DIPOLOG CITY—The resonating sound of the gong, a traditional Asian instrument, has brought here some 250 Asian music artists and scholars for the five-day First International Gongs and Bamboo Music Festival.
Dubbed “Tunog-tugan,” the festival will showcase performances of local and foreign musicians using gong and bamboo instruments.
So far, groups belonging to the Bagobo, Cordillera, Tausug, Teduray, Maguindanao, Panay Bukidnon, Yakan and Subanen ethnic tribes have arrived. They are joined by ethnomusic artists from China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and Brunei.
Organizers said artists from Laos had also signified interest to participate.
The festival seeks to raise awareness in the country about ethnomusicology, which is rooted on specific cultural identities.
“In this time and age, we have come to a point of asserting our cultural identities. The colonial period has long been past,” said Dr. Ramon Santos, executive director of the University of the Philippines’ Center for Ethnomusicology
Santos, who is festival director, noted that Filipinos “are quite deprived” of diverse musicological experiences because of the dominance of pop music. “It’s about time we provide alternative sonic experiences to our young,” he said.
The festival kicked off Sunday night at Dipolog Sports Complex (DSC) gym with performances by Vietnamese duo Khac Chi Bamboo Music, Maguindanao Kulintang Ensemble and South Korean group Noreum Machi.
Artists will take turns performing in concerts up to Feb. 20, 1-4 p.m. Evening performances are also slated at the Boulevard. A closing concert will be staged on Feb. 21.
Iloilo, Manila legs
From here, the artists will move to Maasin town in Iloilo for a series of concerts on Feb. 23-25. They will be performing in universities in Manila from Feb. 27 to March 1.
The festival is underpinned by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) through the Musicological Society of the Philippines, with the cooperation of the UPCE.
The Dipolog leg is in partnership with the city government led by Mayor Evelyn Tang-Uy, while the Iloilo leg is with the municipality of Maasin led by Mayor Mariano Malones.
Among the notable groups participating are Ingat Kapandayan of Sulu, which was cited by the NCCA as the Most Promising Theater Group in 2008; Maguindanao Kulintang Ensemble, which has performed in international stages in Asia, the Americas and Europe; Khac Chi Bamboo Music of Vietnam, which has performed in 24 countries; Konghou and Bamboo Music Ensemble of Beijing; and Taiwan Bamboo Orchestra.
Exchange with Asian neighbors
Santos said the use of gongs and bamboo instruments “permeates throughout southeast Asia” and the music produced “has been in existence for thousands of years.”
“You don’t find gongs and bamboo instruments in Africa, Latin America and Europe. But in southeast Asia, this is the way we communicate with each other,” he added.
This is why the festival also seeks to generate interest among the country’s Asian neighbors for scholarly exchange about this genre of music and transfer of practical knowledge on making the instruments.
“The gongs and bamboo represent a common patrimony that has sustained a way of life replete with spiritual purpose, aesthetic significance, social sharing and human affectation,” Santos said.
A conference-workshop will also be held among music scholars and musicians. Apart from paper presentations, there will be lecture demonstrations and hands-on training on instrument-making.
Outreach activities are scheduled in Sindangan, Siayan, Manukan and Rizal towns in Zamboanga del Norte; nearby Dapitan City; and in Sapang Dalaga, Misamis Occidental. These are aimed to bring the performances to these communities.
Spotlight on Subanen
On Monday, an exhibit titled “Soundscapes of Asia: The Gongs and Bamboo Music Traditions” was scheduled to be unveiled at DSC gym. It will highlight the “Buklog,” a grand thanksgiving ritual performed by a Subanen community of Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte, which employs gongs and bamboo instruments for musical accompaniment.
The Subanen is the largest tribal grouping in Mindanao and among the largest in the country. They inhabit the mountainous areas of Zamboanga Peninsula.
Tribute to icon
Santos said the festival was also a tribute to the late Jose Maceda, an international figure in ethnomusicology, who did “a definitive study on gongs and bamboo music” in southeast Asia. Maceda authored the 1998 book “Gongs and Bamboo: A Panorama of Philippine Music Instruments.”
Santos said Maceda was among the first ethnomusicologists who did a research on the musical experiences of southeast Asia and “found that gongs and bamboo are the instruments we use to proclaim our humanity.”
“We owe it to him,” he added.