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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Music of the Philippines

Music of the Philippines

The music of the Philippines is a mixture of European, American and indigenous sounds. Much of the music of the Philippines have been influenced by the 333 year-long colonial legacies of Spain, Western rock and roll, hip hop and pop music from the United States, the indigenous Austronesian population and Indo-Malayan Gamelan music


  • 1 Hispanic musical styles
    • 1.1 Kundiman
  • 2 Philippine choral music
  • 3 OPM (Original Pilipino Music)
  • 4 Modern Filipino Music from the Regions
  • 5 Filipino rock music
  • 6 Other genres
  • 7 References
  • 8 See also


Hispanic musical styles

Spanish and Mexican colonizers left their musical mark on the Philippines, introducing another rich culture, Christianity and its attendant religious music. The guitar and other instruments, as well as zarzuela (a form of operetta) were popular and soon became an important part of the customs and traditional elements of the culture of the Philippines.


The Kundiman is a lyrical song style made popular in the Philippines in the early 19th century, but having origins in older pre-colonial indigenous styles. Composed in the Western idiom, the song is characterized by a minor key at the beginning and shifts to a major key in the second half. Its lyrics depict a romantic love, usually portraying the forlorn pleadings of a lover willing to sacrifice everything on behalf of his beloved. In many others, it is a plaintive call of the rejected lover or the broken-hearted. In others, it is a story of unrequited love. Almost all traditional Filipino love songs in this genre are heavy with poetic emotion.
In the 1920s Kundiman became a much more mainstream musical style, with many popular performers including Diomedes Maturan and Ruben Tagalog singing in Kundiman style.

Philippine choral music

The Philippine choral music scene has been developed and popularized by the Philippine Madrigal Singers. This choir is the country's premier chorale and has been an award-winning chorale through its existence. It is the only choir in the world to have won twice in the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing (1997 and 2007), widely considered the most prestigious chorale competition in the world. Also from the same homefront, i.e. the University of the Philippines, are the University of the Philippines Singing Ambassadors (or UPSA) and the University of the Philippines Concert Chorus (or UPCC), two of the most sought-after and multi-awarded groups in the country. Also, Kundirana, a high-school choral group from La Salle Green Hills, became popular as well. Other popular and internationally awarded groups are the UST Singers and the Ateneo College Glee Club. Saint Louis University Glee Club in Baguio city has been one of the outstanding choral group in the Philippines and the most rewarded choral group in the Cordilleran Region for winning in the CCP. The Philippines is arguably the most awarded Asian country in choral music.ronniel

OPM (Original Pilipino Music)

Original Pilipino Music, now more commonly termed Original Pinoy Music or Original Philippine Music, (frequently abbreviated to OPM) originally referred only to Filipino pop songs, especially those in the ballad form, such as songs popularized in the 1970s through the mid-1990s by major commercial Filipino pop artists like Ryan Cayabyab, Kuh Ledesma, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Martin Nievera, Basil Valdez, Rey Valera, Regine Velasquez, Ogie Alcasid, Lani Misalucha, Lea Salonga, and APO Hiking Society. In the passage of time as well as the development of many diverse and alternative musical styles in the Philippines, however, the term OPM now refers to any type of Original Philippine Music created in the Philippines or composed by individuals of Philippine extraction, regardless of location at the time when composed. The lyrics, in fact, may be in any language or dialect. Although most of it are written either in Filipino/Tagalog, English or Taglish, OPMs written in foreign languages (eg. in Japanese), though handful, do exist.

