Mindano Music



Asian musical cultures come together in the Southern Philippines.  On these islands old Malay music and a later form of India/Muslim music coexist.  Unaccompanied singing and the use of bamboo ideocords and bamboo flutes are indicative of practices common in Malaysia.  The chanting of long, melismatic melodies are reminiscent of Indian and Islamic music; while gong playing with basses evokes practices similarly observed in Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, and Burma

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Vera-Reyes Inc., 1978

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Two distinct types of song are popular among the Maguindanaos: 1) religious chants sung during the Friday noon service, the celebration of the Molud or Mawlid, the puwasa or Ramadan, and the periodic commemoration of the dead; and 2) the less formal secular songs, such as love songs, legend chants, and lullabies.  Similarly, among the Tausogs, song traditions fall into either the lugu, unaccompanied songs associated with traditional rites; or the paggabbang, songs rendered solely for entertainment.

(Source: Pobre, C.P., et al, 1978. Tuladan, The Philippine South.  Manila: The Executive Committee; 160pp.)


The popular kolintang
(gong melody) is played in different instrumental combinations, but the Maguindanao ensemble is said to have the most developed melodic permutation

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Mindanao State University, 1980

The ensemble is composed of a set of eight gongs of graduated sizes arranged in a row (kolintang), a suspended gong with a thin sound (babendir), a drum (debakan), one or two suspended gongs (agong), and a pair of gongs with narrow rims (gandingan).

The kolintang is a counterpart of the Malaysian or Indonesian gamelan, except that it is an ensemble strictly of percussion instruments.  No wind or string instrument is played to accompany it.  The principal eight-gong series (kolintang) is used to play a variety of meaningful compositions; the other gongs and the drum follow its beat.

In Maranao the musical or poetical compositions played on the kolintang usually have dual meanings: literal and "cultural."  Here are some examples:



Palagoy kaseladeng
Ka kerarab a kalasan.


Run, run away, deer
For the forest is burning.

Aside from the literal meaning the cultural interpretation is: the maiden player warns her first suitor ("deer") to give up courting her,   as a new and accepted suitor will replace him.  Also the message suggests that the new suitor will become her partner in playing the kolintang.



Oman ko katademan
A kiyatebonan o taw,
Na rabayin ako a lo.

Tabon Eggs

As I recall the time that
People searched for tabon eggs,
My tears run down my cheeks.

Historically, famines have occurred in the Lanao area and have driven people far and wide in search of food, including the eggs of the bird tabon, along the sea coastal towns.  "My tears" reflects a sad recollection of the famine which brought hardships including the demeaning occupation of searching for tabon eggs.



Adaw Ditagawnan,
Na pamola ka sa obi
Na gawnen ta imanto
Na itinda ta bo amay
A ken o madakel a taw.


Hey Chum,
Plant camote which
Today we shall harvest
And cook tomorrow
For the people to eat.

A joke between two friends, a young woman and a young man, exaggerates the short time of planting, harvesting, cooking, and eating camote.   The woman suggests raising camote for service to their people.



Melawdlawd ako
Ka da kawanan da diwang;
Miyangarodan ako
Ka da diwang da kawanan.


Far I sail into the ocean
Neither choosing right nor left;
Farther I go into the depth
To have neither enemy nor friend.


This poem portrays the customary neutrality of a Maranao, when his friends or relatives are in conflict.  He avoids partisan involvement by figuratively going into the "ocean" or "depth" away from the quarreling parties.



Karam o tantangi ko
So ama motantang iyan
O di ko kapagomani
Sa mikalitantang yan
A mikalitantang yan
Sa kalilimodan sa taw.


Never will I forgive
One who does me wrong
Without heavily adding
To his repentance
To really shame him
Before the public eyes.


This song depicts the Maranao matarabat (pride), which demands that he avenges any wrong done him and requires the restoration by his enemy of his respectable public image.




