5 min with… Junji Delfino
What is your cultural background?
Much of my formative years were spent in the Philippines, where I was born so I embody a lot of the Filipino culture. Their love of music ranks highly alongside their love of family, friendships, food and folklore. But I have also lived more than half my life in Malaysia and with that comes a lot of ‘Malaysianisms’ that I’ve acquired along the way… like peppering my sentences with ‘lah’ and indulging in the national pastime which is eating!
How did you seek out opportunities?
I have not really been one to sniff out career opportunities. By sheer grace and blessing, most – if not all of them – have literally landed on my lap. Something I am definitely grateful for!
How have you developed your career?
I don’t remember making any conscious effort to develop my career. Every new thing, every new venture was a natural progression insofar as my evolution as a performer is concerned. Whether it be as a singer or an actor, when doors opened to things that were outside of my comfort zone, I took them. And those doors brought with them opportunities of stretching myself to either do something I’ve never done or to expand on that which I was already doing. In that respect… my career, just like my life, continues to be a work-in-progress.
How does your work comment on current social or political issues?
I’m primarily a jazz vocalist so I will start by saying this: considering that jazz was consequentially borne out of slavery – a cry for freedom from injustice – much of the music that generations of jazz practitioners before me have created are very much rooted in socio-political issues. In the early days of jazz, slaves improvised lyrics that spoke of their harsh situations. Their words were wrought with the pain and suffering they endured but the music gave them hope. And as the saying goes hope reigns eternal so every time I perform on stage, whether I’m singing or acting, my underlying task is not to comment but to offer a flicker of hope to those who need it.
What does your music aim to say?
In a nutshell: All you give is all you get so I say, give it all you’ve got!
What are your comments on the current funding issues for the arts?
How do you suggest we collectively work on this?
This issue is as old as time. Where funding is concerned, I reckon the problems we all face in the arts stems mainly from the lack of knowledge, recognition and a learned respect of the importance and impact the arts has on a nation, its government and its people. And I think that if the leaders of the nation are the first to grasp an understanding of that and become arts advocates then it would trickle all the way down to the man on the street. There’s a wealth of talent and works in this country, some even recognised abroad, but only a small segment of society are even aware they exist. I certainly hope, with the new change in government, that things would slowly begin to change for the arts.
Who is your favourite musical inspiration and why?
This is a tough one as I have too many! It’s akin to asking me what my favourite song is. It’s an impossible task!
Do you have a ritual before or after you perform?
What centres you before and after?
No ritual. Just a conscious thought to try and make each performance better than the last. What centres me before a performance? I dare say I have never given that a thought! Once I’m in though, from the first note to the last, the audience keeps me grounded. If I should be so fortunate to have an attentively quiet and listening crowd, I become one with them. Music is food for the soul and we all leave that banquet fully sated. After such a performance a nice glass of red might be a good centering tool 🙂
What is your favourite Malaysian breakfast?
I don’t really have any particular favourite. And that’s probably because I’m not usually a breakfast person. It’s usually just coffee for me. However, I do enjoy the occasional half-boiled egg with soya sauce and pepper and some toast bread.
What makes a good Jazz artiste?
I am in no position to comment on what makes a good jazz artiste in much the same way as I cannot state what makes a good person. I, myself, am flawed and struggle daily to be a better version of myself today than I was yesterday. Everyone has a different ideal that we work towards achieving. But if I had to lock in to one advise to aspiring practitioners of jazz, it is this: That one must embrace and respect it for the wealth of truth that it embodies. It is one thing to play it but there’s a whole different dynamic to living it.
Junji Delfino will be making a guest appearance in Julian Chan’s “An Evening of Jazz”, one of the DPAC Spectrum shows during KLIAF 2018