Modern Filipino Music from the Regions

For a long time now, OPM has been centralized in Manila, where Tagalog and English are the dominating languages. Other ethnolinguistic groups such as Visayan, Bikol, and Kapampangan, despite making music in their native languages are not yet that welcome in the OPM category, except in phenomenal cases like the Bisrock (Bisaya Rock) song "Charing" by Davao band 1017 and the Kapampangan novelty song "O Jo, Kaluguran Da Ka" by Pampanga-based stand-up comedian Ara Muna.
Multiculturalism advocates and federalists often connect this to the Tagalog cultural hegemony of the capital of the Philippines, Manila. However, in the recent years, musicians from other ethnolinguistic groups in the Philippines are beginning to revolt against ethnic discrimination in music by introducing their music through the Internet.
Having successfully created a subgenre of Philippine Rock they called Bisrock, the Visayans by far have the biggest collection of modern music in their native language, with great contributions from Visayan bands Phylum and Missing Filemon.
Following suit are the Kapampangans, who have successfully penetrated the national scene with the Tagalog-Kapampangan translation of the English song "Sometimes When We Touch" titled "O Jo, Kaluguran Da Ka." The debut music video of "Oras" by Tarlac City-based Kapampangan band Mernuts has penetrated MTV Pilipinas, making it the first ever Kapampangan music video to join the ranks of other mainstream Filipino music videos. "RocKapampangan: The Birth of Philippine Kapampangan Rock," an album of modern remakes of folk Kapampangan extemporaneous songs by various Kapampangan bands was also launched last February 2008, which are now regularly played via Kapampangan cable channel Infomax-8 and via one of Central Luzon's biggest FM radio stations, GVFM 99.1. Inspired by what the locals call "Kapampangan cultural renaissance," Angeles City-born balladeer Ronnie Liang rendered Kapampangan translations of some of his popular songs such as "Ayli" (Kapampangan version of "Ngiti") and "Ika" (Kapampangan version of "Ikaw") for his repackaged album.
Despite the growing clamor for non-Tagalog and non-English Filipino music, the local music industry, which is centralized in Manila, is still skeptical in making investments. Some of their major reasons include the language barrier, the still-small market, and the demonization of regionalism in the Philippines.

Filipino rock music

The United States occupied the Islands in 1898 until 1935 and introduced American blues folk music|folk, R&B and rock and roll became popular. In the late 1950s, native performers adapted Tagalog language|Tagalog lyrics for North American rock n'roll music, resulting in the seminal origins of Filipino rock. The most notable achievement in Filipino rock of the 1960s was the hit song "Killer Joe," which propelled the group "Rocky Fellers" to #16 on the American radio charts. However, despite the Fellers family (father and four sons) being of Manila origin, the song itself was written by US musicians Bert Russell (Bert Berns), Bob Elgin, and Phil Medley, so some critics contend that it wasn't truly Filipino rock.
Up until the 70s, popular rock music had always been written in English. In the early 1970s, rock music began to be written using local languages, with bands like the Juan Dela Cruz Band being among the first popular bands to do so. Mixing Tagalog and English lyrics were also popularly used within the same song, in songs like "Ang Miss Universe Ng Buhay Ko," by the band Hotdogs which helped innovate the Manila sound. The mixing of the two languages (known as "Taglish"), while common in casual speech in the Philippines, was seen as a bold move, but the success of Taglish in popular songs, including Sharon Cuneta's first hit, "Mr DJ," broke the barrier forevermore.
Soon, Filipino rock musicians added folk music and other influences, helping to lead to the 1978 breakthrough success of Freddie Aguilar. Aguilar's Anak, his debut recording, is the most commercially successful Filipino recording in history, and was popular throughout Asia and Europe, and has been translated into numerous language by singers worldwide. Asin also broke into the music scene at the same time and were very popular.
Folk-rock became the Filipino protest music of the 1980s, and Aguilar's "Bayan Ko" became especially popular as an anthem during the 1986 revolution. At the same time, a counterculture rejected the rise of politically focused lyrics. In Manila, a Punk rock scene developed, led by bands like Betrayed, The Jerks and Urban Bandits. The influence of New Wave was also felt during these years, spearheaded by The Dawn.
1990s saw the emergence of a superstar pop-rock group, the Eraserheads, considered by many as the greatest Filipino band phenomenon in the Philippine recording scene. In the wake of their success was the emergence of a string of influential Filipino rock bands such as Yano, Siakol, Parokya ni Edgar and Rivermaya, each of which mixes the influence of a variety of rock subgenres into their style.
Filipino rock has also developed to include some hard rock and heavy metal and Alternative Rock such as Wolfgang, Razorback, Greyhounds, Queso, Grin department and the progressive band Paradigm.
The Neo-Traditional genre in Filipino music is also gaining popularity, with artists such as Joey Ayala, Grace Nono, Bayang Barrios Cocojam and Pinikpikan, reaping relative commercial success while utilizing the traditional musical sounds of many indigenous minorities in the country.

Today, the Philippines is perhaps Asia's most vibrant music-obsessed country, with home spawned bands such as Sponge Cola, Chicosci, Bamboo, Silent Sanctuary, Rocksteddy, Kjwan, Kamikazee, Cueshe, Itchyworms, Vinyard, Valley of Chrome, Clap Your Hands, Imago, Hale, The Ambassadors, Moonstar 88, Faspitch, Callalily and Urbandub, and the emergence of its first virtual band, Mistula [1][2].
There has always been a blend of rock and easy-listening styles in OPM, so it is not unusual for a single artist or group to have a wide repertoire and an equally wide range of fans. A retired businessman may find himself seated next to a teen girl at an appearance of Juan De La Cruz or the latest girl group from Makati, and outcheering her after a favorite song.

