July 24, 2010

My Filipino Ethnic Musical Instruments 101 Experience, Part 2: Hands-On

While legendary Filipino singer-songwriter Joey Ayala's workshop in the morning was profound and rich with insights (as documented on Part 1), the afternoon session of the indigenous Filipino musical instruments seminar was the fun part.  Malou Matute and Grace Bugayong conducted the afternoon session, which was somehow a crash course on ethnic Filipino musical instruments.

Both faculty from the UP College of Music & veteran musicians, they taught us about the general history of these instruments, how these are played, and shared to us some homegrown rhythms.  What's great about the seminar is a collection of ethnic musical instruments were brought in.  Some belong to Bread Of Life, while some were brought in by the guest speakers.  Each instrument was demonstrated and shown to us how to play, and we were given the opportunity to go hands-on later during the activity.

Indigenous Filipino musical instruments are mainly classified in two categories: the Kalinga (North) and the Maguindanao/Muslim Mindanao (South).  Some indigenous instruments can also be found on several places around the Philippines such as Mindoro, Palawan, and the Bicol region.

The Kalinga instruments from the Cordillera Autonomous Region are mostly made out of bamboo.   Some of these Kalinga bamboo instruments include the saggeypo (6-piece set of pipes), bungkaka (buzzer; used for driving away bad spirits), patteteg (leg xylophone), tambi (parallel-stringed tube zither), tongatong (stomping tube), patangguk (quill-shaped tube), and the kulitong.  Kalinga solo instruments include the kullibaw (jew's harp), and tongali (nose flute).  The Kalinga's most valued instrument, the gangsa (flat gong), is not made of bamboo.  The gangsa is made of brass/bronze, and it can be played with a stick or with bare hands.

Ms. Matute and Ms. Bugayong taught us the Kalinga's Ginallupak rhythm through the tongatong.  A transcription was shown to us, which involves six players, each with a tongatong of different size.  A bungkaka, which has a thumbhole to change the sound, can also be used for the Ginallupak rhythm.  The transcription was made for modern-day educational purposes, while indigenous people know it by heart, and it is passed on through generations.

The Mindanao/southern musical instruments are used by 5 different ethnic groups in Southern Philippines - the Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausug, Samal & Yakan.  They may use the same instruments and rhythms, but there may also be slight differences in the instrument's names & how they use their ethnic rhythms.  The main instruments in a kulintang ensemble are the kulintang (set of 8 knobbed/bossed gongs), agong (big wide-rimmed high knobbed/bossed gong), gandingan (set of 4 narrow-rimmed knobbed/bossed gongs), babandir (narrow-rimmed low knobbed/bossed gong; the timekeeper), and the dabakan (single-headed goblet-shaped drum).  There's also the saronay, which is a smaller version of the kulintang, and is suited for kids and students.

Four Mindanao rhythmic modes were taught to us - the Binalig, Sinulog, Tidtu & Tagunggo.  The Binalig ( 1 - 2 & - 3 - 4 )is used on festive occasions.  The Sinulog is similar to the Binalig, but calmer and more meditative.  The Tidtu ( 1 - [2] & - [3] - 4 ) is a syncopated rhythm which is comparable to the patterns used on dance songs by Ne-Yo, Sean Paul, and other R&B/hip-hop artists.  Ms. Matute & Ms. Bugayong cite the chorus on Vanilla Ice's Ninja Rap ("Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go") as a reference to the Tidtu rhythm.  The Tagunggo ( 1 &a - 2 &a - 3 & - 4 ) is used during healing rituals.  We were also shown some transcriptions of these Mindanao rhythms, applied on the kulintang ensemble.  Again, the transcriptions are made for educational purposes.

The most fun part of the seminar is the hands-on session, when we got to try playing the ethnic instruments.  I was able to try the dabakan, jamming on a fast Tidtu pattern with Joey Ayala on the babandir, Grace Bugayong on the gandingan, and Malou Matute on kulintang.  I easily pickup up the Tidtu, and am I glad that I've worked on my paradiddles (the Tidtu stick pattern on the dabakan goes RLL RLL RL, with the Tidtu accents on the right hand).  I even got to try the Ginallupak with a group using a tongatong, which is quite tricky because I have to keep pace with the rhythm and my co-players while making sure that I'm playing my tongatong correctly.  The tongatong should be played with a slight tilt, it shouldn't be bounced on the surface, and the player should be aware with the opening (ring) and closing (damped) of the hole.  Once the whole group got the Ginallupak rhythm right, the melody and harmony of the 6 tongatongs made sense.

The whole seminar was a refreshingly profound, educational, and fun experience.  It was a mind-opener for me as well.  Once I had the thirst for knowledge on our indigenous music and instruments.  Now I can say that I am armed with some basic knowledge, and I am hoping to someday apply these to my modern & contemporary musical background & settings.  I can start with the dabakan, which is the most appealing to me among all the interesting ethnic percussion.  I should search for an authentic dabakan when I get the chance to go to Mindanao.

Additional online resources:
Indigenous Music, by Antonio C. Hila
Music of The Philippines
Tongali, Lantoy & Kalaleng