Chamorro music man
Jesus Charfauros’ family did not even have a radio when he was growing up on Guam in the 1930s and 1940s. Later, as a teenager he would walk eight blocks to a friend’s house just to listen to an Armed Forces radio broadcast coming from one of the local military bases.
Times have changed. And thanks to Charfauros, 79, so did the lack of local music over Guam’s airwaves.
He will be honored Sept. 29 by the Guam community for his pioneering efforts promoting the island’s indigenous language, Chamorro, through music and radio.
Duane Quintanilla of BigBeatGuam, an event and sound services company, said he was motivated to put the tribute together because of Charfauros’ work uncovering and recording regional musicians in their own language, and playing those recordings on his radio show. And because, as a radio announcer (Charfauros’ on-air name was Jesus Chamorro), he had fun with the Chamorro language, often telling slightly, or sometimes not so slightly, off-color tales with a droll, deadpan delivery.
“He had a way of talking on the radio that was imitated by many of his listeners, his style, the inflections, and he was part of the first local group that produced Chamorro music for radio airplay,” Quintanilla said. “He put his stamp on Chamorro music in the 70s and 80s.”
Charfauros said his first experience with radio came through a cousin who worked as a radio announcer.
“He worked for an electrical company, but he did an AFRS (Armed Forces Radio Services) radio show. I had to walk seven or eight blocks to get to his house just to listen to this program, to listen to the show at his house. That’s when I started listening to radio every night, man. It was a long time ago. That was my first experience with radio, and I liked it. I couldn’t see him, but I could hear him. That’s the beauty of that thing.”
As he got older and continued listening to the radio, Charfauros noted to himself that no one was playing songs in Guam’s local language, and even local radio announcers spoke only English during broadcasts. He resolved to change things.
“The DJs were English-speaking Chamorros, and they were playing American songs, all the songs were in English. I said one day, ‘We’re going to have Chamorro songs (on the radio).’”
By 1977, Charfauros and his brother Tomas, were making good on Jesus’s promise of local music, working alongside now Guam talk radio guru Ray Gibson, at what was then Guam’s premier radio station, under program director Laling Camacho.
“We knew each other from the evening shows at KUAM radio. His brother Tommy usually did the Chamorro show, but every once in a while, Jesus would come and do the show,” Gibson said. “He’d come in with stacks of records, and would go thru the birthday and request letters. From time to time, he’d come in with an open reel, with something they had just recorded.”
The brothers were recording songs with lyrics by Jesus Charfauros and performed by Tomas and Ike Charfauros, and by other local talent in a studio they had built in the latter’s basement.
“When we built that studio, I started rounding up people. I would go to a party, someone was singing there, and I said, ‘Hey, how would you like to record?’ When people found out about that, they would come to the studio voluntarily.”
One of the first people Charfauros selected to record was Joseph Duenas, whose stage name was J.D. Crutch because he walked with crutches.
“It was the Santa Rita fiesta, I saw this young kid with a guitar, I thought, ‘God this guy is good,’ and he knew a lot of Chamorro songs. Then I found out he was from Talofofo, and I knew he was a natural.”
Talofofo, it seems, produces a lot of good singers, Charfauros said.
“It certainly was a lot of fun. I got to know talented people, vocalists, songsters and songstresses,” he said.
Arguably Guam’s most well-known singer-songwriter, Johnny Sablan, recorded his first album in California in 1969. The album, “Dalai Nene,” meaning too much, baby, was hugely popular on Guam.
“I admire this guy, and I’m thankful for his contribution towards keeping the language alive,” Sablan said of Charfauros.
“A lot of Chamorro’s were proud to have someone like him, he was good in words. On his radio show, he spoke very well. He was a good entertainer. He was a prominent Chamorro linguist.”
People would say of those so fluent in the language that it was almost like they came out of the womb speaking Chamorro, Sablan said.
Tribute to Jesus “Chamorro” Charfauros
A night of Chamorro music, dancing fun hosted by Island Girl of Isla 63 and Johnny Z!. Support Chamorro music and the man that got it on air! Sept. 29 at The Kahida Room in the Guam Plaza Hotel. Doors open at 6 p.m.; tickets are $25. Call 686-6499, or email bigbeatguam@Gmail.com