Indigenous MusicBy Antonio C. HilaTuklas Sining: Essays on the Philippine Arts Pages: 1 | 2 | 3Of all the arts, music is regarded as the most universal in its appeal and acceptance. Thisuniversality, however, does not meanthat music is without individualcharacter. Each country has its ownkind of music that embodies the totalexperience, the collectiveconsciousness of its people. Music,therefore, is the collective expressionof the musical genius of a particularpeople. Such is the case of Philippinemusic which today is regarded as aunique blending of two great musicaltraditions – the East and the West.Being innately musical, the Filipinos,from the earliest to contemporary times, have imbibed these traditions and have woven theirmusical creations along these mainstreams of musical thought. Through time, Philippinesociety has witnessed the evolution of music expressed in different forms and stylisticnuances. A people gifted with a strong sense of musicality, the Filipinos turn to music toexpress their innermost feelings. Hence, every song they sing, every instrument they play,every music they make is a direct, almost spontaneous reflection of their hopes and longings,frustrations and fulfillment, failures and triumphs – Antonio C. Hilandigenous music before the colonial era was largely functional. Expressed eitherinstrumentally or vocally or a combination of both, music was deeply integrated with theactivities of the natives. The ancient Filipinos had music practically for all occasions, for everyphase of life, from birth to death. This type of music is largely retained and practiced by about 10 percent of thepopulation concentrated mainly in three regions: Northern Luzon, the Central Philippineislands of Mindoro and Palawan and the southern islands of Mindanano and Sulu. InMindanao and Sulu, two musical and cultural traditions may be noted – the Islamic, consistingof such groups as the Maguindanao, Maranao, Yakan, Tausog and Samal, and the pre-Islamic which is composed of the Bagobo, Manobo, Bukidnon, Tagakaolo, Bilaan, Mansaka,Subanon and Mandaya, among others. The understanding of Philippine ethnic music is premised on an appreciation ofindigenous instruments which are used in the various ritual and secular activities of these twopeoples and which are generally grouped into the aerophones or wind instruments;chordophones or stringed instruments; idiophones or percussion instruments struck with amallet, or against each other, or against another object like the hand; and membranophonesor percussion instruments using animal skins or membranes.
A few differences may be noted between the instruments of the Northern andSouthern Philippines. These differences lie primarily in the manner of construction, the styleof playing them and the sound they produce. By and large, however, instruments found allover the Islands are strikingly similar. The aerophones are best represented by the many types of bamboo flutes that arefound all over the country. The lip valley flute found in the North is called the paldong, orkaldong of the Kalinga. In the South Maguindanao call it palendag, the Manobo, pulalu.This flute has three holes on one side and fourth hole on the opposite side. There is also the popular nose flute, which produces soft and soothing sounds heardclearly in quiet late afternoons. The northern tribes call this kalleleng (Bondotc andKankanai), tongali (Ifugao and Kalinga) and baliing (Isneg). In the Central Philippines, it isknown as lantuy among the Cuyunin, babarek among the Tagbanua and plawta among theMangyan. In addition, some aerophones are composed of several bamboo tubes of differentlengths, like the Kalinga saggeypo and the diwdiw-as, a panpipe common to Igorots. Thediwdiw-as is made of five or more slender bamboo tubes tied together. The upper ends of thetubes are open and into these a performer blows without his lips touching the instrument. Onthe other hand, the six saggeypo tubes are left untied and may be played by a group ofpeople. The simultaneous blowing of the pipes results in harp-like sounds. The Maguindanao, meanwhile, have the suling or ring flute, so called because theblowing end is encircled with a rattan ring to create mouthpiece. The Tausog have a six holesingle-reed sahunay, with its characteristic cone-shaped pandan-leaf bell. Chordophones also bound in many parts of the Archipelago. These include the bamboo zithers, the Spanish guitars, the bamboo violins and the lutes. The zither is a stringed instrument made from a single bamboo section, around three to four inches in diameter, with a node at each end. Serving as strings, however, are raised narrow strips of the outer skin fibers of the bamboo itself, with the ends still attached to the body of the instrument. Small wedges are placed beneath the strings to produce different tensions – and thus varying pitches– as the player plucks the strings. Variations of the zither can be found all over the country, like the Ilongot kolesing orthe Ibaloi kalshang, the Negrito pas-ing and Ifugao patting; in the central Philippines, theTagbanua play the pa’gang, while the Mangyan have the kudlung. The southern zither iscalled tawgaw (Bagobo). Two-stringed lutes knows as the kudyapi among the Bukidnon, hegalong among theT’boli or the kadlong or kudlong in Central Mindanao are characterized by a boat shape oran elongated oval between 40 to 45 inches long, and have tightening rods made of wood andfrets of beeswax and two-wire strings tuned in unison – one serving ad drone, the other
