Listening to this set of two CDs brings back so many memories of my life as a graduate student in the Ethnomusicology Department at the University of Washington. I became a student of Kulintang music of Mindanao, Southern Philippines under the guidance of Danongan Kalanduyan. I’m glad to have known him as a mentor on the kulintang and as a personal friend. There was always a reverence to sharing his music culture and to present it in its most beautiful essence. The Ethnomusicology Department at the School of Music is located in the sub-basement. Buried deep underground in the Music Building, the Ethnomusicology Department was and still is a thriving center of world music activity. Danongan Kalanduyan was an artist in residence. Also, in residence at that time was Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar (music of North India) and Hamza El Din (music of Nubia). The ethnomusicology department was initiated by my professor Robert Garfias in 1962. Professor Garfias brought Danongan Kalanduyan to the University of Washington in 1976 under a Rockefeller Foundation grant.

Danongan “Danny” Kalanduyan was an artist in residence specializing in the music and culture of the Southern Philippines. The kulintang ensemble of bronze bossed gongs consists of different sizes and shapes. The lead melody instrument also called the kulintang is a set of eight smaller bossed gongs laid over a trough resonator. Eight tones not quite tuned to the western pentatonic scale where melodies are produced with two thick short mallets striking the bossed portion of the gongs. A beautiful bright high pitched bronze metallic tone rings out. Hearing Danny play the kulintang for the first time was impressive. His touch and finesse playing melodies was of virtuosic stature. To support the lead melody instrument, there is the gandingan a lower mid-range tone set of four gongs hit with mallets wrapped with rubber on the ends of the mallet to create muted tones. The agung is the low bass toned set of two larger gongs also played with a mallet wrapped with rubber. The dabakan drum perpetuates the rhythm of a song with two bamboo sticks. And lastly, the babandil, a single smaller high pitched bossed gong playing a repetitive rhythm throughout a song, reminding me of the clave pulse in Latin music. This instrument is actually played with a stick hitting the side of the gong. The babandil sets the tempo and the dabakan drum begins its driving rhythms. The lower pitched gandingan and agung with its interlocking syncopated rhythms and melodies sets a muted harmonic low toned backdrop for the lead melody instrument, the kulintang.

Kulintang Kultura – Danongan Kalanduyan and Gong Music of the Philippines Diaspora
produced by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is a welcome 2 CD set highlighting the
indigenous culture of the Southern Philippines and beyond. The preface and liner notes by coproducers Theodore S. Gonzalves and Mary Tulusan Lacanlale respectively gives an overview of the history of the culture and migration of Filipinos to the United States and an interesting in depth look into the meanings of each song. The bronze gong culture extends throughout the Southern Pacific archipelago into Indonesia and Bali. It’s nice to see Danongan Kalanduyan receive the recognition Smithsonian Folkways Recordings provided to share his rich indigenous music traditions. Danny earned his MA in Ethnomusicology in 1984 at the University of Washington. During his time in Seattle he along with colleagues Dr. Usopay Cadar and Dr. Yoshitaka Terada formed the Mindanao Kulintang Ensemble. He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1988 and founded the Palabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble. In 1995 Danny was the first Filipino American to be awarded the coveted National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowments of the Arts. This fellowship is the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Danny unexpectedly passed away in 2016.

Disc One: Traditional Music & Dance of the Southern Philippines focuses on traditional melodies of his region known as Magindanao. Tracks 1 thru 6 highlights the music for dance accompaniment. Performed by the Palabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble of which Danny was the artistic director. Members include Professor Danilo Begonia, Conrad J. Benedicto, Alexis Camillo, Manny Dragon, Dr. Bernard Ellorin and Daryll Santuray.

Tracks 7 thru 18 represents two distinct styles of of Magindanao Kulintang repertoire. The
Kamamatuan style is traditionally played by women and are in a slower tempo. The Kangungudan style is the modern evolution of the Magindanao Kulintang where men began to play the kulintang which began to develop from the 1950’s. The tempos are faster highlighting rhythmic and melodic improvisations of songs showcasing the finesse of the player. Danny was influenced by the male players especially from his uncle Amal Lumuntod who was brought to wider recognition by renowned Filipino ethnomusicologist Jose Meceda’s field recording Music of the Magindanao in the Philippines (1955), an earlier Folkways Ethnic Library recording.

