Danongan Sibay Kalanduyan, known as “Danny” in North America, was a master musician, ethnomusicologist and cultural consultant on Muslim-Filipino culture, and he was the only master artist of Maguindanaon Kulintang music in the United States.  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.

danny_hillaryIn 1995, Mr. Kalanduyan received the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (in this photo, presented to him by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton).  Based in San Francisco, California, he was the Executive Director of the Palabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble, a traditional kulintang music and dance group with which he performed locally in the San Francisco Bay Area, and with which he also toured statewide, nationally, and internationally.

Danongan Kalanduyan was a master of all aspects of the Maguindanaon style of kulintang music and was a central artistic figure in virtually all major Filipino-American communities for over three decades. Born near the ancient fishing village of Datu Piang in the Cotabato area of central Mindanao, he was raised in a strongly traditional musical environment. “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.” Like many kulintang musicians, he began by steadying the large agung gongs when they swayed back and forth as the older musicians struck them. At the age of seven, he began to study the other instruments–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 grandmother, father, uncles, and cousins. As a young man, he won regional music competitions on the gandingan and became widely recognized as a master musician. In 1971, he toured the Far East with Mrs. Ele’s Darangan Cultural Troupe, from Mindanao State University-Marawi City.

In 1976, a Rockefeller grant brought Mr. 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 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, almost entirely 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-Hispanic, pre-Muslim 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 (with the Los Angeles Philharmonic), the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Kennedy Center, as well as in countless concerts and festivals throughout the United States. In 1990 [and again in 2000, 2007, and 2013], he served as a master artist in the California state apprenticeship program. 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, but also to encourage Filipino Americans to maintain contact with their cultural heritage.”

derived from “Kulintang Music of The Philippines” by Gregg Butensky, 1997