SamaSama Project began as an experiment fifteen years ago with founding members Lou Ella Rose and Baron Cabalona setting out to see if they could bring together musicians of Filipino descent. Over 30 different musicians have been a part of the Chicago-based group and at one point it was an 11-piece band. SamaSama’s current group has been together for the last seven years:

  • Lou Ella Rose - lead vocals and agung (ethnic)
  • Baron Cabalong - drums, bass guitar, kulintang (ethnic), and musical director
  • Ran Sevilla - rhythm guitar and dabakan (ethnic)
  • John Kniker - lead guitar
  • EJ Luna - bass guitar
  • Giga Yanong - saxophone and bongos

The Filipino folk fusion band has gone through many changes and developments over the years, much like Filipino music in general. 

SamaSama Project

“The Great Filipino Songbook” (performed last September 23 at Davenport’s Piano Bar & Cabaret in Wicker Park) is a show that celebrates the history and evolution of Filipino music and its influences; beginning with “OPM” (Original Pilipino Music) of the 1920s.

The hour-long set features tunes written by renowned Filipino composers and musicians such as Niconar Abelardo, Francisco Santiago, Domingo Lopez, Juan Silos Jr, and Mike Velarde. Their songs will be familiar to most Filipinos in the audience, but non-Filipinos are sure to hear and feel a familiarity from the melodies due to strong Spanish and American influences.

SamaSama Projects brings a modern and unique touch to classic songs like Santiago’s “Pakiusap” and Velarde’s “Dahil Sa Iyo,” but very much pays homage to the works of the iconic Filipino music legends they spotlight. Interspersed among the various songs are fun facts about the composers and their hit songs. 

If you missed SamaSama’s performance of “The Great Filipino Songbook” last month, you have two opportunities to catch them back at Davenport’s on Sunday, October 22. The band will have back-to-back shows at 4pm and 7pm. In between performances, check out Filipino food, artwork, apparel, jewelry, and more from local small businesses and creators in the front room of Davenport’s. This special pop-up event is presented by Everybody’s Market Chicago.

SamaSama Project is currently working on writing a songbook and has plans to record an album. Stay up-to-date on the group by following them on Instagram and Facebook.

*Article written by Camelia Rodriguez Camara

Oct 12, 2023

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