By Nickie Wang
“A musician is different from a singer,” and to paraphrase the words of Ryan Cayabyab, the dilemma of aging singers when they perform is that the audiences distinguish the striking changes in their appearance and vocal quality, but when an aging musician performs, they begin to love the artist even more.
Polish singer-songwriter and record producer Basia was in town and successfully staged a one-night concert at the Araneta Coliseum last Oct. 21.
The sold-out concert at the Big Dome opened with The CompanY. The quintet performed some songs popularized by Quincy Jones and The Manhattan Transfer.
Ten minutes before 9 p.m. Basia and her band took center stage and went straight performing “It’s That Girl Again,” “If Not Now Then When,” and “Drunk On Love.” After finishing the last song, it was the only time when the performer greeted the thousands of people who flocked to the venue.
A mesmerizing show
At the apogee of her career in the ’80s and early ’90s, Basia was able to establish herself as an international artist releasing timeless hits like “Time and Tide” and “Promises,” and other Latin-flavored jazz-pop crossover songs.
Basia still has a strong following in the country despite being in hiatus for 15 years. Yet, being away from the music scene, she was able to release a live album and three other compilations. Many people like her music primarily because of her strong yet melodic vocals, not to mention her being an excellent songwriter.
In a black corporate attire, a white blouse topped with a black coat matched with a long pearl necklace, we hardly recognized Basia when she graced the stage.
“Is that Basia already?” we overheard Ryan Cayabyab who was seated almost in front of us.
For the second set of songs, she belted out “Reward,” “Baby You’re Mine,” and a song from the new album called “Blame It On the Summer.” She sang them with much ease as if she was just talking. However, when she hit the high notes, she struggled to reach them. She still has it though but not as perfect as her three-octave range at the height of her career.
When the audience heard a familiar introduction of a song, they clapped their hands attuned with it. The rich sound complemented with good acoustics in the venue was perfect for Basia’s “How Dare You.” “It’s a song from my first album,” she said and moved to another song called “A Gift,” which she introduced as a romantic song, “It’s a love song because love is a gift.”
She sang “Run For Cover” before going to the backstage to change her outfit. The band remained playing. Basia’s backup singers, twins from Mauritius, performed “Astrud” and “From Now On.” The newest member of the band, Jojo, an Italian guitarist, did a little exhibition playing his own composition.
After that act, Basia was back on the stage in a knee-length black dress and black leggings and performed a song entitled “Rachelle.”
“I’m not sure if you knew that I used to be a member of band called Matt Bianco. I did a few songs with them and I would like to sing it for you. Although it’s a sad song, I want you to hear it,” she said, referring to that UK band in which she was the vocalist. She then sang the breakup song, “Half A Minute.”
As a musician, Basia always attempted to keep her music relevant. Her ability to stay musically relevant reflected on the new arrangement of her songs like “Cruising,” “Miles Away,” and “Time and Tide” (the crowd made a resounding applause when she did these numbers).
She ended the last set with a song she dedicated to her country called “Copernicus.”
When Basia and her band came back on stage after the final set, the musician was almost teary-eyed while thanking all the people who kept on shouting “more!” and chanting “Promises… promises!” When we moved our heads we saw some familiar personalities like Vicki Belo and son Quark Henares, Jacky Aquino, Joey of Side A, and Senator Mar Roxas (without Korina Sanchez) joining the chant.
To satisfy the eager fans who were already up on their feet, Basia said, “Okay, but you’ve got to help me on this one,” and sang “Waters of March” and the final number “Promises.”
Even at the age of 55, Basia (Barbara Trzetrzelewska in real life) proves that she is never too old to stage a live performance. And probably, the applauses and cheers served as motivations for the Jazz Diva to “bring it on.”
Jazz music is not popular among young generation, it was obvious among the people who attended the concert, but sure they do know what bossa nova is. Although the latter’s structure is heavily influenced by jazz, returning artists like Basia hopefully can inspire local bossa nova singers to come up with original materials that would soon make them as timeless as the Polish artist.
Borrowing what Ryan Cayabyab told us again: “Local artists need to sell that’s why they do covers, but if they want to be known even after 10 years, they need to come up with original materials because that’s the only way. Like Basia, she looks and sounds different now, but she’s a musician and she’s singing her own music that’s why we still love her. That’s the difference.”
Basia is just one of those foreign musicians that keep the country’s big venues for concert performances alive. Don’t they pose as a challenge or at least an inspiration to our local artists?