Danongan Sibay Kalanduyan, known as “Danny” or “Master K” in North America, was a Filipino American master musician, ethnomusicologist and cultural consultant on Muslim-Filipino culture, and the only master artist of Maguindanaon Kulintang music in the United States.  He passed away at Stanford University Medical Center in Stanford (Palo Alto), California on September 28, 2016, while being treated for heart failure.

Mr. Kalanduyan earned his graduate degree in Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington at Seattle, where he was an Artist-in-Residence for many years.  His undergraduate degree in Community Development was earned at Mindanao State University-Marawi City.

danny_hillaryIn 1995, Mr. Kalanduyan received the prestigious National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship (in this photo, presented to him by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton).  Based in San Francisco, California, he was the Artistic Director of the Palabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble, a traditional kulintang music and dance group with which he performed locally in the San Francisco Bay Area.  With members of Palabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble, and with other groups, he performed kulintang music throughout California, throughout North America, and also in the Philippines.

Danongan Kalanduyan was a master of all aspects of the Maguindanaon style of kulintang ensemble music and was a central artistic figure in virtually all major Filipino-American communities for over three decades. Born in Tangguapo, near the ancient fishing village of Datu Piang (Dulawan) in the Cotabato area of central Mindanao, he was the eldest of 11 siblings raised in a strongly traditional musical environment.  His parents were master musicians; his mother Sibay Undol Batawan was an expert kulintang musician, and his father Kalanduyan Tanggo was an expert on the kutiyapi (two-stringed, fretted boat-lute).

“If you were born in my village you’d hear no Western music, just traditional music,” he said.  “The music was everywhere and for everyone, not just as entertainment, but also as an accompaniment to rituals and ceremonies.  I didn’t need a tutor; it just automatically came to my head, day and night.  I learned it through exposure, through listening.”

Danny Kalanduyan first learned kulintang music by sitting on his mother’s knee, while she guided his hands across the instrument.  Then, like many beginning kulintang musicians, he would steady the large agung gongs when they swayed back and forth as the older musicians struck them.  At the age of seven, he began to learn the other instruments of the traditional kulintang ensemble–the kulintang (eight-gong set), the dabakan (goblet-shaped drum), the small babendil or “timekeeper” gong, and the gandingan (four-hanging-gong set)–from his mother Sibay Batawan, his maternal grandmother Kaliwanag Batawan, his “uncle” Amal Lemuntod [his maternal uncle’s brother-in-law], and from his cousins.  As a teenager, he won regional music competitions with his performances on the gandingan, and as a young man he became widely recognized as a master musician.  In 1971, he toured the Far East with Mrs. [Henrietta Hofer] Ele’s Darangan Cultural Troupe, from Mindanao State University-Marawi City.

In 1976, a Rockefeller grant brought Danny Kalanduyan to the University of Washington in Seattle as an artist-in-residence in the ethnomusicology program headed by Dr. Robert Garfias.  He resided in the U.S. ever since.  Word of his presence spread among Filipino communities, and he was soon very much in demand as a performer and as a guro, or “teacher.”  He taught and performed with virtually all of the North American kulintang ensembles.  His missionary zeal and endless patience brought success in his efforts to make his cherished musical tradition a respected part of American life.  In the words of Los Angeles-based World Kulintang Institute director Eleanor Academia-Magda, “he can pride himself in exposing kulintang to the masses in America, which he has quietly done almost single-handedly.”  It is ironic to some that kulintang music,  which is largely perceived as confined to a small Muslim minority in the Philippines, has been enthusiastically embraced by scores of young Christian Filipino-Americans for whom, through its pre-colonial roots, it now serves as a cultural icon of pan-Filipino-American unity.

Danongan Kalanduyan was a featured artist in performances at major venues such as the Hollywood Bowl (opening for the Los Angeles Philharmonic) and the Walt Disney Concert Hall (performing with the Los Angeles Master Chorale), the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., as well as in countless concerts and festivals throughout the United States.  In 1990 with the California Arts Council, and again  in 2000, 2007, and 2013 with the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, he served as a master artist in California’s traditional artists’ apprenticeship programs.  In 2007, at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, he received the Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award from World Arts West.  In 2009, he was named a United States Artists’ Broad Fellow.  In 2013, he and his family in the Cotabato area were featured in musician/producer Susie Ibarra’s short film “The Cotabato Sessions.”

In his own view, passing on the tradition was his foremost goal.  “I feel that transmitting the knowledge I possess is important for Filipino Americans everywhere, not only to preserve what may be the only authentic Filipino musical form [of the Southern Philippines], but also to encourage Filipino Americans to maintain contact with their cultural heritage.”

derived in part from “Kulintang Music of The Philippines” by Gregg Butensky, 1997, and updated in 2017

Bernard Ellorin (left) with Danongan Kalanduyan, in 1995 at San Diego City College Theater

September 2000 — Danongan Kalanduyan named Distinguished Artist-in-Residence at College of Ethnic Studies, San Francisco State University





At the 2017 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, On the Move program:

“San Francisco Kulintang Legacy performs in honor of their teacher, Filipino American musician Danongan ‘Danny’ Kalanduyan (c.1947-2016; San Francisco, California) on July 6 and 7.”