Other genres

A number of other Genres are growing in popularity in the Philippine Music scene, including a number of alternative groups and tribal bands promoting cultural awareness around the Philippines.

Filipino folk music

Traditional Music in the Philippines, like the traditional music of other countries, reflects the life of common folk, mainly living in rural areas rather than urban ones. Like its counterparts in Asia, a lot of traditional songs from the Philippines have a strong connection with nature. However, much of it employs the diatonic scale rather than the more famous pentatonic scale.


  • 1 A Blending of East and West
  • 2 Vocal Music
    • 2.1 The Western Inspired
      • 2.1.1 Melody
      • 2.1.2 Syllabically Set and Stanzaic Text
      • 2.1.3 Simple Form
      • 2.1.4 Major and minor tonalities
      • 2.1.5 Duple and triple meter
      • 2.1.6 Simple harmony
    • 2.2 The Native Psalm Type
    • 2.3 Secular Songs from Indigenous Groups
  • 3 Mobility
  • 4 Language used in traditional vocal music
  • 5 Dance music
    • 5.1 Dance Music from Christianised Groups
    • 5.2 Dance Music from Muslim Groups
    • 5.3 Dance Music from Indigenous Groups
  • 6 Popularity
  • 7 Attempts to Collect
  • 8 Commercial use
  • 9 See also
  • 10 References


A Blending of East and West

Like the culture of the country itself, traditional Philippine music is a melting pot of the country's historic past. Philippine Traditional Music is influenced by all the music that was ever brought there, so it may sometimes sound 'Chinese', 'Indian', or even 'European'.
Like the people who use it, Traditional Music in the Philippines is either Western or non-Western. And while having more subdivisions, each form will surely reflect the culture of a specific group.

Vocal Music

Vocal music to be the most important form of music found in every ethnic group in the country. Although there is some music intended for dance, the best form of preserved traditional music is those intended for the voice.
According to the book Philippine Literature: Folk Songs by Mauricia Borromeo, folk songs from the country may be divided into Western-Type Folk songs, Narrative Psalm, and Secular Songs from the Indigenous Groups.

