Bong Penera has enthralled jazz buffs with his Brazilian-influenced brand of Jazz for over 40 years. Whenever or wherever he played piano or acoustic guitar, either as sideman or band leader, or as solo artist, and wherever he sang while he played, images of Sergio Mendes, Tom Jobim, the Gilbertos, Bill Evans, Tania Maria, Keith Jarrett filled the air. He had the Deodato touch when he played the electric piano. It was no wonder then that he called his band “Batucada” (Brazilian Portuguese for the word ‘beat’) it was his intense creed that firstly and finally, it is all about the beat of life.
His most famous original composition, “A Samba Song”, is now, like Jobim’s Girl From Ipanema, a staple and a “must have” in every local performer’s repertoire, be it in Manila or anywhere else. Among others, Tadao Hayashi, Eddie Katindig, Brownbeat, Sitti and Guarana have recorded/performed this work. Even the last Philippine President, Noynoy Aquino, sang the song as his campaign/victory song, thereby making it again an anthem, as it was in the late 70’s-early 80’s. Lara de Leon and others have recorded his other compositions, Tell Me, And I Will Sing. His other works, Samba for Luisa, Amanda, Melancholy Dreams, Batucada Sa Calesa, and others, are now considered formidable “Bong Peñera standards”.
Bong Peñera and his Batucada dominated the music scene of the late 70’s and early 80’s and Bong Peñera himself became a household word. A Manila writer, Corito Llamas, once wrote, “Bong Peñera is to Philippine music what Lino Brocka is to Philippine movies.” His music has transcended time itself that to this date it is still being played on radio air waves and interpreted by countless other musicians and aspiring artists. His music also undoubtedly transcends worlds or races.
From 1988-89, Bong had an “international” jazz band, probably the first to ever receive an hour spot of radio exposure at WBEZ, the Chicago Public Radio jazz hour hosted by Larry Smith. There was Bong on piano, Brazilian Danuzio Lima on flute, Costa Rican dummer Carlos Melendez on drums, Czech-American Thomas D. Svatos on acoustic bass, Filipino Ronnie Valdez on tenor sax. Later, Bong graced the Chicago jazz scene with Brazilian dummers Luis Ewerling and Dede Sampaio, saxophonist and flutist Bob Centano, blowing instrument genius Bob Ojeda, other jazz artists such as Damon Short and Steve Schneck. In 1989, when TDK and Billboard Magazine launched its first ever songwriting contest in the country, Bong won 2nd place in the Latin Category with his composition Samba Chicago featuring Diane Velasco on vocals. Hall of famers Quincy Jones and Julio Iglesias were among the judges.
In more recent years you could find him playing the Piano at various Hotels in Chicago and for ten years (1996-2006), he played piano at Nordstrom in Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois. In 2010 Bong was inducted into the Chicago Filipino American Hall of Fame, a prestigious recognition of his musical works that many opined as “long overdue.”
Please visit bongpenera.com to find out more.