Philippine female singer Grace Nono has built a career performing and promoting indigenous Philippine music in the country, and has gained much respect. After releasing the magnificent Opo in 1995, Nono returned with 1997's Isang Buhay: One Life (One Life: One Life). As with Opo, Isang Buhay: One Life fuses an ethnic sensibility with Western musical approaches, but the ethnic vibe is more prominent than on Opo. Where Opo, for example, contained a number of songs dominated by a contemporary jazz ambience, only one song, "Manama" (the name of a mythical God), on this album features that style. The album is conceptual in nature and according to the album notes is an "affirmation of the universal experience of life and death." The opening title song, "Isang Buhay" (One Life), is a celebration of life, featuring music and lyrics by Grace Nono. "Ader" (no translation) is a song of courtship and is based on an actual indigenous Maguindanaon courtship song and expounded upon here. Several songs in addition to "Ader" are based on authentic indigenous themes, while other songs are composed entirely by Grace Nono. A number of ethnic instruments are used throughout the album, including the two-string kudlong (a guitar-like instrument). The music is exotic and intriguing, but on the whole it is also less striking than Opo. Still, there are moments of beauty, as heard on "Ani" (Harvest), which features an enchanting call and response between Grace Nono and a backing chorus. "Anungan" is based on a beautiful indigenous lullaby from the Hanunuo Mangyan community on the southern coast of the main island of Luzon.
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