The Western Inspired

According to Borromeo, Philippine folk songs inspired by Western music are characterised as songs with (1) singable melody, (2) syllabically set stanzaic text, (3) simple structure, (4) major and minor tonalities, (5) duple or triple in meter, and (6) simple harmonies.
Western music came to influence the traditional music of the Philippines through Spain and Mexico. As the country was under Spanish Rule for more than 300 years through Mexico City, it is inevitable that this kind of music will have noticeable resemblance to Western music.
This kind of music is mainly found in the Christian regions for the reason that they had more contact with the Spaniards than the non-Christian groups.
The observation made by Dorothy Scarborough is specially true to the Western Inspired Philippine Music:
A song that starts out as sheet music, duly credited to author and composer, may be so altered as to words or music, or both, by singers who learn and transmit it orally, as to become a folk song. The fact that elsewhere it may be known as published music makes no difference.
... no genuine folk music is ever the exact duplicate of any other version even of the same song. Each version or variant has its own value. (Scarborough 1935: Foreword)
Indeed, songs like the Visayan Matud Nila and Usahay are considered folk songs despite some versions credited to particular composers such as Ben Zubiri, Nitoy Gutierrez and so forth.
With regard to the range, most songs are relatively easy for an untrained voice as they are between six to eleven tones. Musicologists agree that the normal range of an untrained voice is fourteen tones or an octave and a half.
Filipino folk songs are also sung in a relaxed and easy voice. Though singers of this type of songs may employ falsetto, its use is not actually compulsory. Modern recordings of these folk songs employ the speaking voice used in popular music.
Syllabically Set and Stanzaic Text
Most Western inspired songs are either fall under the corrido, four lines of eight syllables each, or awit, four lines of 12 syllables each. And although these lines do not generally rhyme, most of them end with an assonance.
However, unlike traditional songs from Spain, Western-inspired Philippine traditional songs do not employ lengthy mellismas. As a general rule, a "mnemonic for each note' style as exemplified in the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, "The Sound of Music", is identifiable in some Philippine traditional music.
It is also characterized as strophic, wherein one melody is repeated for every stanza. This is specially true to the ballads. Though modified strophic, like the case of the Irish song, "Red Is the Rose", hardly exists. The Binary form is more common, where a refrain of a fixed verse is repeated after each stanza.
Simple Form
According to Borromeo:
The single-unit song is made up of musical phrases (two or four) with an internal relationship that could be progressive, reverting, repetitive or contrasting. The two-unit song or binary song form is common to haranas and kundimans. Each unit is repeated as in 'Lulay'. A return to the first part changes the form to a ternary or three repeated designs. The version of 'Sarong Banggi' is one example.
The verse and refrain type has been mentioned; i.e. 'Magtanim ay di Biro'. A rare example of the leader-chorus type is the Ivatan rowing song 'Un As Kayaluhen'.
Major and minor tonalities
As mentioned above, Traditional Philippine Music employs the Diatonic scale rather than the Pentatonic scale, as the common practice of traditional songs from the Orient. This means songs are either in the Major scale or Minor scale. In some cases also, the Kundiman and other art songs that have been included in the Traditional repertoire begin with the minor mode and then modulate into the relative major in the second half.
As a result, songs are stereotyped as in joyful, peaceful, and exuberant if they are in the Major mode while those in the minor mode are sad, plaintive, mourning of longing.
Duple and triple meter
Though there are songs that exist in quadruple meter, those in duple and triple meter are most common in Western-inspired Philippine music. As one could notice when they examine a collection of traditional songs, those with triple meter form the largest part in the repertoire. This form is specially suited for the song-dance type which will be discussed thoroughly below.
Simple harmony
Most common folk in the Philippines have acquired a natural disposition to play the guitar, thus this musical instrument (usually strummed rather than plucked) is the most typical fashion of instrumental accompaniment for Western-inspired "traditional" songs. Many folk songs falling under these types were once classified as art songs, one and the importance of an accompaniment cannot be undermined.
Some songs, like the Habanera inspired 'Ti Ayat Ti Maysa Nga Ubing' from the Ilocos Region, are highly chromatic, one can still easily accompany it using the I-IV-V or Tonic-Subdominant-Dominant chord progression.

The Native Psalm Type

The Native Psalm style is less frequently used but nevertheless a very important part in the repertoire of Traditional Philippine Music. Unlike the Western tradition, however, Borromeo classified songs with lengthy mellismas under the Psalm category.
The 'Huluna of Bauan', from Batangas, is the paramount example of this form of music. Indeed the 'Huluna of Bauan' is characterised with highly elaborate fioritures, free in meter, modal in melody, long phrases and narrow range.
This kind of vocal music is undoubtedly taxing for an average singer. Though the range of this kind of songs is generally a sixth above, the lengthy mellismas and elaborate fioritures make it very difficult. Here, the singer must take a deep breath every time he reaches the end of the cadence in order to sustain the next long phrase.

Secular Songs from Indigenous Groups

Unlike the earlier two songs, this form of song has more resemblance with other traditional music from the Orient as it uses the same scale as that of the Chinese pentatonic scale or closer to home, the Indonesian Slendro scale. This form also employs a recurring beat, verse lines set in syllables and a wide melodic range.
Although it is very difficult to establish what meter is used in a certain song, one can easily recognise that it is not as free as the 'Huluna'. There are also cases in which the accent of the words is altered in order to suit the beat of the tune. This is especially true in songs of the Northern Tradition like the 'Salidumay' of the Kalinga. It is also syllabic and the lines do not end in rhyme but in assonace.
But even though vocal music falling under this category is regarded to have a wide range, as most of them stretch more than an octave, they are still considered singable even for an average singer.


Borromeo also noted that one interesting feature of Western-Inspired traditional music is that a tune is not bound to a particular language or dialect. One must remember that the Philippines is an archipelago and the use of Filipino as a national language is just very recent. Thus, Filipinos did not have a unifying language during the time of the Spaniards.
Yet, the tune used for the Tagalog 'Magtanim ay Di Biro' is also used for the Kapampangan 'Deting Tanaman Pale' and the Gaddang 'So Payao'. Just to give the reader a clear difference between these languages, Tagalog is related to Kapampangan in the same way that English is related to German. On the other hand, Tagalog is related to Gaddang in the same way English is related to Nordic Languages.
Other examples of this tune sharing are the Visayan 'Ako Ining Kailu', the Ibanag 'Melogo Ti Aya' and the Kapampangan 'Ing Manai'. One can also notice the same with the Bicolano 'Mansi Pansi' and the Ilocano 'Pamulinawen'.

