Cynthia Alexander
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Cynthia Alexander

Tacoma, Washington, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1996 | SELF

Tacoma, Washington, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 1996
Solo World Folk


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"“Singing the World to Sleep: The Life and Lullabies of Cynthia Alexander"

While most of us struggle to find their way into the realm of the unconscious, where skies of vivid and different colors emerge; where we can run wild and free—Cynthia seems to walk this path every single day of her life. There’s a dreamlike, lyrical feel to the way she speaks; a striking manner that stays with whomever she converses with. I wish I could absorb her capacity to go to the dream world even without sleeping; to see beyond the physical; to feel that hope is possible, despite the confusion. Most of all, she makes you feel that acknowledging death means accepting the gift of life all the more.

- Pilipinas Positive News, 2006


The lyrics of this fine singer-guitarist, when portrayed on the printed page, will perhaps come closest to being considered text-book poetry—and I only mean that in the best manner possible. Equal parts Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, and Joni Mitchell, Alexander’s verse is simultaneously casual and causal, hinting at a well-studied submissiveness to the value of ambiguous and replaceable meaning (“On the island of my senses,/ you have lost your shape./ The shadow of leaves fallen./ A bed of limbs in stalemate./ A crash of muted waves/ in diminishing dimension”—“U & I”; “A fragile pair,/ we are beyond compare:/ a breaking glass,/ a cactus chair”—“Malaya”). Alexander’s lyrics are reminiscent of Imagist poems, where clarity of expression is relayed through precise visual objects. Keep your copies of Rippingyarns and Comet’s Tail in a warm, dry place. They will be your armor against the devil when he comes, clutching pogi-rock records. - Aldus Santos


Singer/songwriter Cynthia Alexander is a folk hero in the Philippines. A multi-instrumentalist who also produces and arranges her songs, Alexander began playing guitar at the age of seven. Her brother, renowned ethnic musician Joey Ayala, provided her with early chord lessons. She attended school at Ateneo De Davao and in the late ‘80s she was the bassist for the group Hayp. Hayp were regulars at Manila underground venues such as Club Dredd and Mayric's, but Alexander's skills with the bass instantly brought her international recognition. In 1989, she was selected Best Bass Player at the World Band Explosion Finals in Tokyo, Japan. Hayp released their debut album in 1991. A year later, she joined her sibling Ayala, utilizing several indigenous instruments. She recorded three albums with Joey Ayala at Ang Bagong Lumad including 1995's Encantada, 1996's Parol, and 1997's Langit at Lupa. In addition, she toured with the band in the U.S., Canada, India, Japan, Malaysia, and New Zealand. She also performed with Filipino rock legends Mike Hanopol and Jun Lupito. Alexander's solo debut, Insomnia and Other Lullabyes, was released in 1997. It was greeted with massive critical acclaim; Alexander was heralded as a Philippine musician on the level of Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith, a true artist that refused to compromise her ideals for a pop hit. Alexander proved that a female musician could be independent and successful in the Philippines. She was nominated for Best New Artist and Best Bass Player at the NU-107 Rock Awards in 1997; at the KATHA Music Awards in 1998, she received 15 nominations, winning for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album. The follow-up, Rippingyarns, appeared in 2000, earning her even more accolades. The track "Owner of the Sky" became a smash on alternative radio in the Philippines.
- All Music Guide, Michael Sutton

"Cynthia Alexander + Antonio Forcione = Jazz + World Music"

Filipino music icon Cynthia Alexander headlines musical celebrations for Europe month when her group performs back-to-back with the UK-based Antonio Forcione Quartet in a grand concert fusing jazz and world music on May 4 at the Crossroad 77 Convention Centre located along Mother Ignacia, Quezon City.

Jointly presented by British Council Philippines, Creative Futures, the Arts Council of Cebu Foundation, and Strats Plus Events Management in cooperation with the Renaissance Makati City Hotel, the Manila Bulletin, Crossover 105.1, Joey@92.3, Dream 106 FM, and Lite Rock 96.3, the show will also feature special guest performances from classical tenor Nolyn Cabahug and master jazzman Mon David, who recently won the grand prize in the London International Jazz Competition for vocalists.

