The Marianas–Music


The term “Chamorro music” is not a straightforward term for a straightforward musical genre, but comes loaded with different shades of meaning depending on its user’s perspective and purpose. Is Chamorro music the music of the original Chamorro people who were living in the Marianas when the Spanish colonized, of whom only a handful survived? There is a type of competitive call-and-response poetic singing in the Marianas called Chamorrita or KANTAN CHAMORRITA, which could just as likely be used for jovial teasing as for the initiation of a fight. Unfortunately most, if not all, of the ancient melodies have been lost. Still, is Kantan Chamorrita “Chamorro music?” Or is Chamorro music the music of the Spanish-era settlers and immigrants from the Philippines, Polynesia and the rest of Micronesia who repopulated the Marianas during the Spanish age? Maybe Chamorro music is the music of the KUSTUMBREN CHAMORRO, the hybrid, religiously inspired culture that developed in the Marianas while the Spanish ruled? Other songs of Spanish and Mexican immigrants of the time, called “SERENETAS,” maintain a distinctly Spanish feel. Or is Chamorro music the music inspired by the German or Japanese or American colonizers, all of whom had significant influence on the Chamorro culture when they occupied? Or what of the Chamorro musicians since World War II who have used mainly English to interpret music from country and western to reggae to rock? Or is Chamorro music the newer songs of Guam and the Northern Mariana’s, music with lyrics in the Chamorro language that is at the heart of the Chamorro cultural revival? Why does this have to be so complicated? Maybe Chamorro music just the music Chamorros make when they sing.

More about Chamorro music: Guampedia on Chamorro music: “Chamorro music a key element in modern day Guam” | Follow current developments in Chamorro music on Jay Che’le’s ChamorroMusic blog | Introducing the belembaotuyan, “Guam’s only original musical instrument” (and even more about the belembaotuyan)

In class we’re going to listen to:
— J.D. Crutch: “Ti’u Ta’lu Dumingu” and “Langet-hu I Asagua-hu” J.D. Crutch is Guam’s most popular Chamorro-language rocker. Born in 1955, the son of one of the Guamanians
who captured jungle-hiding Japanese World War II “straggler” Shoichi Yokoi, John Anthony Castro Duenas became known as “J.D. Crutch” after he had to adopt the use of crutches due to a childhood bout with polio. When Crutch was young he was an enthusiastic singer of Kantan Chamorita, traditional Chamorro poetic songs that often take the form of competitions between two vocalists competing to impress the crowd, often by taunting their opponents. Crutch’s quick wit and broad irreverence made him a natural and
then propelled him through an energetic career as a Chamorro roots-rock star until his death in 1996.

More about J.D. Crutch:
Guampedia’s entry on J.D. Crutch: “The musician ‘J.D. Crutch’ was a man who was both artist and outlaw, in a manner of speaking….His voice was a blend of Rod Stewart raunch and the nasal sound of the Chamorro techas who lead prayers at Guam rosaries and novenas.” | Watch J.D. Crutch sing live at Gupot Chamorro | lets you listen to J.D. Crutch’s first album, “Guinaifen Manglo” | Watch a nice YouTube cover of Crutch’s “Langet-hu I Asagua-hu”

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