OFW With All That Jazz

In Japan where she is based, Charito is ranked among the top jazz singers.  (Source: allaboutjazz.com)

In Japan where she is based, Charito is ranked among the top jazz singers. (Source: allaboutjazz.com)

Rosario Vergara Suyama, has lived in Tokyo for over two decades. She’s now recognized as one of Japan’s top jazz singers, performing with various groups and artists, and is better known to the world as simply Charito.

Signed to Japanese record label CT Music, Charito has recorded 14 CDs under her name and toured in many parts of the world including Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, Canada and the United States.

Initially a rhythm and blues and pop singer, Charito worked with a variety of Japanese groups in many parts of Japan upon her arrival. Impressed with their high level of music education and dedication, she eventually became inspired by the approach of the Japanese musicians towards jazz, an American art form with which she was already familiar in the Philippines. Influenced by the great ladies of jazz, especially Sarah Vaughn and Nancy Wilson, Charito continued to develop her craft and the ability to express herself deeply and to freely improvise, the hallmark of a true jazz artist.

Over the years, her career and popularity has continued to grow, winning accolades from fans, writers, musicians and artists from all over the world. Her multiple awards include four Gold Disc awards and two Best Vocal awards from Japan’s prestigious Swing Journal magazine. Several of her performances and recordings feature now-legendary collaborations with renowned artists such as Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, Roy Hargrove, Harvey Mason, the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra, Ivan Lins and France’s iconic Michel Legrand. Any one of these collaborations alone would’ve been a dream come true for your everyday musician and recording artist. The fact that she has already realized several of them, and that she shows no sign of stopping anytime soon, is nothing short of outstanding and inspiring.

Several of her performances and recordings feature now-legendary collaborations with renowned artists such as Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, Roy Hargrove, Harvey Mason, the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra, Ivan Lins and France’s iconic Michel Legrand.

In recent years, Charito’s vision of universal love and hope has grown to include benefit performances to aid victims of natural disasters, including the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan as well as the devastating 2012 typhoons and floods in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. She has formed a “Because We Care” group, dedicated to help children affected by the earthquake in Japan.

“We wanted to make a difference in the lives of those in need, especially the children,” she explains. “We felt the need for meaningful actions and effective programs to increase awareness among us as concerned citizens.” Because We Care is a nonprofit composed of staff and volunteers from different backgrounds and cultures, who want to contribute by helping support and address social needs. It has an annual charity concert called “A Christmas Gift.” 

While in the United States in 2011 recording her CD “Heal the World,” produced by drummer Harvey Mason, Charito performed at the Benefit Concert for Japan presented by the SF Filipino American Jazz Festival at the Piedmont Piano store in Oakland, California. The show featured Filipino composer/pianist, Boy Palacio and drummer/author, Richie Quirino, who wrote a trilogy of books on Pinoy Jazz. Included in this collection is the award-winning Pinoy Jazz Traditions, which spearheaded a movement to present Filipinos as global jazz artists.

Charito founded the Tokyo-Manila Jazz Festival in 2012, conceptualized as a musical bridge between the two cultures. Mon David, award-winning and charismatic vocalist from Pampanga who’s now living in the United States, was one of the featured artists. Also showcased was Terumasa Hino, one of Japan’s leading jazz trumpet players, along with an entire orchestra of Japanese musicians and singers.

For Charito, the Tokyo-Manila Jazz and Arts Festival is “a dream coming true, dedicated to the cultivation of young talented artists who will be given the opportunity to take part in performances with professionals in the field. A big part of our goal is to create music scholarship funds, providing equipment and educational support.”

Debuted in December 2012, Charitos’s latest offering, “An Affair To Remember,” has lush orchestrations of beloved standards and has received enthusiastic reviews by her many fans and supporters. She has started a promotional tour for that recording, which brought her to California where she performed in Los Angeles at the Catalina Bar & Grill with Mon David last March 28 and to Yoshi’s Oakland where the San Francisco Filipino American Jazz Festival presented her with the Larry Vuckovich Trio last April 1.

Charito at Yoshi's in Oakland  (Photo by Henry Cheung)

Charito at Yoshi's in Oakland (Photo by Henry Cheung)

Now home in Tokyo, Charito is busy finalizing plans for the 2nd Annual Tokyo-Manila Jazz and Arts Festival, to be held in Manila in May, featuring top jazz artists from both countries and marking the 80-year musical connection between Tokyo and Manila.

Looking back, it does indeed seem like a long time since Charito left the Philippines, her Inang Bayan, where she was born in Manila to Alberto and Rosita Vergara from La Union, San Fernando and Tuguegarao, Cagayan respectively. Her adopted home, Tokyo, is one of the world’s jazz capitals. There, she maintains a busy schedule performing and conducting workshops for aspiring singers. Firmly established as an international recording and touring artist, Charito has found her voice, both musically and spiritually, and has mastered different vehicles for its expression. This is an artist who has paid her dues and will continue to make waves wherever she goes. Her CD with Michel Legrand bears the title of one of his timeless compositions and is her statement to the world as she moves forward with Charito’s Dream, “Watch What Happens.”

At the finale of the 2012 Tokyo-Manila Jazz and Arts Festival, Charito performed with trumpet player Terumasa Hino, vocalist Mon David, and Sitti, the "Bossa Nova Queen" of Manila along with Ramona and Ivan, two Tokyo-based singers from the Philippines.  (Photo by Julius Pasqua)

At the finale of the 2012 Tokyo-Manila Jazz and Arts Festival, Charito performed with trumpet player Terumasa Hino, vocalist Mon David, and Sitti, the "Bossa Nova Queen" of Manila along with Ramona and Ivan, two Tokyo-based singers from the Philippines. (Photo by Julius Pasqua)

Carlos Zialcita.jpg

Carlos Zialcita was born in Manila and grew up in San Francisco after coming to the United States in 1958. He has been part of the San Francisco Bay Area jazz and blues scene for several decades as a harmonica player, singer, bandleader and educator. Zialcita is the founder and producer of the San Francisco Filipino American Jazz Festival and is the Executive Director of the Alameda Multicultural Community Center. He is one of the contributing writers to “Filipinos in San Francisco” (2011) on Arcadia Press (Photo by Henry Cheung).