Language used in traditional vocal music

It is interesting to note that although 90% of the 80 million Filipinos claim varying proficiency in the English language, no song was ever found out to have it as the original text. Only those traditional songs used by the Catholic Church, which probably entered the country through America, used English. And these body of songs were more associated with the church rather than the country. The largest body of songs are those using the various vernacular languages, especially the eight major languages in the country.
Most of the collected traditional songs have a translation in Tagalog, the national language, but most scholars tend to ignore its existence.
Songs from the various minority languages rank second while those in Spanish ranks third. Though the Spanish used in the Philippines is generally called Chavacano, it is intelligible to anyone who can understand Castilian. The most famous songs in this classification are perhaps 'No Te Vayas de Zamboanga' and 'Viva! Señor Sto. Nino'.

Dance music

After Vocal music, Dance music is the next most important form of Traditional Philippine Music. As mentioned above, the best form of preserved music are those with lyrics, this is also true for those music intended to accompany a dance. According to Francisca Reyes-Aquino, known for her voluminous collection of folk dances, the folks watching the dance sing the songs in the same way that cheerers chant in a game. This is very evident especially in songs where interjections 'Ay!', 'Aruy-Aruy!', 'Uy!' and 'Hmp!' are present.
Music falling under this type may be classified as those belonging to the Christianised Groups, Muslim Groups, and the other Ethnic Groups.

Dance Music from Christianised Groups

As Christianity came to the Philippines through its Western conquerors, Dance Music classified as belonging to the Christianised Groups are somewhat related to Western music as well. Dance Music falling under this category may also be called Habanera, Jota, Fandango, Polka, Curacha, etc. and has the same characteristics as each namesakes in the Western Hemisphere.
However, there are also indigenous forms like the 'Balitao', 'Tinikling' and 'Cariñosa'. In a study made by the National Artist for Music Dr. Antonio Molina, the Balitao, famous in the Tagalog and the Visayan regions employ a 3/4 time signature that employs a 'crotchet-quaver-quaver-crotchet' beat. Others employ the 'crotchet-minim' scheme, while others use the 'dotted quaver-semiquaver-crotchet-quaver-quaver' scheme.
This type of music is generally recreational and, like traditional music from the West, is used for socialising.

Dance Music from Muslim Groups

The court and folk dance music of the Muslim-Filipino groups have somewhat preserved the ancient Southeast Asian musical instruments, modes and repertoires lost to the islands further north which were colonized by Spain. It is important to note here that orthodox Islam does not condone musical entertainment, and thus the musical genres among the Muslim Filipinos cannot be considered "Islamic".
Genres shares characteristics with other Southeast-Asian Court and Folk musics: Indonesian Gamelan, Thai Piphat, Malay Caklempong, Okinawan Minyo and to a lesser extent, through cultural transference through the rest of Southeast Asia, is comparable even to the music of the remote Indian Sub-Continent.
Generally, music falling under this category tells a story. An example is the Singkil, which relates a story from the ancient Indian saga, the Ramayana (other examples of narration dance from the Ramayana are seen in other Southeast Asian nations see). The Singkil is considered the most famous in the Philippines under this category for its perceived elegance, and is also performed by Filipinos from other ethnic groups throughout the country. The Singkil recounts the story of Sita (known locally as Putri Gandingan) as she was saved by Rama (Rajahmuda Bantugan) from the clashing rocks. Only, for the purposes of the dance, the rocks are changed into bamboos.

Dance Music from Indigenous Groups

Like the secular songs from the same group, this form of music has a 'beat' even though it is hard to put it in a form of time signature. Percussions are mainly used for these type of music and sometimes, a gong is enough.
As closeness to Nature is a main feature of these ethnic groups, one can expect that dance steps falling under this category are a mimicry of the movements of plants and animals of a certain locality. Some music is simply called the 'Monkey Dance' or the 'Robin Dance' for identification.
Some of the music falling under this category is ritual music: thus there are dances used for marriage, worship, and even for preparation for a war.


