Kaya Conversations: Jazz Espiritu

Jazz Espiritu is a Filipino American singer/songwriter from Seattle, Washington. He has been writing and performing his music since his college years at Western Washington University, and released his album ‘A Standard Love’ earlier this year. His influences include Dashboard Confessional, John Mayer, Jack’s Mannequin, and Ed Sheeran.

For our first Kaya Conversation, the Kaya Co. Seattle team interviewed the artists for their upcoming event, Kalinawan, Arts + Open Mic. In this interview, singer/songwriter Jazz Espiritu talks about family influencing his journey in music and how he hopes to use his original songs as a medium to inspire his community and loved ones.

What is your diaspora story?

My parents both migrated to the US from the Philippines at around the same time and met in the state of Virginia. In the Philippines, they only lived about an hour away from each other but had never met. I think their story embedded the belief of opportunity that this country portrays, and since then my life has been about embracing those opportunities, while also advocating for change so that there are more opportunities.

How did you get started in your art?

I got started in playing and performing music through family. My Lolo taught music in the Philippines, and taught all his children, so it felt right that I should learn too. Eventually, that moved to making my own music and using it as an outlet for emotion, but also as a way of facing myself and the person I was, as well as who I want to be.

How is being a part of the diaspora influenced your art?

The diaspora has affected my art by being the foundation of what you might find on the surface. Everything I write can be linked to a person or to a feeling, but those connections are made from the viewpoint of a Filipino American attempting to grasp the identity of ‘Filipino-American’. As the first in my family to be born in the US, I am the first in my family to be considered a Filipino-American, so what I do in my lifetime will be the legacy of what Filipino-American means in my family. My art is the way I express that.

Many people believe art is a form of community work or activism, do you feel that way about your own work?

I do feel like my art is a way of community work. Even in songs of despair, I can’t seem to allow myself to drown in it. There tends to be a hint of hope in everything I write, and I wholeheartedly believe in that hope. I want to believe that I’m writing the songs that the community wants to hear, in the hopes that one day it’s something they’ll need to hear.

The theme of our showcase is “Kalinawan”, a Filipino word that means clarity, peace, sense of vision. It can also symbolize a newfound perspective that arises from a deeper sense of self found through exploration of his or her own history or culture. What creates a sense of “Kalinawan” for you?

There are so many things that create “Kalinawan” for me! I think what truly creates Kalinawan for me would be my goddaughter. She turned five last week and since she was born I’ve thought so much about how to be the best godfather that I could be. I want her to see that I’m capable of going to school, pursuing a career that I love, sharing my music with the world, and giving back to my Filipino community. I want her to see that life should be filled with passion, and that we should all strive for an equitable and empathetic world. She keeps me fighting for it.

Follow Jazz on social media and explore his sounds!

Facebook: JazzEspirituMusic | Twitter: @jazzespiritu | YouTube: user/j2zinfinite | Bandcamp: jazzespiritu

Kalinawan, Arts + Open Mic will be hosted by Kaya Co. Seattle on November 20th at Hillman City Collaboratory.

For more details on this event, visit our event page.

Interview by Kristen Navaluna, Kaya Co. Seattle.

Kristen graduated from the University of Washington and currently is the Marketing Communications Manager of Kaya Co. Seattle. Her interests include watching Project Runway, listening to alternative music, and exploring nature landscapes and creative spaces in her travels.

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