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I suppose I knew that there were two different kinds of people and they behaved in distinct ways. I also knew that my Nanay, the Tagalog word for mother that I used for my grandmother who raised me, wore dresses and she did not buy me dresses. She wore her hair long and I did not wear my hair long.

But she took me to the market and taught me how to haggle. She let me play Chinese garter and jacks with the children in dresses. And sometimes, she cut her hair short. And plenty of times she wore pants. I helped her cook by grating coconut. I didn’t like sitting with my grandfather and drinking, though I did sit on his lap sometimes when he played cards, and I sat on my grandmother’s lap when she played mahjong.

Whenever anyone talked about me, they said kanya, siya, niya, pronouns that did not identify me as belonging to either the longhairs or the shorthairs, the skirtwearers or the pantswearers. I was not a son but a child, not a nephew but a nephew-equivalent whose gender was unspecified.

I Didn’t Know I Was A Boy | Meredith Talusan for Medium (via gaywrites)

#13 - Asimbonanga - Tribute to Mandela

The last song on my list is a tribute and rediscovery.  This song was composed and performed by Johnny Clegg & Savuka. It was always one of my favorites and I had actually put the album it’s on back on my iPod this year. So I was very touched and delighted to see that the Soweto Gospel Choir decided to perform it “flashmob” style in a grocery store and that it actually was about Mandela (I had just sung along phonetically without understanding the words), It was incredibly moving. I watched it several times at work that day it came out.

Divestiture was my introduction to college activism. I didn’t participate, but I witnessed a few roommates and friends spend the night in a shanty on the UVa Lawn. If you know anything about Mr. Jefferson’s Academical Village, you know the Lawn is sacred, so to defile it with a shanty was just blasphemous. I remember walking by the shanty when a student yelled that he agreed with the cause, but not the tactic. We always prefer our protests to be so polite, don’t we? Like all we have to do is ask nicely and social justice will be served (I actually believed that at one point). I wasn’t the type then to participate in that kind of protest (and I’m not sure I am now), but I admired those who did and my consciousness was raised (and still is). 

Here’s Mandela joining Johnny Clegg & Savuka on stage. Rest in peace Tata Madiba.

#12 - Divinyls - Pleasure & Pain

Sadly, the lead singer of this 80s group died in this year (April 21, 2013). She was only 53. As I’m wont to do when I hear these things, I went digging into my iTunes collection. I have the song that became their most popular hit (I Touch Myself), but I like to say I knew them before they were popular. Pleasure & Pain came out a year before. I think I might have even had both on 7-inch.

#11 - Cerulean by Ocean Blue

The last 3 items on my list of Top 13 Musical Discoveries for 2013 are rediscovered oldies and tributes. After 30 years of collecting, I have enough music that I can hear something like it’s new again.

I heard this song again analog style: from a cassette in my car. Cerulean has that atmospheric tunefulness that was common among 80s bands.

Bonus 1: I always thought of them as a one-obscure-hit wonder, but I discovered they’ve been recording all along. I have some catching up to do in 2014.

Bonus 2: I created an Ocean Blue Radio station on Pandora and it mixes in the Smiths, Cure, Depeche Mode…I think I even heard Ultravox.

#10 - Rap O Treasure - Bruno Mars and Joe Bataan Mashup

I don’t know whose idea (or effort) it was to put these songs together, but it was genius. An I-didn’t-know-he-is Filipino star from one era mashed up with the current I-didn’t-know-he-is Filipino star. One, a forgotten parent of hip hop; the other, a writer of ear wormy, pop craft. Joe Bataan is still alive and kicking (I saw him perform at the Smithsonian in 2012), so maybe he and Bruno could really mash it up. Meanwhile, I think I’ll make a lesson plan for next fall’s Filipino American studies class on the intersectional hybridity of Filipinos, music styles, and music videos. (And btw, Bruno needs to be less shy with his hip movements in the video).

Okay, that’s it for today. #11-13 tomorrow.

#9 - Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines

Another Top 40 song with Pharell Williams in it. Okay yeah, it’s reminiscent of Marvin Gaye (I don’t hear it but others do), with a video reminiscent of Robert Palmer's total toyafication of women (so I'm linking a wicked fitness class video instead). There's a sociological term for liking and enjoying something (video, music, movie) that is problematic. When I remember it, I'll add it to this post, which would be Exhibit A.

I’ve been listening to Robin Thicke for a while and he can appropriate and appreciate with the best of them. I got the album.

#8 - Get Lucky by Daft Punk featuring Pharell Williams and Nile Rodgers (uncredited but undeniable)

Ok, gotta have some Top 40 on the list. And Top 40 from two eras at that. I wasn’t sure who the singer or the band was when I first heard this on the radio (real radio, in my car), but I recognized the guitar work instantly: Nile Rodgers. You can hear the same riffs from his 70s hits (yes, the disco era), with Chic (Le Freak) and Sister Sledge (He’s the Greatest Dancer). Spotify says this was the most streamed song of the year. It was also the most sampled. Old school keeps schoolin’.

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