providing the melody. These long “guitars” or boat lutes are carved in soft wood usually to represent amythical two-headed animal, the naga(serpent) or crocodile, or perhaps themodified head, body and tail of thesarimanok, a cockerel-like bird. Thekudyapi is alos known as a “speakinginstrument” because it figuresprominently in courtship. It is also usedas an accompaniment for dances. Examples of chordophonesusing bows are the three-stringedgitgit of the Tagbanua, the spike fiddlecalled duwagey of the Bilaan and thebiola of the Tausog, which is similar tothe European violin used toaccompany songs. Perhaps the greatest number of indigenous musical instruments belong to theidiophone group. In particular, some of these idiophones are the jew’s harp, suspendedbeams, bamboo buzzer, percussion sticks and gongs.Indigenous MusicBy Antonio C. HilaTuklas Sining: Essays on the Philippine Arts Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 The jew’s harp is a very thin slit of bamboo or brass with a narrow vibrating tongue inthe middle longitudinal section. Placed between the lips of the player, its tongue is made tovibrate by striking the projecting end of the instrument with the thumb or by pulling a stringattached to it. The mouth of the player acts as the resonator, and as the shape of the mouthcavity changes, the pitch and quality of the sound varies. This enables the player tocommunicate message with his instrument. For this reason, the jew’s harp is a favorite oflovers and is played by both men and women. It is thus considered a “speaking intrument”. The jew’s harp is found in many tribes. The Maranao call it kubing, the Tingguian, kolibau, and the Tagbanua, aru-ding. The jew’s harp of the South usually have handles carved with various serpent designs and other scroll-like patterns, and sometimes punctuated by head bangles and tassels as in the Maranaw kubing. Suspended beams like the kagul may be found only in such groups as the Tiruray and the Yakan of Mindanao. The kagul consists of five logs ranging from two to two-and-a-half meters long which are shaped and pointed atthe playing end. It is played by two people: one plays in the middle of the log a repeated
rhythmic pattern or ostinato, while the second player beats out a melody at the pointed endsof the other logs. The logs are tuned relative to each other. Another idiophone, the bamboo buzzer is known variously as the balingbing orbunkaka (Kalinga) and batiwtiw (Central Philippines). The bunkaka, as the name implies, isa bamboo tube which is open or split at one end. Sound is produced by striking the split endagainst the palm. This instrument is played alone or in groups as a form and diversion or todrive away evil spirits along a forest trail. Percussion sticks are common to the North and South, like the Ifugao bangibang,and the Mangyan kalutang. The bangibang is a row of sticks played only in the rituals forcuring very serious illness and in death ceremonies. The instrument is composed of sticksmeasuring from one to two-and-a-half feetlong with diameters ranging from one to threeinches, hanging from a string which alsoserves as a handle. A stick is used to beatthem in rhythm. Sometimes, however, onlytwo sticks are used, which are played bystriking one against the other. The well-known gong is foundthroughout the tribes in varying forms. Allgongs in the South have a boss, a deep orshallow mound resembling a kettle or a panon the top middle portion of the gong, therims of which angle slightly inward. They mayeither be suspended or laid horizontally in arow. In the North, a flat gong called gangsa iswidely regarded as the most valuedinstrument. The agung, a large gong withboss, is known to both the Tagbanua ofPalawan and Mangyan of Mindoro. TheMagindanao also use a gong called agung,which is played like a brass tom-tom bystriking the boss or knob with a padded androunded stick. In the South, the gong may be usedas a rhythmic counterpoint to the drum(Tagbanua), as an accompaniment to anensemble of gongs called the kulintang (Maguindanao and Maranao) or with other agungs(Bagobo) producing an ostinato rhythm and melody to accompany the dances. The kulintang, or gongs in a row, is basically a melody instrument played by a singleperformer as a solo instrument or as part of an ensemble. It consists of eight gongs placedhorizontally in a frame and tuned to a flexible pentatonic or five-tone scale. Among the Islamicpeoples of the South of the kulintang ensemble, where it is the primary melody instrumentsupported by the dabakan (A conical drum), agung, gandingan (four suspended narrow-rimmed gongs), babandil (small gong, sometimes the last gong of the kulintang) – all ofwhich act as drones constantly repeating a particular rhythmic pattern for the duration of themusic. The kulintang player acts as the central player and makes various improvisations onthe chosen mode moving in progressively ascending and descending steps of sounds.Usually, three types of rhythmic modes are utilized, namely, the duyug, sinulug and tidtu.The dabakan starts with the music, announcing the mode, while the other instruments follow.
