Revisiting The Golden Age of OPM

The Ethnographies of Philippine Auditory Popular Cultures (EPAPC), spearheaded by Lara Mendoza of the Ateneo de Manila University, in cooperation with the Department of Development Studies of the said institution, is pleased to announce the preview of Krina Cayabyab’s first documentary film 

“SA MADALING SALITA, OPM: Ang Himig Pilipino sa Dekadang Sitenta” 

on Friday, 29 March 2019, 5PM, at Leong Hall Auditorium, Ateneo de Manila University. 

Researched and Directed by Krina Cayabyab, Assistant Professor of the University of the Philippines College of Music, the documentary is made possible with funding from the NCCA and CHED SALIKHA grant. Toothless Productions assisted Cayabyab’s project which is based on her Master of Music in Musicology thesis on Session Musicians during the Golden Age of OPM (Original Pilipino Music).

Sa Madaling Salita is about the production of studio-recorded music in the Philippines during the 1970s. It takes a look into the relationship between the music industry and the various media organizations and institutional networks, with emphasis on the multiple viewpoints from below such as those by music makers themselves: singers, songwriters, arrangers, session musicians, radio DJs, industry managers, and fans.

With a running time of approximately 70 minutes in English and Filipino, the documentary film showing is open and free to the public. Mike Hanopol, one of the major shapers of OPM during the golden age of OPM, will answer questions from the audience after the show.

Documentations of Transcultural Philippine Music from the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Music

The other series is the set of audio (CD) recordings of transcultural Philippine music. There are also three in this series, which contains rare historical Philippine music of popular and art music. These are constitutive of a notated music-cultural tradition borne to colonial experience in the Philippines, particularly in the urban area.


​The first in the series contains popular piano music from Manila during the last half of 19th century Spanish Philippines. The colonial pianism exhibited in this volume shows a remarkable diversity. Many were printed as commodities, i.e., as sheet music by Massaguer, D Paterno, Perez, Nakpil, Valdes y Pica. They circulated among members of the then emerging civil society, the public sphere made up of the ilustrado (educated) class. This was the status group for whom the next generation–the art classical composers (Santiago, Abelardo, Buenaventura, and Molina) of early 20th century–were writing for. A few cuts in the album came from manuscript sources such as that by Adonay and Valdez y Pica. These musics were performed in elite gatherings in the private houses of affluent citizens of the city. The CD is highlighted by Diego Perez’s Recuerdos de Filipinas of 1886, which was the first secular music in the islands to appropriate Filipino “folk” songs and dances. These became the basis of a piano medley in style brilliant. The piece was exhibited in many Philippine, regional, and world expositions, where it always garnered awards.

​The second in the CD series contains vocal and instrumental works. The album starts with the extant hybrid Philippine music from pre-modern 18th century Manila, the devotional villancico set to a Tagalog text and now preserved in the Dominican archive in Spain. This piece is sung by the world famous Philippine Madrigal Singers, which is a resident group in the UP College of Music. The CD also contains rare examples of Tagalog song-dance cundiman and cumintang from mid-19th to late 19th-century century. This CD showcases divergent Spanish and American styles. In early 20th, the changing taste for American music is felt in vaudeville artist Lou Borromeo’s print music “My Beautiful Philippines.” Meanwhile, European conservatory classicism–as in Alexander Lippay’s arrangement of Manuel Velez’s music “Palad Sa Kabus”– is included and this presents a good counterpoint to the album’s selections.

​The third CD spans ensemble music that is a testimony to the Spanish-Philippine and Philippine-American relations and revolutions (pieces by Nakpil and Fajardo). Important pieces in this are the music of Pedro Navarro, a student of Adonay and the first Filipino conductor of the famed Philippine Constabulary (PC) Band founded by the affable Black American conductor Walter Loving. PC Band is famous for having awed John Philip Sousa; it won a medal in the 1904 St Louis World Exposition. A brief excerpt from Juan Hernandez’s zarzuela in native language, Minda Mora is also contained in the CD. This work demonstrates the growing civic consciousness among the residents in Manila circa 1905, that is, after the American colonial government installed democratic governance in the early years of its occupation of the Islands. The CD is highlighted by three art musics such as by the Viennese-trained Alexander Lippay (“Theme and Variations on the Philippine National Hymn), Nicanor Abelardo’s violin sonata, which was written in Chicago in early 1930s, and the masterful piece by Antonino Buenaventura, Symphony in C, played by the Manila Symphony Orchestra.

