A few months ago my sister called me pretty excited and said, “Check out Pink Martini’s website. They are having a music video competition!”
Are you serious?” I said calmly. Though I have to admit inside I was pretty excited.
Pink Martini is a 12-member “little orchestra” based in Portland, Oregon whose work I’ve been following since they first began in the mid 90s. I first listened to their music on KCRW in Santa Monica, CA while I was driving in traffic as is often the case in L.A. and then later saw them live in small venues in New York when I moved to the East Coast. I have seen them a number of times live and each time has always been unique and amazing. Their albums are always on my iTunes playlist for the days when you need that extra pick me up. Over the years I have been so impressed with their ability to deepen their craft and to explore their own special mark that has made them who they are. They are a group that is classical and contemporary, cinematic and very intimate, historical and experimental, and one of the few groups that cross cultures and language in a manner that honors and celebrates the world we live in.
Their music has always been a huge inspiration to me and has been profoundly influential to my own connection to my own family. I can remember when my sister and I would play Pink Martini’s first album Sympathique for our Filipino family celebrations. We would often have impromptu dancing after our huge Filipino meal of pancit noodles and lumpia spring rolls.
My Uncle Buddy and Uncle Chic who were dance instructors in the Philippines would put on their best dressed dance shoes and suits. They looked like they were part of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack. Then they would request for a CD player and put in a really bad 80s Karaoke sounding ballroom dance CD. Both my sister and I hated when they played that CD. They would play it for Thanksgiving and then for X-mas and all our family gatherings. This one time my sister ejected the 80s ballroom dance CD and put in Pink Martini’s Sympathique. She rolled Track 1 Amado Mio. The catchy dreamy Latin beat started to play and China Forbes and her beautiful voice pierced the din of the party conversations and within minutes our whole clan literally jumped out of their seat and started dancing.
“Who is this CD?,” my Uncle Buddy would say in a thick Filipino accent still dancing, “Pink Martini? Who is this Pink Martini? I like this Pink Martini! Play that fast one again. I like that one!” And he would swing my Aunty around and show off his cha cha and tango steps and everyone would hold their plate full of pancit noodles and laugh.
Pink Martini closed the gap connecting our generations and brought our family closer. That is their music to me it is a celebration of life and a reminder that we are all connected in some small way to each other.
3 for Pink Martini are 3 music videos in a short film style format created for the Pink Martini Music Video Contest that honor my personal connection to their music as it relates to family and community and the themes of love and loss.
Animation artist Rocky Kev from the KoAloha Ukulele Story teamed up with me once more to create something that is out of the box and very personal exploring our connections to Où Est Ma Tête?, Ohayoo Ohio (Hello Ohio), and Over the Valley from their new album Splendor in the Grass.
We did something unique with this process since we were able to present more than one music video. We each created a music video in our own disciplines on our own and then collaborated on one final music video together (Over the Valley). I hope the films can explore the multiple layers of Pink Martini in a manner that you have not seen before and hopefully captures the spirit of what Pink Martini’s musical message has always represented to me.
I’ll end with one final personal story related to why these music videos have special meaning to me. After Sympathique, the group did not put out another album for several years and I thought perhaps they disbanded. I was randomly searching for new music to catch at the new World Cafe Live! music venue in Philadelphia. World Cafe Live! was just finding it’s voice as a venue and at the time it was a strange cross between a House of Blues venue and a dinner theater. I saw Pink Martini was listed as performing for one night only. It would be their first and only show in Philadelphia. I went online and immediately purchased tickets thinking the show would be sold out but it surprisingly was not. The front row “dinner theater” style tables were totally open and available so I bought a whole table and called up my Philadelphia music loving friends and I said you have to see this group. Just like my Uncle, they had no idea who they were but went along for the ride just to humor me. At the beginning of the concert, I could hear the clatter of silverware on plates and I could tell looking at the bands reactions it was like, “Are we playing at a wedding?” But over the course of the evening, Pink Martini worked their magic and one by one people began to pop out of their chairs and started dancing. Old people. Young people. I never saw anything like it.
At the end of the show, I remember talking to an older couple who drove to every Pink Martini show on the east coast and they were on their way to catch the next show in D.C the next day. They were like teenagers again. I told my friend who sat next to me, “You know, this is really something. I mean look at all those young people and old people dancing to the same music. I’ve never been to a concert like this before. Somebody should do a film about this group and the people who follow their music.”
So he says, “You should do it! Ask them!” As we waited after the show outside the venue I tried to rehearse what I’d say in my head but after a few minutes I immediately got cold feet and walked away. In a very strange and special way, this music video contest has given me a chance to do something I’ve always wanted to do for a very long time and that is to create a film about a group that continues to inspire and bring people together across generations and across all boundaries.
To Thomas M Lauderdale, China Forbes, and the talented core artists of Pink Martini I raise a martini glass to you and say, “Salud!”
I hope these films are a small personal thank you for the music you’ve given me.
With every good wish,
Gary San Angel
Pink Martini – Où Est Ma Tête? (Featuring Wherever There is Water Parade)