The kulintang ensemble is often considered as the most cultivated of the region’s musical expressions. Aside from being a medium of entertainment and hospitality, the kulintang also serves as a vehicle for social interaction and group solidarity and for learning ethical principles. Other idiophones of the South include the gabbang or bamboo xylophone of the Tausog of Sulu, and the edel or log drum, a plank idiophone made of molave wood suspended and beaten with sticks and used by the Tabakaolo, Bilaan and Manobo. Probably the most important and best known membranophones of the North are the two conical drums of the Ibaloi – the sulibao and the kimbal. The sulibao has a higher pitch than the kimbal and is played with a padded stick. Usually, however, these instruments are joined by two other pairs of idiophones in the sulibao ensemble, namely, the kalsa and the pinsak, which are two flat gongs, and the palas which are two short iron bard handled by a single player. Similar types of drums exist in the South such as the dabakan of the Maguindanao and the dadabuan of the Maranao. In addition to these conical drums, cylindrical types of drums are exemplified by the tambul of the Maguindanao and the gimbal of the Tagbanua. Like the instruments, vocal music expresses and transmits in a concrete and vivid manner a great variety of the thoughts, beliefs, customs, lifestyles, temperament and way of life of the indigenous peoples. Singing is a main component of life among them. There will be songs and singers, singing solo or in leader-chorus style with or without accompaniment, with or without the benefit of words (the latter includes whistling, a highly developed musical from among the Maguindanao of Mindanao). NEXT Solo and leader-chorus singing is done in the North, notably in such groups s the Bontoc,Ibaloi, Kalinga and Negrito. In the South, on the other hand, while unaccompanied singing seemsto be the predilection of a majority of the indigenous groups, a kind of singing done withinstrumental accompaniment is practiced among certain groups, like the Tausog, who sing withtheir gabbang (bamboo xylophone) and/or biola. Both types of singing – the leader-chorus and singing with instrument – may be found inthe Central Philippine groups such as the Mangyan and Tagbanua, where often singing is donewith the flute (Tagbanua), the guitar or violin (Mangyan), either solo or as a group with a soloist-leader. One may be observe a highly divergent and seemingly endless variety of styles andtraditions of singing in the northern, central and southern Philippine indigenous communities. Forexample, the Kalinga of the North generally sing in short phrases frequently broken by rests orstops; the Maguindanao of the south sing in long melismatic phrases; the Mangyan sing mostly ina monotone with turns at the end of phrases.
