Maguindanao Kulintang

Kulintang is a musical tradition can be found across the Southeast Asian Archipelago. The style of kulintang we played is found in the Southern Philippines among the Maguindanaoan people, in the province of Maguindanao, Mindanao.

There are five instruments in the complete Maguindanao kulintang ensemble. The melodic instrument and leader of the ensemble is the Kulintang, which is also the name given to the ensemble. It consists of 7 to 9 bossed or knobbed bronze or brass pot gongs, which are suspended on a strung cord. Typically, there are 8 gongs, though this may vary from kulintang set to set. The tuning of the gongs themselves will vary too, in that each gong maker and kulintang player have their own perceptions of good tuning. There are as many tunings as there are sets according to some kulintang players. The pot is played with two unpadded soft word beaters.

The drum of the ensemble is called the Dabakan, and is considered to be one of two essential instruments. It is a goblet-shaped drum, whose drum head is made of either goat, snake or lizard’s skin. It is played with two bamboo sticks, which can range in thickness and suppleness. The dabakan has the role of binding the music together by marking out the rhythmic mode – a key factor in kulintang music – as well as playing at a similar rate to kulintang.

The small gong that is stuck on its rim/side is called the Babendir, and is also known as the timekeeper of the ensemble. It strangely has a boss/knob like the gongs of the kulintang, though is strangely not struck there. The role of babendir is to clearly enunciate the rhythmic mode of a piece, for both all musicians and listeners to hear.

The fourth instrument of the ensemble is the Agung. You may find one of two agung in an ensemble, which are usually hung either on a stand or on a sturdy tree branch. The agung is played by one or two – depending on the number of agung – using a rubber-padded beater, and is played on both the boss/knob and the face of the gong.

The last instrument is a pair of four narrow-rimmed hanging gongs called Gandingan, also known as talking gongs. The reason they are known as talking gongs is because it is possible to send messages to ensemble members, or even member of the audience, if accustomed to the language and sounds of the gandingan. For example, if the gandingan player (e.g. male) has a liking for the kulintang player (e.g. female), he could send her a musical message asking her to meet up later in the evening.

Kulintang music of the Maguindanao people is based on five rhythmic modes: Sirong, Sinulog a Minuna, Binalig, Sinulog a Bagu and Tidtu. The first two are considered to of the old style, or minuna style, a style preferred by the older generation for its steady tempo and refined melodies. The latter three are of the new or bagu style, preferred by the youth for its fast, virtuosic nature. These modes are all considered for entertainment. However, there is a six mode, called Tagunggo, which is exclusively for rituals, such as healing ceremonies.

Try playing Kulintang online http://www.kulintangexperience.ph/

By: Larry Oliver Catungal


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