Primary Instrument: Percussion
HUMANFOLK is a world music project between Johnny Alegre (guitar, vocals, percussion, piano), Susie Ibarra (kulintang, drums, percussion, voices) and her husband, Roberto Juan Rodriguez (drums, percussion), together with Cynthia Alexander (guitar, vocals, bass, percussion, gongs), and Malek Lopez (keyboards, samplers and programming). In June of 2008, they recorded a suite of compositions by Alegre, entitled Humanfolk, which consequently became the name of the concept band.
Humanfolk's music combines indigenous Philippine elements of bamboo and gong instruments, with folk-jazz, Brazilian, Cuban, Indian and Iberian strains, with overlays of electronica and urban Southeast Asian sounds. The amalgam becomes a rich electro-acoustic environment, replete with modal improvisation, wordless songs, rambling melodies and exotic harmonic progressions. Their seminal recording, catalyzed by the Phil-American percussion avant-gardist and indigenous music advocate, Susie Ibarra, with the Cuban-born drummer Roberto Juan Rodriguez (whose musical chops were honed in the orchestra of the great bassist-composer, Israel Cachao Lopez), have brought these adventurous musicians together into the same room: guitarist-composer Johnny Alegre; singer-composer and multi-instrumentalist Cynthia Alexander; and the electronica exponent and sound designer, Malek Lopez.
Johnny Alegre is a recording artist whose pioneering albums and performances have received favorable notices from the jazz press in London and Los Angeles, as well as his native Philippines.
Cynthia Alexander's award-winning albums and endearing repertoire have captured the imagination of a formidable following in the contemporary Philippine indie music scene. Her exquisitely-crafted music, compelling melodies and prose-poetry are distinctly Asian yet warmly assimilative of popular western influences with touches of classical.
Malek Lopez is the keyboardist and electronic musician behind groups such as Drip and Rubber Inc. His collaborations with kindred artists such as Chris Brown and the Teichman Brothers have brought Manila's underground electronica culture to venues of convergence in Berlin and Kuala Lumpur.
Susie Ibarra's name is legend in the rarefied ethno-musical and avant-garde jazz landscapes of recent times, with a cachet of recordings and formidable collaborations with Derek Bailey, John Zorn, Mark Dresser, David S. Ware and so forth.
Roberto Juan Rodriguez, from his heady days with Cachao and the Miami Sound Machine, is breaking ground afresh with his and Susie's fusion of electronica, ethnic music and jazz in Electric Kulintang, and with his own Afro-Cuban ensemble, Septeto Rodriguez.
The brave Philippine endeavor, HUMANFOLK, could very well be one of Asia's more compelling musical associations in several years.