Seven Dances of Life

The University of the Philippines College of Music through a grant from the National Research Council of the Philippines, Humanities Division, invites the public to the screening of Dr. Jose S. Buenconsejo’s documentary film SEVEN DANCES OF LIFE: Pledges to Others (Janji) in Two Sama Communities in Tawi-Tawi Islands, Southern Philippines. This will be on Friday, 16 June 2017, 5-7 pm at the Abelardo Hall Auditorium, Quezon City. This video documentary is the third volume in the project “Resilient Music at the Margins,” which aims to document enduring traditional Philippine music and dance in their cultural and historical contexts.
Seven Dances of Life presents salient socio-religious practices of two Sama speaking communities (in Tawi-Tawi and Tabawan Islands) in Southern Philippines. Through ethnographic interviewing interspersed in a series of seven Sama Tabawan dances (igal), it explores the foundation of Sama ritual celebrations (pagjammu) in the practices of janji in which an individual is bound to the community, one’s lineage, and to related Others. Sama cosmology is complex. An individual has to adjust to the demands of the cult of the ancestors one is born into, heed the veneration of saints in sacred shrines (specifically the tombs of Moslem mystics who introduced Islam in the country), recognize the guardian spirits of nature that provide them with fresh water and fish from the seas, and be wary of the presence of the jins at the margins of habitation which constantly need to be appeased. In Sama communities, individuals are therefore oriented to Others in nature and society and these relationships reveal a sophisticated indigenous thinking about individual lives (inyawa) being “thrown into” the web of invisible connections with other beings in the cosmos: the jin (nature spirits), umagad (souls of the dead), ombo (ancestors) and kembal (twin-spirit).
Admission is free.

Art, Popular, and Indigenous Philippine Music at UPhils

The University of the Philippines College of Music is pleased to announce its major events this month, promoting critical thinking on Filipino music that spans the categories of indigenous folk, popular, and art. All events are free and open to the public. Please encourage your students to watch and listen. Also, please forward these to your friends and egroups.
1.) World premiere of the latest contemporary Filipino opera, Diwata ng Bayan, at CCP on 9 February, 8pm. Libretto by Ed Maranan and Music by Carmela Sinco. Dr. Ramon Acoymo, stage and co-music director.
A latest addition to the Philippine art music literature, Diwata ng Bayan will have its world premiere at the Tanghalan Nicanor Abelardo (Main Theater) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines on February 9, 2017 at 8:00 PM. It is free and open to the public. The music is composed by Carmela Sinco, granddaughter of former UP President Vicente G. Sinco, with the libretto by Ed Maranan, Prof. Dr. Ramon Acoymo as stage and co-music director, the incumbent chair of the UP College of Music Department of Voice, Music Theater, and Dance and Assoc Prof Rodbey Ambat, conductor. The opera is set at the end of the 19th century, during the transition from Spanish to American colonial rule, depicting the romantic story of Matias Ylagan and Mayumi Lualhati whose passion for each other goes hand in hand with their patriotism for Inang Bayan. The work draws inspiration from the story of Andres Bonifacio and Gregoria de Jesus of the Katipunan, and the “seditious” dramas of Aurelio V. Tolentino, whose 150th anniversary is being celebrated this year.
Free tickets are available upon request. Please contact Berns or Lolit at 0919-567-0465 or 981-8500 Local 2639.
2.) Symposium on Transcultural Philippine Music (third of a series)
A half-day symposium on Friday, 17th of February, 1-4pm on the roots of transcultural Philippine literature and music, particularly focused on popular Filipino culture as emergent to Philippine alternative modernities. Papers by distinguished Filipino intellectuals Dr. Epifanio San Juan Jr, UP Prof Emeritus Steve Villaruz, Dr. Elizabeth Enriquez, and Dr. Maria Rhodora Ancheta will tackle issues pertinent to vernacular literature, to the folk dance canon built by Francesca Reyes Aquino, radio songs, and on Katy de la Cruz’s bodabil songs, respectively. Papers by Prof Villaruz, Drs. Enriquez and Ancheta will be annotated with dance and music performance by UP Dance Company, UP Jazz Band (Prof Rayben Maigue), with arranger Krina Cayabyab.
Below is the broader theoretical context of the symposium, which disseminates the College’s EIDR grant from the office of the UP vice-president for academic affairs. 
The issue of class (status group) is a vexing problem in the theory of modernity in the Philippines. This problem needs to be understood in the context of the particularities of cultural development in the country within the history of entanglement with the cultures of two empires–Spanish and American. As a response, Filipino intelligentsia from various social class positions articulated local modern visions that were alternative to the empires’ grand, globalizing narratives of development and progress. They made traversals, constructing innovative artistic expression, embodying grassroots Filipino folk-popular sentiment and culture as an alternative response to cultural empirialism and thus built what one would call as “alternative Philippine modernities.” 
The articulation of Filipino modernities in the arts had two tendencies: 1) the middle-class elevation of the folk materials to “high culture” (e.g., use of balitao and kundiman in Western classical-art forms), and 2) the channelization of the Filipino folk-popular to wider audiences via the mass media, which was not isolated from the first tendency.
In this symposium, we look into these two tendencies, but give more space to the realm of the second in which vernacular Filipino literature, folk dances, Filipinized bodabil, and radio songs got broadcast audiences attuned to the emerging “alternative Filipino modernities.” This strand emerged during the formative years when capitalism and flow of images and ideas accelerated between 1898 and 1941. 
It was certain that the second and third generations of Filipino intellectuals–“sandwiched” between global empires and local worlds–drew inspiration from local Filipino cultures, thus creating national hegemony beyond their class origins. But the details into how the creation of that national culture and patrimony will be in the specific topics to be elaborated in this symposium.
3.) Documentary on traditional Philippine music

