The Philippines' traditional music is influenced by both Western and Eastern cultures. Filipino indigenous music was formed from the South-East Asian traditions, and their folk music was formed from the Western Christian musical traditions. Traditional music in the Philippines can be both instrumental, vocal, or a combination of both, as well as accompanied by both dance and theater. One form of Filipino instrumental music gong ensembles is called Kulintang.

Kulintang is an ancient form of gong orchestra which predates the influences of Islam, Christianity and the West in the Philippine Islands. The name of the music is also the name of the main instrument used in the ensemble. The origins of Kulintang are not clear, but it is connected with other gong music from South-East Asia. Spreading through commerce and Islamic occupation of the islands in the region, Kulintang was adopted by the indigenous tribes of the Philippine archipelago. Originally, Kulintang was an instrument performed only by women, but the musical tradition did not exclude men from playing. Kulintang was usually played as entertainment for the upper class; played along to someone dancing to the rhythm. It was used as a way for slave girls to rise in society by playing for upper class celebrations. As slaves assimilated into Philippine cultures, the music from where they were captured, especially Spanish territories, influenced Filipino music as well. As the Philippine archipelago was influenced more and more by Western music, Kulintang's popularity waned. It wasn't until the 1950s when Kulintang became popular again when being combined with Western instruments. By the 1970s artists began experimenting with combining Kulintang with popular music, especially folk and rock music. The popularity of combining the Kulintang with Western instruments has continued to evolve and gain popularity in the Philippines to this day.

The knowledge of how to play Kulintang was traditionally passed from generation to generation through oral traditions. A master Kulintang player would pass the traditions, techniques, and local repertoire of Kulintang to a student who began their tutelage at a very young age. Now that musical notation can be written down, transmission of Kulintang between generations is forcibly evolving.

"Traditional Kulintang is played at social gatherings and celebrations of great communal consequence. It is also used as a way of courting; the relationship between the rhythms of gongs in an ensemble could be used as communication; thus, declarations of love could be made through Kulintang music. Today the Kulintang is also used to accompany Western instruments in popular music that can be enjoyed anywhere.

"Kulintang Instruments:

"Kulintang - An instrument that consists of eight graduated gongs which are very similar to those found in Indonesian musical orchestras.

"Agung - A very large, wide-rimmed, hanging gong. It is played by being hit with a rubber stick. Agung are often played in pairs by either one or two players.

"Babendil - A small, vertical, hand-held gong. It is struck on its rim to make sound with a hard stick. It keeps time in the ensemble.

"Dabakan - A single-headed, kettle-shaped, wooden drum. The wood is covered with either goat or lizard skin and the drum is played with flexible sticks.

"Gandingan - Another set of graduated gongs. The gandingan is made up of four shallow, vertical hanging gongs. It is played by one musician using a pair of rubber sticks. A gandingan is used to mimic the human singing voice and is also known as "talking gongs".

"Folk dances of the Philippines reflect the various influences that formed the long history of the island nation, and folk dances vary according to the island’s various regions. The Philippines consist of more than 7,000 islands that are divided into three main areas: Luzon in the north, Visayas in the middle, and Sulu and Mindanao in the south.

"Several tribes live in the northern mountainous region. Each tribe goes by its own name; however, collectively the tribes are called Igorot. Mountainous or Igorot dances preserve world views and philosophies from the pre-Christian era, while showcasing instances of everyday life, such as family life or courtship. Igorot dances also celebrate battle victories and pay homage to ancestors or gods in order to bring good luck and fair weather to the villages. In Sulu and Mindanao, some of the dances were influenced by Islam and Christianity. For example, the Muslim dance Singkil is the local interpretation of the Indian epic, Ramayana, and is probably the most popular form of Filipino dance. Between Luzon and Mindanao lies Visayas, the middle part of today's Philippines. Dances from this region demonstrate Spanish influence and are called Maria Clara dances after the female protagonist in the novel by Jose Rizal. The choreography in Maria Clara dances is an amalgamation of Spanish and other European dances such as the waltz.

"While Maria Clara dances were popular among the urban Filipinos, the rural areas had their own dances called Barrio dances. These dances celebrate life with elan and joy. To reflect their happiness and love of life, women and men show off their skills by balancing lamps on their heads or dancing on narrow benches. In the dance called Maglalatik, which is a mock war dance, dancers beat on coconut shells tied to their bodies, creating a furious rhythm while reenacting battle. Women wear either traditional dresses adorned with butterfly sleeves, or long skirts and lace blouses. Men traditionally wear Chamisa de Chino and colored trousers.