Unlike folk music in Ireland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, traditional music in the Philippines never reached national popularity. Perhaps, it is partly due to the fact every region of the Philippines has its own language.
Though some groups tried to collect songs from the different enthnolinguistic groups, none has so far succeeded in making traditional music a part of the national identity, much more a national symbol. It is rarely taught in Elementary school, as in Ireland, aside from Children's songs. This results in a mentality that traditional songs are children's songs.
The decline was accelerated with the entry of television, making popular culture from Europe and the United States easily accessible to a common Filipino. Though most Europeans would say that Filipinos are music-loving people, traditional music is always at risk of being left in oblivion.

Attempts to Collect

Attempts have been made to collect and preserve Traditional Philippine Music but most of them focus only on the Vocal form. Under the 400 years of Spanish occupation of the Philippines, no collection of the traditional music was ever made. There are however studies made regarding this subject in the late 19th Century, when the Romanticists of Europe began to find the value of folk songs.
Even during the American occupation of the Philippines, attempts to collect traditional music came rather late. Perhaps the first collection was done in 1919 by Fr. Morice Vanoverberg, which is focused on the traditional music of the Lepanto Igorots of the North. Unfortunately, only the words and not the tunes are included in the collection.
The collection entitled 'Filipino Folk Songs' by Emilia Cavan is considered to be the earliest collection with tunes, published in 1942. Perhaps, the most important collection of Folk Songs is the 'Philippine Progressive Music Series' by Norberto Romualdez published in the late 1920's.
Unfortunately, the collectors who worked with Romualdez did not present the songs in their original languages but rather translated them into English and Filipino. This collection also included some songs aimed to promote National Identity, like the National Anthem of the Philippines, the Philippines Our Native Land and even Philippines the Beautiful and adaptation of America the Beautiful. The collection also included some folk songs from other countries.
For a period of time, Romualdez' collection became the textbook for teaching music in the Primary School. It also ensured that folk tunes from every part of the country is preserved and will be passed to the next generation of Filipinos. Until now, this collection remains to be the most important collection of traditional music from the Philippines, since a copy of it is still available in major Municipal and Provincial Libraries in the country.
Other collections like the 'Filipino Folk Songs' by Emilia Reysio-Cruz caters to the so- called 'Eight Major Languages' of the country and according to some, the collection is the best representation of the songs from these ethnolinguistic groups.
Dr. Jose Maceda, former chairman of the Department of Asian Music Research of the College of Music of the University of the Philippines, also did some collection which began in 1953 and lasted until 1972. This was followed by collections from his students as well.
During the last years of the 20th Century until the early 21st Century, Raul Sunico, Dean of the Conservatory of Music of the University of Santo Tomas, published his own collection. He began with publishing a collection of lullabies, followed by love songs, then by work songs. Finally, he published a collection of songs about Filipino women, a major topic of traditional songs from all the ethnolinguistic groups. All these collections were arranged for the piano and the words are given in their original languages. A translation is also supplied, not to mention a brief backgrounder about the culture of the specific ethnic groups.
     It has the:
                 *Strophic/ unitary form
                 *Binary Form
                 *Ternary form
                 *Rondo form
With regard to traditional dance music, the seven volume collection of Francisca Reyes-Aquino is still the most important collection. None has yet followed her lead until now.

Commercial use

Some rock icons from the 1970s tried to record folk songs. Singers like Joey Ayala, Bayang Barrios, Freddie Aguilar and the group Asin tried to propagate the songs as the same phenomenon is happening in the United States.
Many of the serious musicians also recorded the songs but none has still made a folk song so successful that it could enter the charts. Nowadays, popular musicians tend to ignore this form. Its propagation is now mainly left to the musicians in the academic sphere.