Lastly, the College respects the cultural difference and appreciates the resilience of the music of the marginalized groups in Philippines with a video documentary produced and directed by Dr. Jose S Buenconsejo, as part of his grant from the National Research Council of the Philippines. Dubbed “Sound Tenderness: Music of the Non-violent Palawanun Society in Southern Philippines,” this will be previewed on Thursday, 23 February 2017 6:00 PM. Abelardo Hall Auditorium
Below is the gist of the documentary:
Non-violent society is extremely rare in the human species. The Palawanun in Southern Philippines is an exceptional case whose culture is manifest in their delicate and tender music, save the boisterous gong and drum in celebratory dance and, in former days, rice wine drinking feasts.
In Palawanun society, negative emotions like anger are not channeled to violent acts–men and women nor children never hurting each other–but by repression, a number of times of which has led to tragic suicides.
Palawan people rationalize acts of suicides as “hereditary,” i.e., if parents commit suicide, then children would most likely follow them. This documentary suggests that the predisposition to suicide is not genetic but is underscored by social conformity. Palawan music is a compelling evidence of conformity. 
Music, which is often seen as providing a moment of forgetfulness to sour interpersonal relations, is not a solution to suicide. For a society who values working in groups, alienation from society is the most painful human experience. Rather than forgetfulness, music accentuates the feeling for togetherness, the absence of which means death or embracing the opposite of society which is nature.
This documentary, filmed in Minahaw, Bonobono, Bataraza, Palawan in 12-16 August 2016, contemplates on Palawanun music in the praxis of its social use.

Triumphant UP Madrigal Singers in Abelardo Hall

The University of the Philippines College of Music welcomes back the world-famous UP Madrigal Singers (or Madz) in an early evening concert at Abelardo Hall Auditorium on Saturday, 24 September 2016, 5PM. The concert celebrates the group’s triumphant success in their recently concluded European tour and shares their gift of music to the UP College of Music Development Fund, which was setup to financially sustain the College’s faculty concert series. The choir is under the artistic and choir direction of Mark Carpio, who has felicitously replicated the deep musicality of the group’s founder, National Artist in Music, Andrea O. Veneracion.
In the concert, the UP Madrigal Singers will render some of the songs sung during their tour from June to September this year. These songs conveyed their role as Ambassadors of Peace and Goodwill, marking the Philippine Independence Day in Stuttgart, Germany; greeting the Filipino community in Dom St. Eberhand in Munich; and showcasing their repertoire in the International Festival of Organ and Chamber Music in Kamien, Pomorski and the International Choir Festivals in Szczecin, Miedzyzdroje, and in Murowana, Goslina, Poland. In that country, whose citizens are like music-loving Filipinos, the UP Madrigal Singers’ visit was headlined in the media.
The choir also opened the 62nd edition of the International Habaneras and Polyphony Contest of Torrevieja, Spain. Back in 2004, the group swept all the top prizes in that competition. This year, the festival director acknowledged the group’s role in promoting and adding prestige to their festival’s colorful history. 