Klezmer music is the traditional instrumental folk music of Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern and Central Europe. Like many forms of folk music, Klezmer is often played to accompany dance. The word Klezmer originated in the 19th century and is a portmanteau of the Hebrew words kley, which means a useful or prepared instrument, tool, or utensil, and zmer, which means music. Klezmer music is a unique cultural blend of Jewish and non-Jewish musical elements, which include synagogue melodies, Hasidic hymns sung in groups called nigunim, medieval German folk dance forms, and modern Greek and Turkish dance music. Klezmer is considered a way of creating joyous prayer and is played in synagogs. It is also played for Jewish weddings and other celebrations.

The music began in the 9th century in the Rhine Valley in Germany, just as Yiddish language was developing. As the Jewish people moved east through Europe to settle in Eastern Europe, the Jewish philosophy first known as Khasidism, and now as Hasidim, helped to spread Klezmer because it promoted the idea that prayer accompanied by music let people spiritually communicate with the most joy. People who played Klezmer music, especially men, began to be referred to as Klezmorim. From the end of the 19th century through the beginning of WWII, Klezmorims, especially those of Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine, helped to make up most of the music and dance of Klezmer. Army bands from the Russian Czarist army during the 19th century added additional members to Klezmer including instruments and players to make up 15 people ensembles. Klezmer bands in Romania added Ottoman Empire, as well as Roma Gypsy, influences to Klezmer music. Because of these diverse influences, Klezmer today can be put into two broad styles: Polish-Ukranian and Romanian-Turkish Klezmer music. Klezmer continued to flourish through Europe in Jewish synagogs until, tragically, many Klezmorim perished in the Holocaust. Those who escaped and emigrated from Europe to America carried the music and traditions with them. Klezmer in the American Jewish community was not very popular until the revival of the music in the 1970s, and has since gained international popularity.

As Klezmer music spread across Europe new instruments were added. But by the middle of the 17th century, Klezmer groups had fixed four to five person ensembles. Groups at this time typically would be led by a violin, accompanied by a tsimbl (a hammered dulcimer), contrasting violins, a bass or cello, and sometimes a flute. In the beginning of the 19th century, the clarinet and frame drum became popular in Klezmer music in certain parts of Europe. Later, when soldiers from the Russian Czarist army played Klezmer music, groups grew as large as 10 to 15 musicians with brass and stringed instruments added. The clarinet, which has become a mainstay in Klezmer music, was introduced at this time. Accordions made their way into Klezmer ensembles in the late 19th century. When Jews emigrated from Europe to America, the piano became a popular instrument in Klezmer as Jewish immigrants became assimilated. Today the large Klezmer ensembles are the norm and a wide variety of instruments can be heard in modern and experimental Klezmer compositions, such as guitars, banjos, saxophones, and even Indian sitars and Australian didgeridoos. American Klezmer has also been highly influenced by Jazz music. Although easily recognizable, Klezmer music actually embraces a wide range of musical tempos, scales, keys, song structures, and rhythms.

Also called gong-chime,Gamelan is an Indonesian musical ensemble dating back many centuries. Â The ensembles are composed primarily of percussion instruments, including gongs, xylophones, strings and drums, each instrument having its own unique function in the performance. Some ensembles include vocalists, as well.

Gamelan musicians play short, repeating melodies in an interlocking style. Musical phrases are repeated in various tempos and melodies until the musicians are signaled to stop, a task usually delegated to the drummer.

Three types of Gamelan are performed in Indonesia: Balinese, Javanese and Sundanese. Each style embraces slightly different sounds and tempos and is affiliated with the Indonesian "bangsa" (ethnic groups) of Bali, Central Java and Sunda (West Java) , respectfully.

Gamelan is said to have been the idea of the Hindu God, Sang Hyan Guru, who created a gong tuned to a specific pitch as a means of communicating with other Gods. As communication between the Gods became more complex, more "pitches"were needed, creating the Gamelan model of a variety of instruments with a variety of pitches, functions and tempos. To this day, Gamelan is considered an offering to the Hindu Gods. Ensembles perform during religious rituals, ceremonies, royal events and community celebrations. Gamelan is often employed as accompaniment to theater art performances, but is rarely performed simply as entertainment.


Indian classical music consists of both North Indian (Hindustani) and South Indian (Carnatic) music. It is based on melody and rhythm and does not follow musical conventions that predominate in Western music. Musicians use combinations of melody and rhythm known as ragas; musicians will also improvise around these ragas. Hindustani and Carnatic classical music may be completely instrumental or include a singer. Purists feel that vocalists represent the music in its greatest glory, but instrumental music is just as popular as compositions with vocals.