Revered by young musicians as the doyenne of alternative artists, Cynthia Alexander's music first found fruition with the rock group Hayp, for which she won the Best Bass Player Award at the 1989 World Band Explosion Finals in Tokyo. Later joining elder brother Joey Ayala 's ethno-rock ensemble Ang Bagong Lumad, Cynthia then played the octavina, interspersed with the kulintang, agong and other indigenous Filipino percussion instruments. Her debut album "Insomnia and Other Lullabyes" earned her a string of nominations for 15 categories in the Katha Music Awards. She has also been awarded twice at the annual NU Rock Awards.

Hailed as the Jimi Hendrix of the acoustic guitar, award-winning Antonio Forcione is considered one of the most charismatic and inventive performers to come out of Europe in recent years. His remarkable originality stems from his creative quest to use every imaginable part of the acoustic guitar without, for a second, losing sight of a refined musical sense. Together with his group comprising Nathan Thomson on double bass and flute, Jenny Adejayan on cello, and Adriano Adewale on percussion, Antonio plays vibrant and evocative music tinged with echoes of African, flamenco, Brazilian, classical, and blues with a hint of Indian raga.

After graduating from the Ancona Art Institute in Italy, he moved to the UK in 1983, and within two months, he leapt from obscurity to centre stage at the BBC studios when he won as Covent Garden Street Entertainer of the Year. He hasn't looked back since -- composing and touring either with his group or as a solo performer.

Cynthia's live sound is a refreshing collage of standard and open tune guitars, gongs percussion and women's voices, occasionally spiced up by a cello or violin, resulting in Asian textures interwoven with impressionistic strings and prose-poetry. Highly intuitive, her music touches on supraconscious themes as well as on ordinary living, but always reflecting an intelligent artist seeking refuge from the rejections of pop inanity.

Antonio, who plays Yamaha guitars, is a highly imaginative and seductive composer --exploiting the melodic powers of his guitar with undisguised passion. Delicate, dynamic, and controlled, his music showcases a mind-boggling variety of styles and form. Through deft precision and wit, he never fails to win his audiences with a scintillating balance of virtuosity and playfulness.

Together, music from the Cynthia Alexander Group and the Antonio Forcione Quartet, along with the choice vocal stylings of Mon David and Nolyn Cabahug, will interweave into an etheric web of strength and fragility against a background of cross-cultural experiences. Cynthia's own paintings, inspired by music from her albums will also be on exhibit, together with visual interpretations of Antonio's compositions as rendered by members of Ilustrador ng Kabataan.

After their concert, the musicians will conduct a workshop and master class on May 5, from 10:00 a.m. -- 3 p.m., also at Crossroad 77. They then fly south for another concert at Theatre One of SM-Cebu on May 6, followed by a second workshop for Cebuano musicians on May 7 at the SM Trade Hall.

Tickets to the Crossroad 77 show are P500 for orchestra and P300 for balcony. For enquiries and reservations, call 374-4822 or 914-1011 to 14 (Manila) and 233-0452 (Cebu). Those interested in joining the Music Workshops should log onto the British Council website - Philmusic

"“Pinoy Yearbook”"

With lyrics such as “walked the streets today, mindless of the way I argued with my feet…” this poet-turned-singer-turned-icon has one of the largest followings of fellow musicians. Possessing an intensity onstage that calls attention and screams attitude, Cynthia is probably the best live act around. There is indeed Comfort in her Strangeness.

- People Asia, November 2001


Revered by young musicians as the doyenne of alternative artists, Cynthia’s live sound is a refreshing collage of standard and open tune guitars, gongs percussion and women’s voices, occasionally spiced up by a cello or violin, resulting in Asian textures interwoven with impressionistic strings and prose poetry. Highly intuitive, her music touches on supra-conscious themes as well as on ordinary living, but always reflecting an intelligent artist seeking refuge from the rejections of pop inanity. - 2006

"“In the Raw”"

Most of her songs are deeply emotional and certainly very personal; they contain a sense of the world and tap into the very core of humanity. But beyond that, Ms. Alexander wants to capture the act of creation, the music of the moment, and the energy throbbing at a live performance. The songs may be familiar, but they are given new life; Ms. Alexander herself is used to playing to an audience, attuned to their moods and what they want from her, and it’s really about that communion, the shared experience of the music whether creator or spectator.
In truth, she’s better live than on her studio albums—she’s more playful with the arrangement; her voice is powerful in its rawness and spontaneity. And while anyone with the merest flicker of introspection can take any song and dive into its meaning, hearing it live can arrest you, suspend the moment of reflection, and you slide along until its conclusion reaches you.
- Business World, November 2008