 The highlight of the Madz’ tour happened in the Concorso 64th Polifonico
Internazionale di Guido dí Arezzo, where it coveted the Gran Premio (Grand Prize) last
August 27. The Madz garnered almost all 1st prizes in different categories (Compulsory, Musica Sacra, and Monographic) of the contest, except the Secular Music Category, where they landed 2nd. They also garnered the Listening Committee’s Choice in the Folksong Category and the Listening and Public’s Choice in the Pop Song Category. In the Monographic Category, three works by one of its members, Ily Matthew Maniano, were featured. With these accolades, the Madz qualifies for the 2017 European Grand Prix for Choral Singing to be held next year in Tolosa, Spain. European Grand Prix for Choral Singing is the zenith of choral competitions in the world; it is a battle of 1st prize winners of Europe’s top choral competitions. To its credit, the UP Madrigal Singers holds the distinction of being the first choir in the world to win the European Grand Prix twice, in 1997 and 2007. 

 Limited tickets to the benefit concert is 500 pesos with discounts to students, senior citizens, and faculty of UP Diliman. For inquiries, please call 926.0026 or 981-8500, local 2629.  

UP College of Music Centenary Concert

Marking the 100th Foundation Year of the UP College of Music, a concert dubbed “Sandaang Taon ng Himig at  Tinig: Pagpupugay ng UP Kolehiyo ng Musika” is scheduled on Sunday, 4 September 2016 at the Abelardo Hall Auditorium, Quezon City, at 5:30 PM. Formerly known as UP Conservatory of Music, UP College of Music opened its doors to 104 students who wanted a professional career in music from a balanced theoretical and practical curriculum that was materialized in a modest building in R. Hidalgo Street, Quiapo. The Conservatory was a brainchild of Senator Joaquin Luna’s Act No. 2623, which had the full support of University of the Philippines’ (UP) President Ignacio Villamor, first Filipino president of UP, who envisioned music graduates who would be a pride to the nation.

In its one hundred years, UP College of Music has its vision fulfilled, producing ten National Artists in Music, two of who– Jovita Fuentes and Andrea Veneracion–came from the Department of Voice. The program for the evening consists of music that has instilled the important cultural value for strength in Filipino identity in music such as Lucrecia Kasilag’s Prelude Etnika, Jose Maceda’s Kubing, Ramon P. Santos’s Daragang Magayon, Visayan song “Ay! Kalisud,” Francisco Feliciano’s “Pokpok Alimpako,” and “Pamulinawen,” Lucio San Pedro’s Lahing Kayumanggi, Antonino Buenaventura’s Sa Dakong Silangan, Antonio Molina’s “Hatinggabi,” Felipe de Leon’s “Iba-ibang Kulay,” and “Sayaw Igorot.” Nicanor Abelardo and Francisco Santiago are not in the roster of National Artists awardees because they were long gone in 1972 when the award was instituted. In recognition to their achievements, especially Nicanor Abelardo, who is perhaps the greatest Filipino composer of all times, the immortal kundiman “Nasaan Ka Irog” will be sung as well as Santiago’s “Pilipinas Kong Mahal.”

The concert will feature performing groups of the College such as UP Tugma (Krina Cayabyab, conductor), UP Guitar Orchestra, UP Rondalla (Elaine Espejo-Cajucom), UP Dance Company (choreographer Elena Laniog), UP Concert Chorus (Janet Aracama), UP Madrigal alumnus Arwin Tan’s Novo Concertante Manila, UP Chorus Class (Raul Navarro), UP Symphonic Band (Rodney Ambat), UP Orchestra (Edna Marcil Martinez), faculty of the College such as singers Ramon Acoymo, Maria Carmila Molina, Rainier Cruz, Ligaya Quinitio, Raymond Diaz, Katherine Molina, Rica Nepomuceno, Jonathan Velasco, Albert Roldan (collaborating pianist), Ma. Cecilia Valeña, Fides Cuyugan-Asensio, Alegria Ferrer, and pianists Ena Maria Aldecoa, Michelle Nicolasora, Pia Margarita Balasico, and Carolyn Cheng, who will render 8-hand piano arrangements by Augusto Espino. Josefino Toledo is the concert program chair. Highlight of the concert is the UP Music Centennial Awards which will recognize outstanding music teachers who have propagated love of music for a better Philippine society and for the well being of its citizens. Admission to the concert is free. For inquiries, please call 9818500 locals 2629, 2639 or 9260026.