Tracks 19 thru 24 focus on the Maranao Kolintang Repertoire. In the Maranao style all the
instruments are played except for the four gong gandingan. However, Danny arranged a few songs to include the gandingan. The low bass toned two gong agung is played by two
musicians in the Maranao style each playing interlocking rhythmic parts. The women normally play the main melodic instrument in the Maranao style while the men play the supporting instruments. Stories of love, children’s songs and songs of celebrations are the main topics.

Track 20, Kasulampid, in the Maranao dialect means to criss-cross. On this piece the kulintang player mimics the movements of a weaver. Dr. Usopay Cadar, Maranao American
ethnomusicologist, also states this song tells the story of the female kulintang player being
courted by the male musicians playing the supporting instruments competing for her attention. The music of the kolintang is a celebration of life.

Disc Two: Kulintang in the Philippine Diaspora contains a compilation of songs by various next generation artists on the North American continent who were influenced by the kulintang’s movement from out of the villages of Mindanao into the creative hands of young urban musicians. These musicians embraced the music traditions of the Southern Philippines with its deep connection to the Muslim culture of the region unlike the Spanish Christian influences of the North. Danny came to the United States in 1976 and began his life long journey of sharing the rhythmic music of the kulintang culture to countless students on the west coast. Recordings on Disc Two with kulintang influences begin to appear around 1984 with a production from the San Francisco based group the Noh Buddies. Artists incorporating the kulintang culture to make new compositions
ranging from hip hop to heavy metal to jazz make for an organic living/breathing music
organism that is ever evolving the kulintang art form. I’ll highlight a few tracks.

Track 1, World Gong Crazy, Han Han featuring DATU. Hainly Pableo, lead vocals;
Alexander Punzalan, lead vocals, producer; Romeo Candido, lead vocals, sarunay (small high pitched kulintang); Rudy Boquila, drums. This evolution of the influence of the kulintang culture introduces Filipina Canadian emcee Han Han rapping in Tagalog and Cebuano. A full production music video ( showcases her talents and social commentary. Music starts with the familiar tones from the kulintang with a tight electronic drum kit hitting a steady kick drum-hi hat-snare drum medium tempo groove. This song was nominated for “Best Song” at the Berlin Music Video Awards 2017.

Track 2, Under the Moon, Kulintronica: Ronald Quirian, kulintang, guitars; Bill Williams, keyboards, drum programming. Using a Maranao kolintang song “Kanditagaonan” as a melody reference, this track takes us into the realms of EDM (electronic dance music) with a deep hard driving kick drum hitting on every down beat and a synth bass bouncing off the pulse. Various synth textures add to color the palette. The kolintang is played through out the piece adding an underlying steady rhythm to perpetuate the groove.

Track 3, Gong Spirits, Gingee: Marjorie Light, kulintang, vocals, percussion. From Tambol, 2015, Party Time Society. Interesting groove with a deep kick drum beat from the beginning with reverb infused ambient vocals. Unlike the first two tracks, the kulintang takes the prominent roll on Gong Spirits. Marjorie Light playing kulintang has a strong fluid touch. Melodies are in the forefront along with the deep driving kick drum.

Track 4 Lapu Lapu’s Battle Preperation/Jihad: Fred Ho featuring the Asian American Arts Ensemble and Kulintang Arts with Danongan Kalanduyan. From a Song for Manong, 1988: Composer & saxophonist Fred Ho (1957-2014) penned an interesting composition starting out with the dabakan drum and the two low toned agung gongs setting up the chanting. The kulintang ensemble next appears in an up tempo Maranao melody. The second half of the composition is titled Jihad, “the war of resistance to Spanish colonialism beginning in 1521”. The kulintang continuing with its up tempo melody sets up the entrance of Fred Ho and his jazz ensemble with multiple saxophones, acoustic bass and piano. A free modal jazz driven ball of energy reminiscent of a Charles Mingus blowing session takes over. The kulingtang in a free jazz context with a sharp edge of resistance for social reform highlights this jazz track.

