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Gongs, strings, nose flutes, xylophones, and jaw harps—think you can name them all?

The Filipino’s love for food is perhaps only challenged by our love for music, as evident in our penchant for karaoke and dancing (no matter the occasion). Here, we delve into our musical roots and take a look at some traditional Filipino instruments you need to know about, from the kalaleng in the northern Philippines to the kubing in the south.

See also: Are we Filipinos Because We Love Music, or Do We Love Music Because We are Filipinos?

1. Kulintang

Also common in other Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, the kulintang is a traditional Filipino instrument composed of eight bronze gongs sitting in a row, each with different pitches. Each gong is knobbed at the centre and is perched across two cords, allowing them to resonate freely when struck.

Related instruments include the saronay or kulintang a putao, which has eight knobbed but otherwise flat and rectangular metal plates in a row, strung together by two cords; the babendil, a large gong with a narrow rim; and the agung, a pair of two large gongs with wide rims that taper towards the bottom, suspended vertically on one bar. These gong-based instruments are typically used together in a kulintang ensemble in Maguindanaoan celebrations.

Tatler Trivia:kulintang ensemble will typically feature a dabakan, a traditional Filipino drum, and the only non-gong instrument of the group.

See also: 7 Filipina Artists Dominating the Global Music Industry—HER, Jess Conelly, And More

2. Bandurria

The Philippine bandurria is no ordinary string instrument. A descendant of the Spanish instrument of the same name, the local variation boasts 14 strings, one more pair than the traditional 12-stringed instrument (though, earlier versions had 10). It is a key component of the Philippine rondalla, an ensemble of stringed guitar-like instruments frequently used in folk music like pandanggo sa ilaw. The laúd (or lute), octavina, guitar, and double bass are also part of the rondalla.

See also: Learn Music Online: Where To Study Piano, Guitar, Drums, And More

3. Kudyapi

If the bandurria is remarkable for its many strings, the kudyapi is distinguished by having only two—one for the melody, and one that produces a constant drone sound. The strings run across the elongated wooden board, which has a boat-shaped body and a noded fingerboard along the neck that allows the musician to alter the resulting tone. Also known as kutiyapi, hegelong, and kadlong in various languages, the instrument is popular in many Mindanao cultures.

See also: Pre-Colonial Gold In The Philippines: What We Know Of Its Origins, Cultural Value, And More

4. Kalaleng

The kalaleng or tongali, often used in ceremonies in the northern Philippines (most popularly, among the Kalinga peoples), is a bamboo nose flute with one hole on the end of the flute and a number of finger holes along the body. Depending on the variation, the holes may all be alined on one side of the body, or might be split between the top and bottom—for example, some split-reed bamboo flutes have three holes on top and one at the bottom. 

Tatler Trivia: The gentle sound of the flute is believed to attract rice and help the rice plants grow.

See also: What To Eat: Popular Rice Dishes Around The World

5. Gabbang

Often called the bamboo xylophone, the gabbang is commonly gound among the Palawan, Sama, Tausug, and Yakan, with varying configurations among different ethnic groups—the number of keys can range anywhere from 3 to 22. The bamboo keys have varied graduated lengths, are lined along the trapezoidal base, and are struck with wooden beaters.

See also: 5 Native Filipino Liquors, Spirits, and Wine

6. Kubing

Kubing, subing, ulibaw, is a truly unique musical instrument and is far smaller than the others on the list. The elongated bamboo jaw harp produces a distinct sound controlled by the force of air blown through the split opening by the user as they flex and release the prong on the righthand side. Hailing from Mindanao—more specifically, Muslim communities in the region—the kubing is a principal instrument in courtship rituals between men and women.


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