Like many women who came of age in the late 20th Century, I was never serenaded beneath my window by a man trying to win my affection. I was courted and pursued, but I was never romanced with reckless abandon. When I was a teenager, growing up in the Philippines, suitors asked permission from my parents to pay an evening visit. They brought flowers and chocolates and we -- the young man and I – sat on the patio, awkwardly making conversation while my mom and dad pretended they weren’t eavesdropping.
These little chats got the job done; eventually, after enough small talk, the gentlemen arranged proper dates. Still, I longed for poetry, and for passion. For music.
The ancient tradition of Harana was my country’s most romantic expression of love. Up until the 1950s, ambitious men underwent this soul-baring rite, and lucky women, no matter their station in life, were made to feel like fairytale princesses. Harana was performed late at night, when the household was asleep. The suitor brought along one or two of his friends wielding a guitar. Summoning all his courage, he declared his most private sentiments in song. These tunes generally fell into two categories: intense expressions of joyous devotion, or profound despair at his unrequited love. Filipino women usually didn’t reveal their true feelings about a man until he proved (over time) that he cared for her as much as life itself. I used to think the magic number was at least 30 days, a solid month before I could say oo na (“yes”) to a courting gentlemen. My assent implied we were now in a formal relationship.
Harana had a strict code: If the woman liked what she heard, the windows opened and the haranista was invited upstairs by the approving parents. But if she didn’t, the windows stayed shut all night.
I’ve recorded a modern album of harana because I adore the soaring melodies and heartfelt lyrics of these classic songs, which convey a sublime tradition that’s been supplanted in the 21st Century by text messaging and social networking Websites. Harana embodies the innocence of blossoming love, the deep yearning to connect with your ideal lover -- and the thrilling anticipation of that amorous discovery. My hope is that this album will return romance and unabashed honesty to our eternal quest for love. And perhaps for the bravest women, to inspire them to initiate the connection!
I’m thrilled that my previous recorded work spread the music and languages (Tagalog and Bisaya) of my homeland to a worldwide audience. Now, in eight different languages and dialects, allow me to serenade you -- to open your windows – with these treasures from the Philippines.
-- Charmaine Clamor, 2008