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The vocal music of Mindanao is regarded as one with the highest artistic and technical excellence among the
indigenous groups of the Philippines. Their songs produce melisma, ( using several notes in one syllable of
text) ,tremolo and long melodic phrase.
Music plays an integral part in the lives of the ethnic groups in Mindanao. They use music for religious
activities, for entertainment, for work and other everyday activities.
Indigenous music of Mindanao has its own unique rhythmic sound like the Tidtu and Binalig rhythmic
patterns. Their music is accompanied by indigenous musical instruments such as the hegalung, suling and
Miminsad a ritual dance song and chant of Mindanao
Tud-ob a harvest song of Agusan that is composed of four notes.
Tagunggo Sulus song which is performed with four gongs
Estijiro Mindanaos ancient folk song and dance.
Kambiok a free rhythmic song of the Maranaos
Sua-sua performed as a courtship song of Jolo, Sulu
Sagayan a war dance of Bukidnon
Kissa a love song of datus and princesses of the Tausug tribe
Kandidiagao a melodious song lamenting over the dead of the Maranaos


1. Music for religious activities such as the lughu which is performed by the Tausugs during Ramadan.
2. Music for entertainment such as love songs, lullabies, legend chants and courtships,
Long melodic lines
Lines are chanted and rhythmical
Melismatic rhythm
Composed of 4 notes such as fa-sol-la-do in Tausugs songs
BINALIG A DAYOG a rhythmic
mode( Rhythmic in nature)
where duyog means to
chase, is played with kulintang

TUD-OB - Agusans harvest folk

songs. The notes are; re-mi-sol-

TAGUNGGO a folk song which originated in

Sulu. This song is sung with 4 gongs as an
accompaniment. The notes are; re-mi-sol-la.

DILAY-ON lullaby song from Bukidnon. The

notes are ; fa-sol-la-do


Mindanao musical instruments are played either individually or by an ensemble. Music ensemble refers to a
group of ethnic instruments like the Kulintang ensemble which consist of several types of gongs, drum and
beaters. Just like other ethnic instruments. Mindanao indigenous musical instruments are classified as
aerophones, membranophones, chordophones and idiophones. Among these instruments, Kulintang is the
most popular.

The Kulintang ( Idiophone)

The kulintang is a set of eight knobbed gongs in graduated
sizes, which is traditionally made of brass. The size ranges
from biggest to smallest with the biggest having the lowest
pitch and the smallest having the highest pitch.
The gongs are suspended horizontally on two thick parallel
strings tied at both ends to a box-like wooden frame called
an antangan.
The height of the wooden frame
is just a couple of inches higher
than the seat of a regular dining chair. Small wooden bridges are placed across
the frame beneath the strings to support the weight of the heavy gongs. The
antangan is usually decorated with carvings or painted with traditional
Maguindanaon designs.
The kulintang is played by striking the knob with a pair of light wooden sticks
about a foot in length and, an inch to an inch and a half in diameter. In
Maguindanaon dialect the knob of the gong is called busel while the wooden
sticks used in playing are called basal.
This instrument is traditionally played by a woman. It is thought that a good
kulintang player should be able to play without looking at the gongs as she
strikes them.

Kulintang a putao/kulintang a tiniok/salunay (metal)
Kulintang a kayo (wooden)
Kulintang a tamlang (bamboo)
Kulintang a gaang/galang (brass)
Maguindanao kulintang ensemble is consists of;
8 gongs (kulintang)
4 gongs ( gandingan)
2 gongs ( agung)
1 Babendil
1 Dabakan ( drum)
GANDINGAN ( Idiophone)
The gandingan is a set of four graduated gongs with thin rims and short
knobs. Its diameter is only a couple of inches smaller than the agung.
The gongs are vertically hanged on a wooden frame with the knobs of the two
lower pitched gongs facing each other, and the two higher pitched ones facing each
other as well. The lower pitched pair of gongs is positioned on the left side of the
player. This instrument is played using a pair of stick with a thick rubber padding at the
ends. Traditionally, this instrument is played by a woman.
The babendir is a single small gong and like the gandingan it has a thin rim and a
short knob. This instrument is played using a pair of thin bamboo sticks. The babendir,
traditionally, may be played by both sexes and in some parts of Maguindanao is considered
as the main instrument of the palabunibunyan.
AGUNG/AGONG ( Idiophone)
The agung is a large kettle shaped gong of about two feet in diameter. It has a wide
rim of about a foot in length and also features a tall knob or busel. Aside from being
played as part of the palabunibunyan, it is also played by itself in some occassions such as
warning the people in times of emergency, announcing the time of the day and other
important occassions in the community.
The agung is also used during the fasting month of Ramadhan, at around three in the
morning to indicate the call to eat (called sawl) and at sunset to mark the end of the
fasting for the day. It is believed that the agung possesses supernatural powers because
of its deep, loud sound. It is believed that by striking the agung in a fast and loud rhythm
called buru-buru it can stop or lessen the jolt of an earthquake.
The agong is hanged on a tall wooden frame, the knob or the busel is at level with the
waist of the player. It is played by striking the busel with the padded end of a stick. This
stick is about half a foot long and is thickly padded with rubber at one end. Traditionally this instrument is
played by a male. Sometimes, two agungs of different pitches, suspended side-by-side facing each other are
played in the palabunibunyan.

DEBAKAN/DABAKAN ( Membranophones)

The debakan is a goblet shaped wooden drum covered with goat, lizard or snake
skin. Like the kulintang frame it is about a couple of inches taller than the seat of a
regular dining chair.
Traditionally, this instrument is played by a woman who sits on a chair as she plays.
The instrument is played by striking it with two thin bamboo stick of about a feet and a
half in length and about half an inch in width. The player must make sure that the head
is tightly fastened at the sides so that the sticks will bounce easily on it. Proper way of
hitting the dabakan's drumhead parallel to its surface with a pair of rattan.


SULING - also called ring flute, is the smallest bamboo flute of Maguindanao.
PALENDAG - A lip valley flute and one of the most common aerophones of the Maguindanaons.
KAGUL- a Maguindanao bamboo scraper gong/slit drum with a jagged edge on one side. To play the
kagul, onewould use one foot to hold the instrument on the ground. Then using their right hand, one
would scarp against the rough edge while their left hand makes a beat using another betay(beater) at
the kaguls edge.
KUTYAPI -a very elaborative designed instrument that has two strings with movable frets. Only one
string is stretched over the fret as the player uses a plectrum to pluck the strings.

The palabunibunyan literally means an ensemble of loud instruments.
It is also the term used to call the Maguindanaon gong ensemble which consists of five instruments, namely:
the kulintang, agung, gandingan, debakan, babendir.
The palabunibunyan is an essential part of the Maguindanaon social and religious culture.:

Palabunibunyan Musical Pieces

Musical pieces played in the palabunibunyan fall under four categories, namely Binalig (also called Sirong),
Sinulog, Tidtu and Tagunggo. Unlike the first three categories that are played in various kinds of festivities,
Tagunggo is exclusively for rituals and is usually accompanied by a ritual dance called Sagayan.
Sinulog pieces are characterized by slow and flowing tempo. On the other hand, Tidtu is usually played in
musical competitions due to its fast and complicated tempo which highlights the players virtuosity.