“Leslie Damaso is a classical singer based in Mineral Point, WI. She began pursuing music seriously in her teens and received a degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Illinois, Champaign- Urbana. With a love of all genres of music, Leslie has released albums and performed around the US and the world. She recently released a kundiman album, kundiman being a genre of Filipino love songs that are gently and melodic with Tagalog lyrics meant to serenade. Leslie found a connection to performing kundiman, like it was a part of her and where she came from. She has also worked in Baybayin, contributing to Surat Magazine.”
“Leslie Damaso (Mineral Point) moved from the Philippines when she was 11 years old. She grew up on her grandparents’ tropical orchard -- she used to pick mangoes from her bedroom window. They also grew pineapples, coconuts, tamarind, starfruit, papayas and more. Damaso recalled her grandfather making a dish called “jumping salad.” It was fresh-caught shrimp, still alive, doused in calamansi juice (a local citrus) that was eaten immediately — if you weren’t fast, the shrimp would jump out of the bowl. She now resides in the artistic and agricultural haven of Mineral Point, where she runs Buttonhill Music Studio. Damaso teaches piano voice lessons, but also uses the historical building to showcase artists, composers and from time to time hosts interesting dinners.“
“The story of the Philippines is one of oppression and resilience. The archipelagic nation endured more than 300 years of Spanish colonial rule and occupations by the U.S. and Japan. It has struggled with instability since gaining independence after World War II. With poor job prospects in the country, millions of Filipinos have left home seeking work abroad.”
“This music, known as kundiman, emerged as a traditional Filipino folk music around the turn of the 20th century, in response to the centuries-long Spanish occupation of the Philippines. Written and sung in Tagalog, the lyrics of these kundiman songs focus on sentiments of love—whether it be between people or for nature and the land itself. Kutz's piano accompaniment interacts with Damaso's folk melodies and lyrics in a dynamic similar to that of German and other Western art songs.”
"The new album is more personal on a deeper level because I’m sharing the Filipino part of me. These songs are beautiful. The melodies are folk tunes and the accompaniments are more in the Western art song tradition. They are about love and patriotism and longing for things that no longer exist. The sheet music was a gift from a Filipino friend, Nelson Caruncho, a superb tenor, whom I met in music school. Jason Kutz, a brilliant pianist and friend, recorded the album with me last year at Audio for the Arts in Madison with engineer Buzz Kemper."
"Considered the Philippines' classical music genre, the kundiman is a love song and/or a patriotic song that generally expresses lamentation, longing, a plea, or sorrow. Influenced by the culture of the times and the temper of the Filipino, the kundiman's purpose was never trivial and ordinary. During the Spanish colonial regime, the kundiman, "Jocelyn ng Baliwag" was disguised as an expression of love for a lady from Bulacan; it was actually an expression of love for the motherland and the hope of setting her free from the Spanish conquistadores."