Kawto so dagoong
A baden datem sa lawd
Na da ontawar ko palaw

Rain cloud

There's storm rain sounds
Darkening the sea horizon
Reaching not the mountains.


"Rain sounds" represents a young man's declared intention to ask for a maiden's hand in marriage even if he cannot meet the required royal family's ("mountains") dowry.  These lines are also intended to touch the pride of a young suitor, so he will strive to marry the maiden in a pompous celebration which he may afford with the help of friends and relatives.




Matatar ayi matatar?
Na toba ako matatar
Na asar a so tangkolo
A tangkolo a binaning
A tingki aken ko inged.


What of disgrace?
I care not for my disgrace
Provided it be by a noble
Of true noble blood
My equal in this land.


A maiden's rationalization that losing her virginity is compensated for by the fact that the disgracer is her royal equal in the community is rooted in the Maranao value of equality in social status for marriage and sex partnership.


Dayo, dayo kapita,
Dayo somong ta sa ig.

Dayo, di ako ron song,
Ka ana ikelek aken,
A babareka a nipay,
A torisan a bowaya.

Dayo, di ka pekelek
Kakawto si laki ngka
A nggogoma'an sa kitab
A kekelong sa Kora'an.


My maiden (morning) friend,
To the water place let's go.

Maiden friend, I won't go,
I'm afraid of
A multi-colored snake,
A blemished crocodile.

Maiden friend, don't fear
For there's your brother
With a holy scripture
And the Quran for protection.


The fear of a maiden to bathe in the river is assuaged by her friend who insists they will be protected by the Holy Quran, serving as amulet in her brother's possession.   As a holy man, the brother goes early every morning to the water for his abedas (ablutions) before he enters the mosque.  His holiness is a protection against evil.

Rhythmic sounds played on the kolintang have neither philosophical nor literary import; rather, they simply depict some important event or subject.  One such rendition is kambitiyara, depicting a wedding celebration. The katenatanaw is music for a fluvial parade. The kasegorongan simply consists of playing alternating loud and soft sounds, and the teketek pandiyang -- the simplest la la la -- is repetitious and is taught to young music beginners.

The most stylish manner of playing the kolintang is the kaperomayas or kapagonor, in which a pretty maiden in colorful dress and makeup performs a stunt with the stick beaters on the eight gongs.  She would wave the beaters in the air, as a majorette does in modern parades.

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Besides the kolintang, other musical ensembles popular among the Maranao are the tagongko and the kapanirong.

Tagongko is parade or entourage music played by male musicians dressed in their festive fineries.  It is outdoor music, while kolintang is indoor music.  The instrumental ensemble consists of a number of medium-sized gongs called mamalala; a number of small, high pitched, and shallow gongs called pong; one or more tambor (snare drums); and one or more garagara or panda'opan (cymbals).   The last two are either of Chinese or European origin.

Occasions or purposes for playing the tagongko include sending off or welcoming dignitaries, honorific serving of betelquid, and wedding celebrations. Tagongko players go at the head of the parade either on foot or aboard a vehicle or motorboat.   The tagongko is also played in ceremonies called kalilang sa tong to appeal to the spirits for a bountiful harvest or for a rich catch of fish.

The kapanirong is a serenade (from the root word sirong which means "to go beside a house") by a group of young bachelors who would come to a maiden's house and play their music by the window.  The house occupants would then invite the serenaders into the house and in the ensuing merrymaking some courtship could take place among the young.  The instrumental ensemble consists of a two-stringed guitar or lute called kotiyapi, a bamboo flute called insi, a bamboo harp called kobing, a two-stringed bamboo tube zither called sirongaganding, and a brass tray called tintik.  Outside of the kapanirong, these instruments can be played separately and individually.

(Source: The Maranao Man.  Mindanao Art and Culture, Number Four (1980);  Marawi City: University Research Center, Mindanao State University; 130pp.)

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