"“Alternative Music’s Best-Kept Secret”"

Known for introspective lyrics that sound like deep conversations with the listener, Alexander has succeeded in crafting music that’s distinctly Asian in character—anchored on elements of Malay and Indian ethnic—yet warmly assimilates Western influences such as jazz and the blues, with a nice touch of classical to boot.
As with all pensive songwriting, Alexander’s lyrics drip with melancholia; yet there are pleasant surprises, such as the quirkily arranged (yes, the one with the Chinese-sounding melody) “Weather Report.”
She had taken her cues from the likes of Joni Mitchell, Rikki Lee Jones, Tracy Chapman, Indigo Girls, among others. From a backbone consisting of stints with various pop-rock bands and brother Joey Ayala’s Bagong Lumad…had sprung a multi-faceted musician whom audiences worldwide can appreciate.
- Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 2008

"“The Return of the Queen”"

It’s one o’clock when Cynthia takes the stage. It’s not often that she gets to play with a full band, and their obvious joy at the opportunity shows itself in the music; the sound is rich and full, and it washes over the bewildered crowd like warm, welcome rain. It’s Cynthia at the center of it all, eyes closed and ecstatic, singing like there’s no tomorrow, playing all hell out of her guitar.
…That particular tendency toward paradox is what makes Comet’s Tail a wonder: it’s an artistically uncompromising work that’s also a pleasure to listen to. Again and again, in track after track, Cynthia takes surreal, often dark imagery, and sets it to a whirl of musical techniques and moods. Consider, for example, “Turquoise Blue.” The lurching, broken-timed song incorporates a host of influences, a result of Cynthia’s voracious appetite for learning. It’s a grave song (almost literally so; it was inspired by a dream of her own funeral), but while there are somber, almost sinister moments, the track just as easily becomes lighthearted, one mood shading into the other seamlessly. Let’s not discount the artistic achievement it represents, but neither does the song require too much intellectualizing to appreciate—it is, simply, also a good pop song.

- Pulp magazine, August 2005








Cynthia Alexander is a singer-songwriter, composer and guitar player with a cult following in her native Philippines. Her move to Seattle in 2012 made national news and initiated a widespread conversation about the state of independent art in the Philippines. Now based in Tacoma, Washington, Cynthia is focused on building deeper connections in her new community, while also maintaining close ties with her fans back in Manila. 

Throughout her 20-year solo career, Cynthia has released three award-winning albums and a retrospective album. She also collaborated on the highly acclaimed jazz-electronica-folk project Humanfolk with percussionists Susie Ibarra and Roberto Rodriguez (Electric Kulintang), jazz guitarist Johnny Alegre and legendary electronic artist Malek Lopez. She got her start playing percussion with her brother Joey Ayala’s band Bagong Lumad (The New Native), and bass and vocals for the rock band Hayp. 

In 2012, Cynthia composed a feature-length score for the Ballet Philippines production Wagas, for which she sang vocals, played guitar and indigenous percussion instruments, and arranged and produced the recording. She was the music director and composer for Sita & Rama: Papet Ramayana, a puppet theater production by the Philippine playwright Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio, which premiered at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. 

In 2013 she played at Lincoln Center with the Brooklyn-Manila project, created by the Grammy nominee cellist Dave Eggar and drummer/producer Chuck Palmer of Deoro. She has performed at the Arts House at the Parliament in Singapore, the Southeast Asian Market in Wellington New Zealand, the Rainforest World Music Festival in Borneo, the La Peña Cultural Arts Center in Berkeley, Union Square in San Francisco, The Armory in Seattle Center, and most recently at Whitespace Manila where she was the headline performer at the 2015 Indie Music Awards.

Cynthia is a 4Culture TAR (Touring Arts Roster) artist, and a Seattle Center Festal EACEF (Ethnic Artist Cultural Enhancement Fund) Grantee. She is at work on her fifth solo album.