Saturday, May 10, 2014

Whole world is a stomping ground for energetic Fil-Am

(May 8, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Though he grew up in Hawaii, “I still learned about Filipino culture,” Fil-Am performer Andres Fernandez told the Inquirer in an exclusive e-mail interview. “Our parents spoke Tagalog to us all the time,” he said.

The singer-dancer, promoting the series of “Stomp” shows in Manila next month (June 17 to 22, Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater), related: “There are a lot of Filipinos in Hawaii; we had lots of gatherings at Barrio Fiesta (a restaurant specializing in Philippine cuisine). I know about the tinikling dance; I know how to mano (the tradition of touching one’s forehead to an elder’s hand, as a sign of respect), to never wear a hat in the house and lots of other [Filipino customs].”

Fernandez said that, as kids, he and his siblings had all shown interest in performing. “We sang at birthday parties, graduations… in 1985, we put together our very first concert at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Dome. 

My kuya (elder brother) was 14, I was 11 and my younger brother was 9; we formed a dance group and also a boy band, and toured the Hawaiian Islands. We opened for major artists, including Gary Valenciano and Martin Nievera.” 

Also in 1985, he did backup vocals on his older brother Johnny’s record, “Puede Ba.” Fernandez elaborated, “Recording for my brother’s album felt great. We got to work in a studio for the first time, and that was a really fun experience. It helped me to listen and get a better sound out of my voice.”

A member of the “Stomp” cast for 17 years now, Fernandez  said those previous experiences continue to be useful as he performs for the percussion- and physical comedy-heavy show, which debuted in London in the early 1990s. “In ‘Stomp,’ we don’t talk or sing,” he said. Those older disciplines taught him to listen closely to the music being played, he said.

Now in his late 30s, Fernandez fondly recalled how he got the job: “Before I auditioned for ‘Stomp,’ I saw it only once in Hawaii. I thought, ‘Wow, how does someone learn to do that?’ I didn’t think that, three months later, I would be trying out. But I did, and made it through all three call backs. I was hired in May of 1997.”

Adjusting to the established moves was a challenge. “I had to learn to create music with hands and feet. Luckily, I had some dance and drumming experience.” 

Fernandez continues to appreciate unexpected “blessings” from performing in the show. “The best thing about being in ‘Stomp’ is, I met some of my best friends, whom I would probably never have met [otherwise]. And I get to travel! Now it’s bringing me back to my roots. I am so excited to be going back to Manila for the first time since 1991!” 

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