A Southeast Asian Musical Tradition is practiced by
those who resisted Spanish—and later American—Colonial Rule, comprising
roughly 10% of the Philippine population. These musical traditions relate to
the social, political and economic life of the people, and are connected to
their spiritual beliefs and their relationship to the natural environment.
Generally, two "types" of Southeast Asian music could
be found in the archipelago. A "northern tradition" found in the Cordillera
Mountains in northern Luzon and a "southern tradition" found in the islands
of Mindoro, Palawan, and in Mindanao and the Sulu group of islands in the
extreme south. Northern traditions relate to various music cultures in
continental Southeast Asia while southern traditions relate to the immediate
islands in insular Southeast Asia.
Some of the language groups in the north are the
Kalinga, Bontok, Kankana-ey, Ifugao, Isneg, Ibaloi, Ilonggot,
Karao, Isneg and the Tingguian. In Mindanao in the south, Islamic
groups consist of the Maguindanao, Maranao, Yakan, Sangil, Tausug, Sama,
Badjao, and the Jama Mapun. Non-Moslem groups, sometimes referred
to collectively by outsiders as Lumads, consist of the Manobo,
Bagobo, Subanun, Tiruray, Tagabili, Mandaya, Mansaka, the T’boli
and the B’laan. The Pala-wan, Tagbanwa and Cuyunin are
located in the island of Palawan, while various groups like the
Hanunoo-Mangyan, the Alangan and the Iraya are
collectively called the Mangyan and are located in the island of
Mindoro, south of Luzon.
Gong types clearly distinguish between northern
and southern traditions. Peoples of the Cordillera highlands utilize
graduated flat gongs (gangsa) that are played in ensembles of six to
eight—or in other cases with other musical instruments like the drum or a
pair of iron bars—utilizing a particular musical structure of interlocking
patterns. In the island of Mindanao, however, bossed gongs of various
profiles are played in ensembles, usually led by a row of gongs (kulintang)
and supported or accompanied by other gongs such as, among the Maguindanao,
and the Maranao, the agung, the gandingan and the babandil
and a drum, the dabakan. Among the Tiruray, the agung
ensemble is made up of five individual gongs, each played by one person.
Among the Bagobo, these gongs of the agung type called
tagunggo are suspended with ropes and played by two, three or more
persons. Smaller suspended gongs, on the other hand, are sometimes called
kulintang. Bossed gongs are also found in Palawan and in Mindoro.
The flat gong traditions in the north relate to
similar traditions found among, for instance, the Mnong Gar of North
Vietnam while just the same, similar traditions of bossed gong ensembles in
Mindanao are found in the islands of Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Sumatra, and
elsewhere in the southern archipelago. In both the northern and southern
traditions, however, gongs are associated with important community
celebrations such as harvests and rituals.
Aside from gongs, other musical instruments in the
north such as nose flutes, bamboo buzzers, clappers, quill-shaped percussion
tubes and brass jew’s harps relate to continental Southeast Asia, while ring
flutes log drums, xylophones, suspended beams, two-stringed boat lutes and
bamboo jew’s harps relate to insular Southeast Asia.
Another feature that delineates between musical
traditions is the rhythmic, speech-like enunciation that characterizes the
singing style of the north, as contrasted by a more melismatic, long-phrased
style in the south. Vocal genres in the north include epics such as the
ullalim among the Kalinga and other songs for various occasions
and celebrations as the ading and the oggayam. The alisiq
is sung for curing the sick while the ibil laments the death of a
person. Leader-chorus singing among councils of elders relates to the
leadership structure of northern communities. The ayyeng among the
Bontok and the Liwliwa among the Kankana-ey exemplify
leader-chorus type of singing.
In the south, the use of a tense, high-pitched
style with complex melismas characterizes solo singing among the Moslem
groups. This style is used in the singing of epics such as the Radya
Indara Patra and the Diwata Kasalipan among the
Maguindanao, the bayok a love song among the Maguindanao and the
Maranao, and the Tausug lugu, a solo song sung in Arabic, mostly by
women, for important Islamic ceremonies. A more "relaxed" style in the
natural speaking range with less melisma is used by non-Moslem groups. Among
the Manobo, for instance, singing is accompanied by a two-stringed boat lute
and/or a bamboo polychordal zither.
Aside from the northern and southern linguistic
groups, the Ayta is found in many parts in the entire archipelago.
Having been traditionally mobile, these groups of Filipino appear to have
syncretized their culture with proximal cultures. For instance, Ayta groups
in northern Luzon utilize a flat gong they refer to as gangha.
While the music of these peoples relate
very much to their social and natural environment, their continuous
absorption into the mainstream Philippine culture seems to pose a threat to
their survival and the cultivation of their culture.