The Gumamela Project
The Gumamela project was born out of Cascada de Flores’ (a.k.a. Arwen Lawrence and Jorge Liceaga) and Florante Aguilar’s passion for traditional music of their respective countries Mexico and the Philippines.
They discovered to their delight and surprise, and by an accidental meeting that the music they were both championing for years sound eerily similar in style, spirit and rhythms. And there clearly is kinship. Florante came upon the realization that the commonalities between the music from Philippines and Mexico happened through the Manila galleon ships that plied the Pacific waters for over 300 years. As colonial subjects of Spain, these ships between Manila and Acapulco traded more than just dry goods. They traded culture as well, with many Filipinos settling in Mexico and vice-versa.
In Gumamela, the musicians begin immersed in the songs and danceable rhythms that the cultures share. As the project flowers, so does the creativity of the arrangements, and the Gumamela (hibiscus flower in Tagalog) will fully blossom into an album of compositions by song writers Liceaga & Aguilar.
Cascada de Flores is a San Francisco Bay Area ensemble founded in 1999 by Jorge Liceaga and Arwen Lawrence, who strive to reimagine Mexican and Latin American traditions through individual expression and musical communication. They began by exploring the most unsung musical cultures of Mexico, a hugely diverse country. Inspired by the fact that even as deep as its diversity goes, Mexico has a continuous love affair with foreign cultural phenomenon and incorporates them as if they were its own, the ensemble spends time swimming in a magical place somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean sea where populara boleros, sones, danzones as well as poetic country music from Mexico and the Caribbean meet.
Travel and research is at the heart of Cascada de Flores’ work. In Mexico, Cascada de Flores has been delightfully received in venues such as The central plaza in Mexico City with Jorge Saldaña, as well as the beautiful Biblioteca Henestrosa in Oaxaca city. They have studied with trovadores in Santiago de Cuba as well as with generations of soneros in southern Veracruz.
After 21 years, 5 recorded albums, many a collaboration with film, dance and theater, and a resume that shows a firm commitment to music and cultural education, the band name “Cascada de Flores” (which translates as a waterfall of flowers) continues to be their credo: that the diversity of Mexican culture flows like a waterfall exploding with flowers of all colors, the traditions are deep, varied and old, but living and breathing, and that the effect of their music, while it brings both cultural awareness and pride should resonate deeper than where differences lie.
Florante Aguilar (composition, classical guitar)
Florante Aguilar is one the leading figures championing Philippine music art forms in the US and international markets today. He advances and popularizes Philippine music through the medium of film, recordings and live performances. His arrangements and compositions successfully craft the right balance between respect and redefinition of a tradition.
Born in Manila, Aguilar grew up in Cavite province where he learned to play the octavina in a rondalla group. By the age of 16 he was enrolled at the University of the Philippines College of Music where he was trained as a classical musician. He later moved to New York under scholarship to study at the Manhattan School of Music. He received his Bachelor of Music degree at the San Francisco Conservatory for Music.
As a composer, Aguilar uses strong Philippine motifs in a modern context. His constant search for a tradition-based contemporary Filipino sound led him to champion harana music – songs used in the now-vanished Filipino courtship ritual of serenading, and the subject of the award-winning 2012 documentary, Harana: The Search for the Lost Art of Serenade, which he wrote and produced with his wife and partner, Fides Enriquez. Aguilar has released several CD albums under the private label New Art Media.
Aguilar is a recipient of Gerbode Composition Awards (2016), Creative WorkFund for Composition and Performance (2022), National Endowment for the Arts (2014), San Francisco Arts Commission (2009), and San Francisco Foundation (2010).
Charmaine Clamor (vocals)
Raised in Subic, Zambales Philippines, Charmaine Clamor is the world’s most celebrated Filipino American jazz vocalist. Known as the “Queen of Jazzipino”, Charmaine has given concerts on five continents, including a command performance at Malacanang for President Benigno Aquino, Jr., Mexico’s Women in Jazz Festival, and headlining Helsinki Finland’s World Music Village. As a recording artist, Charmaine has collaborated with David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, South Africa’s Selaelo Selota, and American blues legend Linda Hopkins. She’s released five critically acclaimed albums as a solo artist, most recently The Better Angels, produced and arranged by pianist Laurence Hobgood. Charmaine is the co-founder of JazzPhil-USA and The Better Angels Festival. She holds an MPT in Physical Therapy from C-SUN and owns a holistic wellness practice, Be Well Therapy, in Los Angeles.
Jorge Pok’ok Mijangos (Guitarras de son & voice)
Jorge Pok’ok Mijangos is a multi-instrumentalist, Son Jarocho musician, and luthier. Born in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, Jorge began playing music at the age of five. He has since performed in venues throughout the world, including The Hollywood Bowl and Walt Disney Concert Hall, WOMAD in Australia, New Zealand, England, and the National Hispanic Center in Albuquerque. He currently lives in Ventura, California with his wife and son where he teaches music to local youth and builds custom Son Jarocho musical instruments.
Greg Kehret (double bass)
Greg Kehret graduated from the San Francisco State University School of Music with a Bachelor of Music, with an emphasis on classical performance. His musical interests have led him to explore R&B, hip hop and funk, jazz and Latin jazz, dream pop, tango, Romani music, flamenco, and most recently collaborations with Florante Aguilar on The Harana Kings album and ASWANG. By day he directs Access to Information Services at the LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco creating Braille and tactile maps.