Winnipeg’s Jojo Yso

Jojo Yso: Rocking Winnipeg

Part 2
Levy Abad

Traffikk Jamm
On December 2013, the band, Traffikk Jamm, was born. Traffikk Jamm is one of the high impact rock bands of the Filipino community. The members of the band are JojoYso (guitar and vocals), Erwin San Juan (lead guitar/vocals), AC Garcia (lead vocals), Willy Liwanag (bass /vocals) and last but not the least, Noel Marana (drums/vocals) (Traffikk Jamm’s FB page).

Their music incorporates elements of classic rock and top 40s music. This year, Traffikk Jamm performed at the recently concluded Food-O-Rama at PCCM and at the 2016 Manitoba Filipino Street Festival held at Downtown Winnipeg where about 15,000 attended. They also held a fundraising concert at 49 Euclid Avenue for the Filipino Seniors Group. On October 1 and 2, they are one of the featured performers at the Octoberfest organized by the Winnipeg Filipino Beer Festival. (Traffikk Jamm Band: Winnipeg`s Pride, Levy Abad, Articles and Poems).

Faithful to his Folk roots

Wow, what a rock and roll ride for Jojo Yso who told me that he has always been faithful to his folk roots. It just so happened that back in the olden days, everybody in Visayas (group of Islands in the Philippines) wanted to go to Japan to become members of a band and earn a decent living. It was a necessity to adapt to new approach to music. This was during the time of the Marcos dictatorship when the labour export policy was implemented that led to the mental and talent drain of the 70s and 80s. Jojo shared his folksinging years back in high school and told me that they had a trio with two older musicians who hailed from Mindanao. They sang songs of Simon and Garfunkel, Crosby Stills Nash and Young or CSNY, Asin (Salt of the earth), Neil Young, America, James Taylor, John Denver and Don McLean. He added that in this trio, two played the guitars and one played the base. Jojo also had a group in high school performing Asin and Simon and Garfunkel songs in school functions.

Playing Ukelele at the age of 6

Jojo was born in 1967, my contemporary. We share the same music, sang the same songs and had the experience of performing in high school events. The difference is Jojo started playing the guitar (ukulele) earlier than me at a young age of 6 years. He explained that when he was in 1st year high school, he joined a guitar playing competition and won first prize against his senior year opponents.

He reminisced that the piece that he played when he was in first year was the instrumental “Forbidden Games “ or Fur Elise, which was the favourite of his dad. He said that even up to now, when he remembers his dad, he plays this song that takes him back in time.

Time spent on playing the guitar

Reflecting on the experience of Jojo, I can imagine the time that he spent on playing the guitar and honing his skill. Back in high school, we used to boast of the caloused fingertips due to hours spent playing the guitar. I neglected my studies just to learn.

After the Gold Rush of Neil Young, I Need You of America and Is it okay If I call you mine by Paul McCrane. I can just imagine how many hours were spent on this through the years excluding the time spent on memorizing songs even the cassette cartridges spent, the cassette player messed up by the forwards and the rewinds just to capture the style of James Taylor, Don McLean, among others. For those who never went through this kind of experience, everything seems easy and perhaps would think that singing a song is a cheap trick. Mind you, Jojo reads notes and knows how to arrange, which for a folksinger like me who only learned to play guitar on the streets, is another level still.

Band leadership is humbling

Watching Jojo Yso perform with his present band, Traffikk Jamm, and listening to their impressive performances make one concludes that as a group and as a member/ band leader, Jojo is just reaping the fruits of the time he spent playing the frets of the guitar or whatever instrument he plays.

Jojo’s role as a band leader is not an easy job. I remember seeing him carrying all the amps and other performance stuff to set up and after the gigs, he is one of the last persons to stay to clean-up and lift stuff. What a sacrifice to make people happy and momentarily free them from the depressive effects of diaspora. The regular band practice, the individual research on the pieces of music to be played and the arranging of songs for the band, my, oh my, I haven’t done any bit of this. The only thing that I did as a performer was bring my guitar, plugged it to an amp then sing about revolution.

All this task of a band leader reminds me of some lines in Neil Young’s “Comes a time:” we were right, we were giving, that’s how we kept what we gave away. Well, Bai (Bro) Jojo, from 1972 when you learned to play the ukelele and all these years, I know and you know deep in your heart that we made people happy, reminisce, fall in love and out of love, but the power of music in us, as shaped by our folk roots, withstands the vicissitudes of time.

So Bai, “Keep on rockin’ Winnipeg!”