Excerpts from “Magindanaon Kulintang Music: Instruments, Repertoire, Performance Contexts, and Social Functions.” – Journal of the Society for Asian Music.

by Danongan Kalanduyan

The Instrument Ensemble:

The most sophisticated form of the Filipino music tradition is seen in Kulintang ensemble music. Among the different cultures that play kulintang music, there are different orchestrations; for example, the gandingan is more commonly used among the Maguindanao than with the Maranao people. Also, the spelling of the instrument names does differ from language to language. The Maguindanao spelling is shown here:

Kulintang: the name of the entire instrument ensemble, and of the music produced by the ensemble, and also of the main melody instrument in the ensemble: a set of eight bronze gongs, graduated in size and in tuning, and suspended horizontally on a wooden stand. The gongs are played with soft wooden sticks which are struck against the prominent mound or “boss” at the center of each gong.

Babendil: a small vertical hand-held gong, struck on its rim (never on its boss) with a small, hard stick. This instrument functions as the “time-keeper” of the ensemble.

Dabakan: a single-headed kettle-shaped wooden drum, covered with a natural goat or lizard skin and played with a pair of flexible rattan sticks. The tall dabakan, which are more common, are played from a standing position.

Agung: a very large wide-rimmed vertical-hanging gong, struck with a rubber-covered stick. Agung are often played in pairs, by either one or two musicians.

Gandingan: a set of four large, shallow vertical-hanging gongs, graduated in size and in tuning, played by a single musician with a pair of rubber-covered sticks. Because of the melodious tones of the gandingan, it is used to mimic the intonations of human speech and are therefore known as “talking gongs”.