazine that honors and celebrates Caraga’s achievers, trailblazers and visionaries.
Photos grabbed from Grace Nono Facebook Account