The Philippines, an archipelago of 7,100 islands, is made up of 77
provinces grouped into 16 regions. The main groups include Luzon, the
Visayan islands, and the Mindanao islands. Based on religion, the population
may be grouped into three broad categories: Christian groups, indigenous
religion groups, and Muslim groups. The Christian groups are the largest and
are concentrated in the lowlands of Luzon and the Visayan islands.
Indigenous religion groups are found in upland northern Luzon, Mindanao and
Palawan. Muslim groups are concentrated in Mindanao, the Sulu islands and
the Philippines belongs to the East, its music has been heavily influenced
by the West owing to 333 years of Spanish rule and 45 years of American
domination. Music in the highland and lowland hamlets where indigenous
culture continues to thrive has strong Asian elements. Spanish and American
influences are highly evident in the music of the urban areas. In discussing
Philippine music, three main divisions are apparent: (1) an old Asian
influenced music referred to as the indigenous; (2) a religious and secular
music influenced by Spanish and European forms; and (3) an American/European
inspired classical, semi-classical, and popular music.
The Indigenous Traditions
traditions are practiced by about 10% of the population. Eight percent of
this minority comprises some 50 language groups of people who live in the
mountains of northern Luzon and the islands of Mindanao, Sulu, Palawan, and
Mindoro in southern and western Philippines. The remaining 2% of these
groups are the Muslims from Mindanao and Sulu.
While there is no
written information about the music in the Philippines before the arrival of
Magellan in 1521, subsequent reports made by friars, civil servants and
travelers include descriptions of instrumental and vocal music--sometimes
mentioned in passing, other times in greater detail. From these documents,
various kinds of interments made of bronze, bamboo, or wood are cited. These
include gongs of various kinds of size and shapes, drums, flutes of
different types, zithers, lutes, clappers, and buzzers. Vocal genres include
epics relating genealogies and exploits of heroes and gods; work songs
related to planting, harvesting, fishing; ritual songs to drive away evil
spirits or to invoke blessings from the good spirits; songs to celebrate
festive occasions particularly marriage, birth, victory at war, or the
settling of tribal disputes; mourning songs for the dead; courting songs;
and children's game songs. It is this type of music that is still practiced
today by the indigenous groups.
The Spanish-European Influenced
With the coming of the
Spaniards the Filipino's music underwent a transformation with the influx of
western influences, particularly the Spanish-European culture prevalent
during the 17th to the 19th centuries. The
Hispanization during the succeeding three centuries after 1521 was tied up
with religious conversion. It effected a change in the people's musical
thinking and what emerged was a hybrid expression tinged with Hispanic
flavor. It produced a religious music connected to and outside the Catholic
liturgy and a European-inspired secular music adapted by the Filipinos and
reflected in their folk songs and instrumental music.
The American Influenced Traditions
The American regime
lasted from 1898 to 1946 during which time Philippine music underwent
another process of transformation.
In the newly
established public school system, music was included in the curriculum at
the elementary and later at the high school levels. Music conservatories and
colleges were established at the tertiary level. Graduates from these
institutions included the first generation of Filipino composers whose works
were written in western idioms and forms. Their works and those of the
succeeding generations of Filipino composers represent the classical art
music tradition which continues to flourish today.
Side by side with this
classical art music tradition was a lighter type of music. This
semi-classical repertoire includes stylized folk songs, theater music, and
instrumental music. The sarswela tradition
produced a large body of music consisting of songs patterned after opera
arias of the day as well as short instrumental overtures and interludes.
The strong band
tradition in the Philippines, which began during the previous Spanish period
and which continues to this day, produced outstanding musicians, composers
and performers. Another popular instrumental ensemble was the rondalla
which superceded an earlier type of ensemble called the cumparsa.
The latter was an adaptation of similar instrumental groups, the
murza of Mexico and the estudiantina of Spain.
American lifestyle and
pop culture gave rise to music created by Filipinos using western pop forms.
Referred to as Pinoy pop it includes a wide range of forms: folk songs,
dance tunes, ballads, Broadway type songs, rock' n' roll, disco, jazz, and
These three main
streams of Philippine music-- indigenous, Spanish influenced religious and
secular music, American/European influenced classical, semi-classical, and
popular music comprise what we refer to today as Philippine music.