Filipino music tells the story of the Philippines’ always-international history though its melodies, rhythms and choice of instruments. While some some Filipino styles, such as Philippine gong music, retain distinct Asian origins, many traditional Philippine styles either originated during the Spanish period or became popular during Spanish rule by blending local traditions with Spanish melodies and rhythms. Modern Philippine musicians reach well beyond Spain for their influences, eager to become part of all prevailing global trends.
Among the most traditionally Asian of the Philippines’ musical styles, “Philippine gong music” comes in two general varieties:
— flat gong, known as gangsa, that originates from Cordillera in the Northern Philippines, and
— bossed gong, which comes from Islamic and animist groups in the Southern Philippines. An example of this is the ku’intang ensemble, a tradition that exists in Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia among animist, Christian and Muslim groups. (These ensembles have a lot in common with Indonesian gamelan orchestras.)
On the other hand, harana and kundiman are two Philippine styles that became popular in the Spanish period, around the turn of the 20th century. Harana is a lyrical courtship style based on Mexican-Spanish traditions and kundiman is a passionate form of Tagalog romantic song based on Spanish melodies and song structures. Musically, the harana is based on the Spanish/Cuban habanera rhythm (BOOM…BA-BOP-BOP), and takes the form of love songs strummed on the guitar in public nighttime displays of romance, traditionally with a boy singing to woo the girl he loves. Kundiman music has a “triple meter rhythm” (1-2-3, 1-2-3), starts in a minor key at the beginning and shifts to a major key. A song we sing in class, Jocelynang Baliwag, is one of the best-known of this genre. The
Spanish-based rondalla, performed by Philippine ensembles playing mandolins, bandurias
and other stringed instruments, is another traditional Spanish-Philippine folk style that became popular in the 1960s. (An aside: was Elvis really just playing habenera music?)
More contemporary Filipino music also blends international influences with a traditional Philippine style. Filipino pop is known as “OPM” which means Original Pilipino Music/Original Pinoy Music/Original Philippine Music. Originally the term rose as a label for Philippine pop ballads made popular in the 1970s by artists such as Basil Valdez and Freddie Aguilar. Over time “OPM” has come to refer to all music that is people of Philippine ancestry compose or have composed, no matter where or when, in any Philippine language. Most OPM originates in Manila and is sung in Tagalog, sometimes to the exclusion of other distinct Filipino groups, though advocates of inclusion have tried to correct this.
Today Filipino music is still global, actively soaking in influences from Western genres like rock, jazz, bossa-nova and hip-hop. Filipino popular music parallels global super-pop trends, especially those in other Asian nations; MTV-style music videos have long been popular, showcasing Asian pop on on channels like MTV Philippines, Channel V Philippines and MYX, which are as likely to feature gossip about international artists as they are to actually play music videos from the Philippines.
Wikipedia on the music of the Philippines | More about harana: “Harana was an exclusively nocturnal practice. Due to the daytime tropical weather, the evening offers respite from the heat, a time when everybody comes alive, full of romantic ideas, and as is typical of Filipino nature, always ready to enjoy the company of friends and loved ones….” | More about kundiman | More about the Philippine rondalla | About Visayan and Cebuano music: “Rarely can a Visayan be found, unless he is sick, who ceases to sing except when he is asleep….'”
In class we’re going to listen to:
— “Dahil Sa Polka” by Pilita Corrales
Pilita Corrales is “Asia’s Queen of Songs.” Born to a Spanish father and Filippina mother, Corrales went to school in the Philippines to study music and then to Australia to become a star. From the early ’60s she has starred in two dozen movie musicals, performed around the world with icons like Sammy David Jr. and recorded a hundred albums in several Spanish, English, Tagalog and Cebuano. Corrales has earned almost every musical honor the Philippines has to offer, though in 2006 she may have received her greatest award — she became one of the judges of Philippine Idol.Â
Wikipedia on Pilita Corrales | Ooh and ahh at photos of Pilita throughout the years as you listen to “Ampinging Mga Bulak” | A more recent Pilita performs her signature song: “A Million Thanks”
— “Mambo Rat” by Radioactive Sago Project
Irreverent, challenging, farcical and in-your-face political, Radioactive Sago Project blends spoken-word poetry, punk and jazz to create a new, funky Filipino-global sound.
Wikipedia on Radioactive Sago Project | A black and white Radioactive Sago Project performs “Ayayay Sis Bumbay”