Wonderful you came by, Xtine Mercado

red line

red line

By Cristina DC Pastor

I was watching this gamin-haired singer stride on stage at Carnegie Hall, and burst into Nat King Cole’s jazzy “Orange Colored Sky.” I found myself finger-snapping along and wondering why this rocker-looking woman in black biker boots is singing something from post-war 1950s. Talk about an image disconnect, I thought to myself.

Intrigued, I called Xtine Mercado. Those musical chops she so effortlessly demonstrated as one of the performers for The Outstanding Filipinos in America? They came from her parents, ex-Minstrels Ernie Mercado and Louanne Cuenco. Minstrel original Ding Mercado is her uncle.

The Minstrels is a very popular show band in the Philippines in the 1970s-80s. Singers like Louie Reyes, Ding Mercado, Ray-An Fuentes, and Eugene Villaluz had their start with the Minstrels until they drifted out of the band and went on their own and became successful recording artists. New members have stepped in, giving the band a style that was constantly fresh and current. Xtine said her parents Ernie and Louanne became “second gen” Minstrels.

“That’s how they met,” she said. “My mom auditioned when she was 17.”

Singing since she was 3 years old.

Singing since she was 3 years old.

Xtine, who is turning 31 in November, told me she’s been singing since she was 3 years old. The jazz and blues influence, she acknowledged, came from her mother.

“It started with my mom, jazz was her main thing,” she said.

As her love for the genres developed, she became acquainted with Sarah Vaughn’s breezy style and Ella Fitzgerald’s scatting. The first song she sang as a performer was “Time and Tide” by Basia, a pop-jazz vocalist very popular in the ‘80s. Soon, she was doing Etta James’s “At Last” and “I’d Rather Go Blind,” and honing her own unique style.

At Carnegie Hall, she went brassy with “Orange Colored Sky.”

I was walking along
Minding my business
When out of the orange colored sky
Flash, bam, alakazam
Wonderful you came by…

Here’s the link to her performance.

“I don’t mind that I’m following my mom’s love for jazz,” she said.

Xtine in a rare musical concert with her mother singer Louanne Cuenco, and stepfather Bobby Ramiro on the piano. This happened March 31, 2017 at Payag Restaurant.

Xtine in a rare musical concert with her mother singer Louanne Cuenco, and stepfather Bobby Ramiro on the piano. This happened March 31, 2017 at Payag Restaurant.

Her observation is that there are not a lot of Filipino blues and jazz singers.

“It’s not growing in popularity in Manila,” said Xtine, whose formal name is Christine. She lives in Manila but is planning a move to NYC in a few years to join her mother and stepfather, the superlative pianist Bobby Ramiro. She likened these types of music to a lifestyle that is “classy,” like “you can imagine somebody with a glass of wine and cheese.” She laughed at her own metaphor.

She said she’s been trying to promote blues as a member of the band called Brat Pack. Her group participated in a blues music competition in Memphis. They ended up one of the finalists, and being the only Asian participant, which sort of put pressure on them. “It’s like we’re not just representing the Philippines but all of Asia,” she said.

Asked to describe her style, she said people have compared it to Janis Joplin, Sarah Vaughn, or Nina Simone. She is just as happy being told: “I sound like my mom.”

© 2017 The FilAm

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