Interview with The Voice of Philippine Christmas

Q&A with Mr. Jose Mari Chan, multiple-diamond record awardee and biggest selling pop-artist in the history of Philippine music.

Interview with The Voice of Philippine Christmas
Texture Background by Sharon McCutcheon in Unsplash

Mr Jose Mari Chan is one of the country's most successful leaders in the Sugar Industry and his reputation as a businessman and investor is only overshadowed by the tremendous success of what he would refer to as his 'hobby'. He is a multiple-diamond record awardee and is regarded as the biggest selling pop artist in the history of Philippine music.

Texture Background by Sharon McCutcheon in Unsplash

You stayed in the US for quite a while mainly for business but still found the opportunity to compose songs and collaborate with foreign artists - Please tell us more about that experience in your life and if it has influenced your music in any way.

Living and working in New York from 1975 to 1986 did not discourage me from continuing to write and compose songs. On the contrary, being exposed to a wider range of music while living there expanded my horizon and genre. From Country and Western Music to Broadway musicals, from European songs to South American ballads, my influences became even richer.

What were some of the Hit Songs you wrote for other artists while you were in the United States?

I left the Philippines, established with a string of hits so it was not difficult for me to continue writing songs for our homegrown artists, like;

  • “I Remember The Boy” - Joey Albert
  • “Minsan Pa” - Janet Basco
  • “Ang Nobya Kong Seksi” - Apo Hiking Society
  • “Tararajing PotPot” - Dolphy
  • “Mamang Sorbetero” -Celeste Legaspi
  • “Hahanapin Ko” - Anthony Castelo
  • “Cadena de Amor” - Ric Manrique

You have mentioned Neil Sedaka and Paul Anka as some of your early influences. Were there other artists whom you looked up to in your career? 

They were the first batch of original singer-songwriters that came into the music scene. Prior to them, the Sinatras, the Perry Comos, the Jo Staffords and the Doris Days sang and recorded songs that were written for them by composers. The likes of Paul Anka, Neil Sedaka, Little Richard, Bill Haley, Hank Williams inspired me to express myself and sing my own words and music. After that, came the Beatles, Carole King, David Gates, etc., which changed the landscape of pop music.

In an interview before - You mentioned wishing to have met Mr Richard Rodgers - I assume that you were referring to the multi-awarded theatre legend. What is it about his work that you admire so much? 

Richard Rodgers has written many classic songs in his string of Broadway Musicals. Music that has permanently engraved his name in American culture. Musicals like “Oklahoma” “The King and I”, “Carousel”, “The Sound of Music”. He is, definitely, one of my idols in songwriting, along with Henry Mancini, John Williams, Burt Bacharach - to name a few.

I'm guessing any interview with you will not be complete without touching on this topic --- You are dubbed as the 'Father of Philippine Christmas Music' --- How do your family and friends react to that? 

I am complimented when some people call me “The Father of Philippine Christmas Music” but there are many many other Filipino composers that have written endearing Christmas carols. I would prefer to be called “the little drummer boy” that heralds the advent of the Christmas Season. I feel enormously blessed to have written my Christmas songs which remain loved all of these years.

You are someone that didn't 'need' to succeed in Music. But you pursued it with passion and dedication while regarding it as a runner-up to your faith, family and business. --- What would be your advice to young people who are thinking about pursuing their own creative calling but still need to consider the practical, rational and economic side of life?

My advice to our young songwriters is that music is GOD’s precious Gift to only a few. At the end of our lives, OUR CREATOR will ask what we did with the Talent and the Gift that He gave us. Use the Talent to express what’s in your heart. Sing and share your songs with the world. But, perhaps, only on the side. Not as a main career. In this country, you need to go into a more stable job or career and do your music as a sideline, because the music industry is, sadly, an unstable endeavour. Especially when you have your family to support. Derive your inspiration from your loved ones and from the world around you and express yourselves in words and music.