Music, Capitalism, and the Nation: A Symposium on the Roots of Transcultural Philippine Music

The University of the Philippines College of Music cordially invites the public to an interdisciplinary one-day symposium on the theme “Music, Capitalism, and Nation: On the Roots of Transcultural Philippine Music,” on Thursday, 18 August 2016, Abelardo Hall Auditorium, 9AM to 5PM. A gathering of local music scholars, the symposium will explore the history of music modernity in the country, particularly on the effects of the larger force of late 19th century capitalism in the development of syncretic (transcultural) Philippine music that combined old and new music-cultural elements. Some of the effects of this late 19th century capitalism in the country were the production of the first and only music theory book in Tagalog (paper by Arwin Q Tan), “Print Music Commodification and Costumbrismo” (paper by Jose S Buenconsejo), “Selling Zarzuela” (Isidora Miranda, University of Wisconsin-Madison), “Music Journalism” (Ma. Patricia Silvestre), “Localizing Imported Danza” (Ma. Alexandra Chua, University of Santo Tomas), “Concept of Individual Property in Music” that led to the first music plagiarism case in the Philippines (Jonas Baes). To illustrate the larger ramifications in the incorporation of European cultural presence in modernizing Asia, Dr. David Francis Urrows, special guest speaker from Hong Kong Baptist University, will discuss “Music Education in China under the French Protectorate as Cultural Interchange.” Philippine Studies expert Dr. Ramon “Bomen” Guillermo will be the keynote speaker.

The symposium is open to the public, especially to college teachers in the humanities and social science, with conference fee of 500 pesos (cost for conference kit and admission ticket to Enzo Medel piano concert). The symposium itself is free to students with valid IDs.

Manila Symphony Orchestra Unravels its Roots in the UP College of Music

The Manila Symphony Orchestra will hold its 90th anniversary concert in Abelardo Hall Auditorium on Saturday, 27th of February 2016, 8PM. To be conducted by UP professor Arturo Molina, the evening’s programme consists of Symphony in C (1960) by national artist Antonino Buenaventura and Philippine Rhapsody No. 2 (1942) by Rodolfo Cornejo. The piano solo of this piece will be rendered by the award-winning UP College of Music student Gabby Paguirigan. The highlight of the evening is the revival of the long-forgotten work by Alexander Lippay entitled Variations for the Orchestra on the Philippine National Hymn (1928), an immensely interesting piece
that indicates the cultural history of the period. Lippay was a Viennese-trained Austro-hungarian conductor and was the founder of the orchestra while serving as director of the UP Conservatory of Music from 1925 to 1930. The concert pays tribute to this musical visionary as well as to Antonino Buenaventura and Rodolfo Cornejo who were his students circa late 1920s.

One of the oldest symphonic organizations in Asia, the Manila Symphony Orchestra had its first concert on the 22nd of January 1926 in the Manila Grand Opera house. Based on Ma. Edelquinn Beltran’s master’s thesis (2015), the original MSO was an entangled work of teachers from UP Conservatory of Music (changed to College in 1968) and members of the famed Philippine Constabulary Band. The orchestra later consolidated its identity during Mrs. Manuel Quezon’s time as a resident orchestra of the pre-war Manila Metropolitan Theater until the Japanese occupation in early 1940s when it refused to play for a political reason. In late 1970s, the orchestra was under the batons of Sergio Esmilla Jr. followed by Josefino “Chino” Toledo. It was later revived briefly by Redentor Romero in late 1980s and sustainably by violinists Basilio Manalo and Arturo Molina, with the help of Sr. Mary Placid OSB of St. Scholastica College in 2001, and later with Jeffrey Solares in 2008. UP College of Music professor Arturo Molina currently serves as its principal conductor.

Throughout its existence, the Manila Symphony Orchestra has maintained its “civil society” identity, i.e., as a non-governmental organization with funding support primarily from private elite citizens, corporate sponsorships, and ordinary concert goers in Manila on a voluntary basis. Since Manila’s acceleration towards global interconnectedness in the Americal colonial period, MSO’s patronage has responded consistently to the ups and downs of Manila’s economy and to the shifts of its political landscape, albeit sustaining indomitably its fundamental civic character, as true of any modern symphony orchestra. In the history of MSO, one can therefore trace the social relationships of cooperation among heterogeneous groups with different ranks and statuses, consequently enflourishing the culture and life of Manila as a modern city.

