Marianas Variety

Last updateFri, 24 May 2019 12am







    Wednesday, May 22, 2019-7:53:37A.M.






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Our Oceania: Falling for music

The famous Chamorro musician Frank “Bokonggo” Pangelinan had seven children. On July 7, his youngest will play keys alongside Leilani Wolfgramm at the Summer Simmer Down Jam at Laolao Bay Golf & Resort. It will be ShiabeBok Pangelinan’s first concert in the Marianas since moving from Guam to California in 2015.

According to Shiabe, he never planned to be a career musician. But as the son of Frank Bokonggo, he couldn’t help but fall into it. 

Click to enlarge
Left to right: Leilani Wolfgramm, Andrew Ackerly - bass/keybass, Caleb Shields - Drums, Chris Cruz - Guitar, Shiabe Pengelinan.

“Music was just always around because at my house growing up we had a recording studio and my dad’s clients were always coming through,” Pangelinan told the Variety. He and his siblings grew up watching Chamorro artists like JD Crutch and Arnold Kaipat perform classics live in their living room. 

Nature and nurture spawned a musical family, though each of Shiabe’s siblings enjoys their own genre. His brother Lief Pangelinan is well-known on Saipan for his island-style reggae. Another brother, Franklin Pangelinan, sticks to traditional Chamorro music. The others range from ukulele players to rappers to bassists in metal bands.

As for Shiabe, he dipped into hip hop, R&B, and reggae when he moved to California to pursue a job in medicine. But try as he might to focus on his chosen career path, he couldn’t help but prioritize music.

“I wanted to be an EMT but I ended up dropping classes to go on tour,” he said. “And when I went to school for medical assisting I dropped out of school to go on tour with another band. And then I went to L.A. and I went to school to become an X-ray technician but I got picked up by Leilani Wolfgramm’s band.”

Wolfgramm has appeared alongside Matisyahu, Ziggy Marley, Sublime and Incubus. Hawaii’s Island 98.5 radio station nominated her for Female Reggae Artist of the year. On Thursday, Leilani, Shiabe, and the rest of the band will spend three weeks touring in Hawaii before their concert on Saipan.

“Life just evolves in a crazy way,” Shiabe said. “Everybody that comes out to the mainland to chase their dreams—when they get an opportunity to go back home and do what they came out here to do, it’s such a blessing.”

Shiabe says the first thing he’ll do when he arrives in the CNMI is visit his father’s grave. Bokonggo was born and raised in Chalan Kanoa and was buried on Saipan ten years ago. Shiabe was a sophomore in high school at the time and visited his father’s grave regularly.

“I would go every three or four months within those first couple years of my dad’s passing and I learned a lot really quick… I couldn’t believe how thick the culture was and how thick the language was there. I learned a lot of Chamorro from my cousins teasing me.”

Even though Bokonggo has been gone for a decade, his memory is still strong in the Marianas.

“I remember getting off the plane one time and walking into the airport and his song was playing on the intercom,” said Shiabe. “I had so many goosebumps.”

“I didn’t know as a child what my dad was doing but now that he’s gone I realize he reached out to so many people’s lives and hearts and kept the culture through language and music,” Shiabe continued. He said that islanders often tell him about the way that his father’s music changed their lives.

“Because of your dad I met my wife,” he remembers one man saying. He also remembers being scolded for not knowing all of the words to one of his father’s songs, a complaint that Shiabe found unfair given that Bokonggo produced 38 albums.

That said, Shiabe remembers a lot about his dad. “Man, you know what boy? In life, you don’t need too much,” he remembers his father telling him. “I’d rather be poor and have all my friends and family than be rich and have no friends and family—because that’s what life’s about.”

“I’m very family-oriented too,” Shiabe said, “and Saipan has a really big place in my heart.”

Shiabe says Leilani Wolfgramm is on the same page: “She’s islander herself; she’s Tongan. She keeps it super island you know, she has that islander hospitality— very family-oriented. And in the band there has to be chemistry, you know what I mean? And that’s how she rolls, that’s how she just is. When we go on tour we’re always together.”

“We just have fun, we laugh. There’s always laughter.”

Shiabe reflects on his unplanned, unfolding musical career with gratitude.

“One thing about music that’s been a blessing is it’s brought me to a lot of places in my life that I never ever would have expected,” he said. “If there’s one thing I want to tell the people back home it’s this: don’t be scared. Take the risk. Go chase your dreams and go do what you want to do.”

He is looking forward to his long-awaited return to Saipan.

“Basically I’m excited to see my friends and family I’m excited to come home and visit my dad. I’m just going to be so happy to come home and charge my batteries and be with my people, you know?”

“I feel like my dad is like ‘Come home and visit me, boy. It’s been too long.”