Kundiman (originally spelled Cundiman) is a genre of traditional Filipino love songs. The lyrics of the Kundiman are written in Tagalog. The melody is characterized by a smooth, flowing and gentle rhythm with dramatic intervals. Kundiman was the traditional means of serenade in the Philippines.
The Kundiman came to the fore as an art song at the end of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth, when Filipino composers such as Francisco Santiago and Nicanor Abelardo (born February 7, 1893, death March 21, 1934 ), formalized the musical structure and sought poetry for their lyrics, blending verse and music in equal parts.
Scholars and historians believed that the Kundiman originated from the Tagalog town of Balayan, Batangas. [1] Dr. Francisco Santiago(1889-1947), the "Father of the Kundiman Art Song", briefly explains in his scholarly work "The Development of Music in the Philippines" the reason why this Tagalog song is called Kundiman is because the first stanza of this song begun thus:
"Cundiman, cundiman
Cundiman si jele"
"Hele ng Cundiman
Hele ng Cundangan"
In 1872, the illustrious Franciscan Tagalist and poet, Father Joaquin de Coria wrote the "Nueva Gramatica Tagalog Teorica-Practica" which, besides treating grammar, also enumerates the characteristics of Tagalog language, and discusses Tagalog poetry.[2] In this book Father Coria also gave us a list of the names of the most important songs of the Tagalogs. They are:
  • Diona and Talingdao (songs in the homes and in ordinary work)
  • Indolanin and Dolayin (songs in the streets)
  • Soliranin (boat songs)
  • Haloharin, Oyayi and Hele-hele (songs to make the baby sleep)
  • Sambotani (song for festivals and social reunions)
  • Tagumpay (song to commemorate victory in war)
  • Hiliraw, Balicungcung (sweet songs)
  • Dopayinin (almost same as Tagumpay, but more serious and more sincere)
  • Kumintang (love song; also a pantominic "dance song" -Dr. F. Santiago)
  • Cundiman (love song, used especially in serenading)
The Spanish scholar V.M. Avella described the Kundiman in his 1874 work "Manual de la Conversación Familiar Español-Tagalog" as the "cancion indigena" (native song) of the Tagalogs and characterized its melody as "something pathetic but not without some pleasant feeling." [3]
In his 1883 book "Cuentos Filipinos", Don José Montero y Vidal recorded in Spanish the sad lyrics of a "popular" Kundiman of the "Tagalas" or Tagalogs :[4]
Cundiman, cundiman
Cundiman si jele
Mas que esta dormido
Ta sona con ele.
Desde que vos cara
Yo ta mira
Aquel morisqueta
No puede traga.
Cundiman, cundiman
Cundiman, cundaman
Mamatay, me muero
Sacamay mo lamang.
The Spanish writer and historian Wenceslao E. Retana recorded in 1888 the lyrics of a popular Kundiman in Batangas. The melancholic lyrics in the Tagalog original as recorded in Retana's book "El Indio Batangueño" reads: [5]
Aco man ay imbi, hamac isang ducha
Nasinta sa iyo, naghahasic nga
Di ba guin si David ng una ay aba
Pastor ay nag harin ng datnan ng awa?
Hele ng Cundiman
Hele ng Cundangan
Mundo palibhasai, talinghaga lamang
Ang mababa ngayon bucas ay marangal.
Sa lahat ng hirap sintang dala-dala
Salang cumilos isip coi icao na
Acoi mananaog na hahanapin quita
Hele ng Cundiman
Hele ng Cundangan
Cundangan nga icao ang may casalanan
Tataghoy-taghoy ni 'di mo pa paquingan.
In 1916, Dr. Juan V. Pagaspas, a doctor of philosophy from Indiana University and a much beloved educator in Tanauan, Batangas described the Kundiman as "a pure Tagalog song which is usually very sentimental, so sentimental that if one should listen to it carefully watching the tenor of words and the way the voice is conducted to express the real meaning of the verses, he cannot but be conquered by a feeling of pity even so far as to shed tears." [J.Pagaspas, "Native Amusements in the Province of Batangas"]
Dr. Francisco Santiago, the "Father of Filipino Musical Nationalism" declared in 1931 that the Kundiman "is the love song par excellence of the Filipinos, the plaintive song which goes deepest into their hearts, song which brings them untold emotions." [F. Santiago, "The Development of Music in the Philippines"]
The melody and sentiment of the Kundiman tends not only toward the melancholy but also the cheerful[6], and the commitment of the heart to passion is celebrated in every piece. The singer of the kundiman expresses the pain and beauty of love felt by every listener, for the kundiman is not merely entertainment but an embodiment of collective emotion.
Endowed with such power, the Kundiman naturally came to serve as a vehicle for veiled patriotism in times of colonial oppression, in which the undying love for a woman symbolized the love of country and desire for freedom.
Dr. Jose P. Rizal (1861-1896), the Philippine national hero, has consecrated the Kundiman in his social novel “Noli Me Tangere”. Not only this but he himself wrote a Kundiman which is not of the elegiac type because its rhythm sounds the threat, the reproach and the revindication of the rights of the race.
Tunay ngayong umid yaring diwa at puso
Ang bayan palibhasa'y api, lupig at sumuko.
Sa kapabayaan ng nagturong puno
Paglaya'y nawala, ligaya'y naglaho!
Datapuwa't muling sisikat ang maligayang araw
Pilit na maliligtas ang inaping bayan
Magbabalik man din at laging sisikat
Ang ngalang Tagalog sa sandaigdigan!
Ibubuhos namin ang dugo'y ibabaha
Ng matubos lamang ang sa Amang Lupa!
Hanggang 'di sumapit ang panahong tadhana
Sinta ay tatahimik, tutuloy ang nasa!
Sinta ay tatahimik at tutuloy ang nasa!
O Bayan kong mahal
Sintang Filipinas!
From 1896 to 1898 the most famous Kundiman, which fired the patriotic sentiments of the Tagalog revolutionaries in the struggle for liberation from Spanish colonial rule, was Jocelynang Baliuag. Officially known as Musica del Legitimo Kundiman Procedente del Campo Insurecto (Music of the Legitimate Kundiman that Proceeds from the Insurgents), Jocelynang Baliwag was the favorite Kundiman among the revolutionaries of Bulacan during the Philippine Revolution of 1896 - earning it the title "Kundiman of the Revolution."
In the guise of a love and courtship song, it features lyrics dedicated to a young and beautiful Filipina idolized in the Bulacan town of Baliuag named Josefa 'Pepita' Tiongson y Lara who symbolizes the image of the beloved Motherland, the Inang Bayang Katagalugan or Filipinas.
P- Pinopoong sinta, niring calolowa
Nacacawangis mo'y mabangong sampaga
Dalisay sa linis, dakila sa ganda
Matimyas na bucal ng madlang ligaya.
E- Edeng maligayang kinaloclocan
Ng galak at tuwang catamis-tamisan
Hada cang maningning na ang matunghaya'y
Masamyong bulaclac agad sumisical.
P- Pinananaligan niring aking dibdib
Na sa paglalayag sa dagat ng sakit
'Di mo babayaang malunod sa hapis
Sa pagcabagabag co'y icaw ang sasagip.
I- Icaw na nga ang lunas sa aking dalita
Tanging magliligtas sa niluha-luha
Bunying binibining sinucuang cusa
Niring catawohang nangayupapa.
T- Tanggapin ang aking wagas na pag-ibig
Marubdob na ningas na taglay sa dibdib
Sa buhay na ito'y walang nilalangit
Cung hindi ikaw lamang, ilaw niring isip.
A- At sa cawacasa'y ang kapamanhikan
Tumbasan mo yaring pagsintang dalisay
Alalahanin mong cung 'di cahabagan
Iyong lalasunin ang aba cong buhay.
The Filipino composer, conductor and scholar Felipe M. De Leon Jr., wrote that the Kundiman is a "unique musical form expressing intense longing, caring, devotion and oneness with a beloved. Or with a child, spiritual figure, motherland, ideal or cause. According to its text, a kundiman can be romantic, patriotic, religious, mournful. Or a consolation, a lullaby. Or a protest and other types. But of whatever type, its music is soulful and lofty, conveying deep feelings of devotional love." [F.M. De Leon Jr., "But What Really Is The Kundiman?"]