Tickets to the concert are available at Ticketworld.


UP Music: Philippine Piano Heritage

The University of the Philippines College of Music presents a remarkable concert titled Piano Music from Romantic Manila in Abelardo Hall Auditorium on Monday, 7 December 2015, 6:30 in the evening. The concert program consists of Philippine music heritage, i.e., original Filipino solo piano music from the end of the Spanish colonial period to the time of the first Philippine republic in 1960s.

To be played by visiting artist from Dartmouth College, Sally Pinkas, the program consists of short compositions in light cosmopolitan music styles such as waltz, mazurka, nocturne, habanera, serenade, and so on. These works were written by three generations of composers who lived in Manila: from Hispanic Ignacio Massaguer to the first Filipino woman composer Dolores Paterno, who belonged to the first generation; Marcelo Adonay, Julio Nakpil, and Lorenzo S Ilustre of the second generation, and composers of the third generation such as Valdes y Pica, Francisco Buencamino Sr., Nicanor Abelardo, Juan Sahagun de Hernandez, Antonio J. Molina, and partly Lucino T. Sacramento.

The repertoire of this historically valuable concert captures a wide range of moods such as the expression of romantic intimacies as in Buencaminos’ Damdamin, Molina’s Cradle Song, and Sacramento’s Romance; the refined and exquisite dances of Adonay’s waltz and mazurka and Santiago’s Purita, all three of which were presentation music gifted to women; the evocative, though parodic, piano art music of Abelardo’s First Nocturne, Molina’s Malikmata, and Santiago’s Nocturne in E-flat Minor; the commemorative patriotism of Nakpil’s Pahimakas and Pasig-Pantayanin, and representations of Filipino femininity such as Paterno’s La Flor de Manila (Sampaguita) and Molina’s Camia. The rest of the program are character pieces such as Massaguer’s La Bella Filipina (originally a song), Hernandez’s Caress, Buencamino’s Smile, and Nakpil’s Recuerdos de Capiz. Except for a few pieces that Pinkas will be rendering from music manuscripts provided to her by University of Santo Tomas Associate Professor Ma. Alexandra Inigo-Chua, UP Professor Elena Mirano and Associate Professor Patricia Brilliantes, most of the music in this concert were once circulated as sheet music among the affluent piano-owning middle class in Manila, i.e., at a time when urbanization and capitalism took root in the city.

Admission ticket to the concert is priced 300 pesos, with 20% discount to senior citizens and 50% to students with valid IDs.


Reflections on Traditional Philippine Music

by the Chair of the Subcommittee on Traditional Southeast Asian Music in SEADOM, Dr. José S. Buenconsejo, on 28 March 2015, 11AM, Abelardo Hall Auditorium, Quezon City, Philippines

​It is impossible to speak about the traditional music of Southeast Asia in the singular. Because of its geography, Continental and Insular Southeast Asia have always been at the crossroads of Asian, European, and American cultures, encounters of which have resulted to both internally- and externally-induced cultural changes. An awareness of the histories of these cross-cultural encounters makes us realize that traditions have not always been received from the past as if pure and fixed but have come about as varied creative responses to culture changes in particular time periods that inevitably affected those traditions. Traditional court musics of Southeast Asia, e.g., have tended to be resilient and conservative–as if timeless traditions–because its adherents have believed in their enduring music essences and have therefore maintained them as such, i.e., permanent and unchanging. But at some point in the past, that timeless tradition must have been constructed as the courts in Southeast Asia had consolidated their power. We know, e.g., that the gamelan of Central Java had roots in village communities and that it was later appropriated by the sultans of Yogyakarta and Surakarta as musical symbols of their power, i.e., as a divine manifestation in a socially constructed cosmology (as discussed for example in Judith Becker’s first book). The same is also true of Hindu-Balinese gamelan, which continues to be practised by villagers today even after the courts are gone (see Geertz).

​Yet traditional court musics of Southeast Asia cannot speak for the whole region. At the fringes of court cultures are village cultures, which, as just mentioned, were the sources from which court music traditions had evolved from. The villages and courts had interdependent cultural relationships with each other. In the villages, among the majority of the populations, there were varied forms of music making that were based on musical interlock–multipart music–as a symbol of social cooperation. For me, this interlock is a shared musical principle that governs many musical systems in the region and it would be good to investigate this closely at a later symposium.