Track 7, Afroyesa Maranaw: Bo Razón, guitars, dundun, gankogui (West African
percussion); with Mlou Matute, kulintang; Ernesto Mazar Kindelán, bass; Greg Landau, drum programing. From The Sarong Sessions, 2019, Round Whirled Records. A hard driven afrobeat groove with the kulintang playing a steady rhythmic melody starts this offering. The electric bass has a solid afrobeat bass groove while the guitars apply some funky Afrobeat hits. Bo Razón introduces the mixing of musical elements from West Africa, North America, the Congo and the Philippines. He notes how the kulintang rhythms work well with the Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Brazillan rhythms.

Track 8, Binalig: Subla Neokulintang, Danongan Kalenduyan, kulintang; Bo Razón, guitar; Chris Trinidad, bass guitar; Frank Holder, dabakan and cajón. From Subla Neokulintang, 2014, Iridium Records. Some of the recordings in this “diaspora” CD set includes the kulintang as an instrument in somewhat a supporting role laying a backdrop for synths and drum machines. But on this track Danongan Kalenduyan is showcased up front in the mix. The bass guitar almost acts as the four gong gandingan. The snare drum acts as the dabakan drum. And the guitar simulates the ostinato rhythm of the single high pitched babandil gong. The roll of each western instrument supports the main melody of the kulintang.

Track 9, Tatao: Royal Hartigan, drum set; Danongan Kalanduyan, kulintang; Hafe
Modirzadeh, soprano sax; Conrad Benedicto, dabakan. From Ascestors, 2008, Innova Records. A very nice free jazz interaction with Danny Kalanduyan on kulintang pushing the familiar rhythmic and melodic pulse in a medium tempo groove. Drummer Royal Hartigan, nice soprano saxophone work of Hafe Modiradeh and Conrad Benedicto on dabakan drum creates a beautiful flow of musical exchanges with Danny. The touch and sensitivity from all brings a sense of an indigenous tribal feel in the free jazz spectrum. It would be nice to hear more of this. Royal Hartigan mentioned his appreciation of the Philippine arts and culture and adapting its music elements into his jazz world music palette.

Track 13, Duyog and Sinulog, A Kamamatuan: Kim Kalanduyan, kulintang; Bernard Ellorin, babandil; Marlo Campos, dabakan; Nico Delmundo, gandingan; Eric Abutin, agung 1; Janet Abutin, agung 2. The rhythms and melodies of Duyog and Sinulog brings it all back to my days as a student of Danny’s over 40 years ago! These were the rhythms and melodies that were first introduced by Danny as I began my musical journey with the kulintang. This last piece for Disc Two: The Kulintang in the Diaspora highlights Kim Kalanduyan, the granddaughter of master Danongan Kalanduyan on the kulintang. Her touch and finesse on the kulintang bares a remarkable resemblance to Danny’s touch. Her dedication and respect for the kulintang arts and culture insures Danaongan Kalanduyan’s legacy of teaching and spreading the goodwill of the kulintang culture. Danny’s teachings will continue to influence future generations of students, musicians and artists who seek their own connections with the motherland.

Kulintang Kultura – Danongan Kalanduyan and Gong Music of the Philippines Diaspora is
a welcome addition to anyones music library who appreciates world music and its influences into the new world. The Maranao melody titled Kanditagaonan is a reoccurring theme on three of the “diaspora” tracks. Each version quite different from one another but still its melody is so strong that it was incorporated by different artist to create a version of the traditional melody and groove. The foundation elements are deeply rooted in the villages of Mindanao and its culture continues to celebrate the music and dance for social and artistic gatherings. And in the new world the kulintang connects the younger generation with the tradition and the spark to explore new tonal and harmonic horizons. Danny would have been proud.

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