Viewed as a whole, certain patterns and characteristics of singing emerge among these groups. First, improvisation seems to be the rule in song creation. In fact the quality of the song and the singer if often measured by his/her ability to improvise fluently and creatively. Second, there is generally a low and limited range of notes (more or less an octave) and within this range, a great number of uncertain pitches, speech-like sounds, slides, shakes, tremolos or trills are often added to bring about some flexibility and richness in the singing despite the narrow range. Third, melodic ornamentations such as the glissandos, slides and tremolos are not only accessory but principal elements in music because they may even determine the structure of a song. Fourth, since everyone is a singer, there is a greater variety of voice quality due to differences in age, sex or cultural factors (e.g. the Manobo sing in a more relaxed manner and with more embellishments than the Tiruray). Fifth, a wide variety of scales may be observed. The scale, however, is, often treated as a flexible structure upon which equally important elements are embedded to adorn thescale and render it less obvious. Sixth, while decrescendos and crescendos (gradual decreaseand increase in volume, respectively) and up and down movements may be noted in the singingstyles of some groups especially in the South, a syllabic chant-like monotone singing prevails inmany groups. Chanting utilizes the vocal range of a singer which is most consistent with hisnatural speech melody. This is the reason why sometimes it is difficult to discern whether aparticular enunciation is sung or uttered. Seventh, there are no exact time elements that limit theexisting vocal forms. Songs create an impression of remarkable rhythmic freedom, with therhythm and speed of singing often governed by the language and text of the chants. The frequentuse of tremolos and long-held notes highlight the fact that there is no effort to reach a climacticutterance or a strong rhythmic drive. Eighth, a large number of reiterated and marked accents onone vowel (eee ~ 000 ~ uuu) may be noted in the singing of the song texts of the chants. Ninth, inthe leader-chorus type of singing, instead of harmonic chords, a leader may simply give anintroductory, monodic "intonation" which the others follow in a quasi-canonic manner, making useof imitation and singing in unison. There are many different vocal forms with specific names and uses, each one with aparticular rhythm of its own. Songs mark every stage of human development from birth andinfancy to adulthood and death, night and day, and many occasions in the cycle of natural eventsand the flow of human activities whether personal, social, economic, political, spiritual or cosmic.Songs that pertain to the life-cycle of an individual are the Kalinga appros, sung for half a dayafter the childs birth and the luguh maulud of the Tausog, which is sung to celebrate the birth ofMohammed. There are many kinds of childrens songs such as the Kalinga kawayanna for thetying of the childs first necklace; the Maranao bakbato and the Tausog lia-lia. There arecountless lullabies, among which are the chag-ay sa maseypan of the Bontoc the iyaya of theMangyan, the binua of the Badjao. There are also the adolescent songs - the Bontoc ayegka,
sung for visiting friends and the Maranao kasingbaga~kanada~tudatu ago kanbaibai, groupsinging by boys and girls. There are genealogical chants, courtship songs by adolescents and love songs foradolescents and love songs for adults - the Kalinga ading, the Tingguian inegegkak si labagoand the Tausog sindil, a dialogue song described as a song of insinuation. There are songsrelated to marriage like the Tingguian rice-pounding song imma-isa-i-isa and the nan-sob-oy(Sagada) which is chanted at the conclusion of the wedding ceremonies. The Maranaosarongkawit is a girls song of displeasure on a marriage proposal, while the lakitan tells of aboys request that his mother propose marriage to a girl he fancies. And of course, death and the spirit world bring to the fore a big collection of songs on deathand the burial rituals, like the Maranao dikir, a funeral or wake song, and the an-nako, a Bontocsong for funerals occasioned by natural death. The lbaloi too have their ba-diw, which uses aleader-chorus type of singing during "death watches", centering on the character and activities ofthe deceased and the hope of gaining favors for the living from the spirit-relatives. Besides songs relating to the lifecycle, thereare also work songs. These include the Bontocayoweng, a field work song and the soweey, asong for rice-pounding; flalok to sawa, a Bilaanharvest song which helps harvesters forget theheat and thus work faster; hunting songs;narrative songs for entertainment and relaxationduring the evenings and also for the entertainmentof visitors, such as the tenis-tenis, an impromptuSamal song of four-line stanzas with an a,a,a,arhyme whose words often joke or chide thosepresent, or simply tell stories; songs for theblessing of a new house; songs for debates,pleading of cases or for plain conversations;didactic songs based on the Quran for theMuslims; feasting songs; songs for dancing; battlesongs; songs for curing boils and stomach ache,for preventing sickness in the community, forchanting in the presence of a person who is fatallyill or for accompanying the administering of amassage; not to mention countless epics andlegends that tell of heroic exploits which are sungin all the important celebrations such as duringwakes, weddings, weeding time, but most espe-cially during harvest time. There are other songsof broad social utility such as the ltneg oggayam(ballad), the salidum-ay (which is sung even byschool groups today) and the dalleng of theTingguian. As a whole, the ethnic songs serve as a vehicle for the expression not only of these peoples
thoughts, dreams, recollections and desires, but also of matters that otherwise may not beacceptable in speech or ordinary conversation. The response, if there is to be one, must also berendered in song because traditional methods of communication depend not only on speech andmemory but also on song. Nature has played a great role in shaping up the music technology and aesthetics of thevarious ethnic musical traditions. Ethnic musical instruments are primarily objects of nature asthey consist mainly of bamboo, wood, shell, animal skin and metal; just as many of the melodiesand rhythms of tribal chants imitate some aspects of natures sounds and movements.