Clewley, John. "Pinoy Rockers". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 213-217. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
"Tagalog Literature; A Historico-Critical Study" by Prof. Eufronio Melo Alip, Manila: U. S. T. Press, 1930. pp.17,65
"The Music and Theater of the Filipino People" by R.C. Banas, from El Filipino: Revista mensual Vol I No. 9 (1926)
"The Filipino Folk Song" by Percy Hill from the Philippine magazine. [Vol. XXIII, no. 3, p.147]Philippine Education Co. Manila, 1926. p.147
"El Indio Batangueno" by Wenceslao E. Retana, Manila, Tipo-Litografia de Chofre y Cia, 1888. p.25
"Cuentos Filipinos" by Don José Montero y Vidal, Madrid, Tip. del Asilo de Huérfanos del Sagrado Corazon de Jesús, 1883. p.106
"Condiman: Tagalian Merriness" by Karl Scherzer from "Circumnavigation of the Globe by the Austrian Frigate Novara in the Years 1857, 1858 & 1859."
"Manual de la conversación Familiar Español-Tagalog by V.M. de Avella,Manila, C. Miralles, 1874. p. 116
"Our Signature Love Song" by Della G. Besa, from Kasaysayan, The Story of the Filipino People Vol. 10: A Timeline of Philippine History
"Music of Kundiman ni Rizal" MIDI sequence by Ian-James R. Andres
"Classical Philippines Radio" Plays unique blend of classical guitar, kundiman and harana music.

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