In the Philippines, except the lesser sultanates of Sulu, Maguindanao, and Lanao areas, there has been no court music to speak of nor a history of elaborate codification of music tradition so that it becomes fixed and unchanging. Indigenous Philippine music has always existed in the plural for it is a heterogenous cultural practice of interdependent villages. When the Spaniards colonized the Philippines in 16th century, owing to both economic and religious reasons, the political rise of the town, centered in the poblacion or town center, was what contrasted with the space of the village called barangay (or barrio). In both spaces–town and village–culture was centered on Catholic religion because the priests in the evolution of the dominant Philippine lowland culture were very important in maintaining the hold of Spanish empire in the islands. Religious feasts and devotions were strictly observed and music making was a representation to this political edifice. Each year, communal efforts have been focused on the fiesta where loud brass band music is heard. [I’m reminded of the concert last night. More than half of our students, mostly from the working class, come from this brass band culture.] ​

When the towns evolved into port cities, which exported the agricultural products of the country in 19th century, many European nationals established merchant houses in Manila, Cebu, and Iloilo and therefore government bureaucracy also became more complex, prompting Spanish diaspora in Philippine cities. Along with them were also European writers who wrote travelogues, which did not fail to mention the brass bands as well as local song-dance musical genres that were described to be symbols of national identity like the cundiman, kumintang, and balitao. The travelogues had music transcriptions of these popular music condiman, comintang, and balitao that became “tradition” in the course of time. The transcription of condiman comes from this 1847 album preserved in an illuminated manuscript commissioned by a Spanish journalist Gervacio Centerenolla. The second is a transcription of comintang by the French traveller Jean Baptiste Mallat in 1848 that the English journeyman John Bowring reprinted 1858. There was another book in 1860 that printed the condiman and of course one more in 1892 by Manuel Walls. ​What is fascinating with these materials is that they constructed 19th century popular music in the Philippines, which are actually limited to specific regions in the archipelago, into the national, i.e., for the whole of the Philippine archipelago. My hypothesis is that the transcriptions–writing music–did influence the status of the genres, i.e., they became elevated as a result because a value was added to them such as patriotism and the like. In the case of the kundiman, this genre lost its dance component in 20th century and became a serious type of music for voice alone. The song “Bayan Ko” sung in the 1986 People Power Revolution is a good kundiman.

To look closely, this ubiquitous song-dance genre in the Philippines is not tied in to the national political for it is simply “entertainment” music in village festivities, especially during meetings between wife-givers and wife-takers. The song-dance genres I just mentioned are reminiscent of indigenous types of music still cultivated in remote parts of the Philippine Islands today. As a music that alternates song between man and woman, it is very similar to the Malay pantun or Laotian molam. But the Philippine types were fused with Western element such as lute accompaniment and harmony and are therefore hybrid or mestizaje musics.

What do we learn from this? First, the examples given point to the fact that music tradition is not fixed but something that is made to appear as such as part of a political process in history. Second, we can understand tradition if we explore in depth its context, by which I mean the material conditions that enable the tradition to be fixed. In this short paper, I pointed out the technology of writing. Third, tradition is a response to present circumstances, especially the new or the modern. When the Europeans encountered local culture in the Philippines, they saw a local song-dance as a marker of a place that is different from Europe. While presumably they wrote about it as a costumbre or local custom of the place (hiding the fact that half of it is of Western origin), readers of their travelogues later used the same attention for local custom but added the sentiment of patriotism into the text. Thus, if we do not reflect on the important role that cultural context plays in the construction of tradition, then it will be difficult for us to comprehend that tradition cannot be separated from the new or the modern by which traditions had to adjust.


Bowring, John. A Visit to the Philippine Islands. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1859.

Mallat de Bassilan, Jean Baptiste. Les Philippines. 2 vols., 1846.

Scherzer, Karl. Reise der österreichischen Fregatte Novara um die Erde in den Jahren 1857, 1858, 1859 unter den Befehlen des Commodore B. von Wüllerstorf-Urbair. Volume 2. Vienna: Court and State Printer, 1861.

Walls, Manuel. La Musica Popular de Filipinas. Madrid: 1892. —