Indian music is based on religious practices. The origin of the Indian music system known as Raga Sangeet can be traced back about two thousand years to the Vedic Hymns chanted in Hindu temples. In the oldest scriptures of Hinduism called the "Vedas" there are allusions to various stringed and wind instruments. The first written reference to ragas, on which Indian Classical Music is based, is found in the Brhaddesi which was written in the 10th century. In the 13th century, 264 ragas were listed in the book Sangitaratnakara. During the 13th century, Indian classical music was flourishing in the courts of Muslim rulers. Though songs had originally been composed in Sanskrit, songs were then being written in various dialects of Hindi.

During the 16th century, differences between Hindustani and Carnatic music became more obvious. Hindustani music was influenced by Muslim and Persian elements since Muslims conquered the northern part of the subcontinent and established the Mughal empire in the 16th century. Carnatic music was influenced by traditional music played in Hindu temples. Each type was influenced by outside sources but Carnatic music has shown more skill for adding foreign instruments to its arrangements. In the 1960s the Beatles brought Indian Classical music popularity in the West and collaborations between Western and Indian musicians have continued to this day.

Because Indian classical music is based on Hindu religion, many believe that Indian classical music can elevate people to higher consciousness and bring them in contact with the divine universal force. The elements of Indian classical music that cause such effects are the ragas, which create the basis for all songs. Ragas can be generally described as melodic structures that dictate notes in a scale, their relationship to each other, their order from ascending to descending, characteristic movements, and other elements. In order for these ragas to have effect, they must be played at specific times of the day. Both Carnatic and Hindustani music were performed in temples, courts, houses of nobles, and small gatherings called "baithaks". Today concerts are mostly held outside temples, in concert halls, and recordings of Indian classical music performers are very easy to come by.

Popular Hindustani Instruments:

Tabla - A pair of small drums.

Sitar - A long necked lute with movable frets, two gourd resonators, seven playing strings and 13 sympathetic strings.

Sarod - A plucked or bowed fiddle with four to eight strings and sympathetic strings.

Tambura - A four-stringed drone lute.

Popular Carnatic instruments:

Mridangam - A two-headed barrel drum.

Violin - The European instrument but tuned to the tonic and fifth, which is in tune with a Tambura.

Tambura - The same as the Hindustani instrument.

Vina - A four-stringed lute with two gourd resonators.


Flamenco is the music of Spain. It is characterized by passionate singing, dancing, and percussion. A Flamenco ensemble typically includes a singer or a dancer performing with guitars, and people providing the percussion with rhythmic hand clapping and foot stomping, as well as other hand percussion instruments.

The origin of Flamenco music is controversial but it is generally agreed that the music originated in Andalusia, Spain. In 1492, the Andalusian city known as Granada was the last Islamic city to fall to Christian Reconquest. The Islamic refugees who populated Granada: Arabic, Jewish, Christian, and Gitano (or Gypsy), mixed their traditional music to form the beginnings of Flamenco. Although Flamenco was created by all these different musical traditions, over the next few centuries Flamenco became exclusively part of the Gitano/Gypsy culture. Because of this, many people viewed Flamenco as the music of criminals and the underclass and it wasn't until the middle of the 19th century that Flamenco began developing popularity outside of Gypsy culture. From about 1869 to the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, Flamenco music gained popularity through the many cafes cantantes, or cafe singers. During this time, the Palos, or styles of Flamenco music were established and cemented. Since then, over 50 types of Flamenco Palos have been created, and they each have their own mood, rhythmic pattern, and performing traditions. Flamenco guitar also became the most popular instrument of Flamenco music during this time. After the Spanish Civil War until the 1970s, Flamenco continued to gain popularity due to the government leader Francisco Franco's promotion of Flamenco music as the national music used to unify the people of Spain. In the 1980s Flamenco music experienced another golden age; elements of jazz, blues, rock, and even reggae were incorporated into Flamenco's sound, which people called Nuevo Flamenco . This new Flamenco sound, rather than being played through traditional radio broadcasts, was distributed directly to bars, discos, and nightclubs to catch the attention of younger fans. Ironically, it was the Gypsy Kings, a band from Arles, France that played a form of music parallel to Flamenco known as Rumba Catalana, that made the new sound of Flamenco popular around the world. Today Flamenco continues to evolve and is very popular all around the world.

Every part of a Flamenco performance contributes to the Flamenco sound; even Flamenco dancers add rhythms to Flamenco music. But the most prominent instrument in Flamenco music is the guitar.
The Flamenco guitar is a slightly smaller version of the classical acoustic guitar. The traditional Flamenco guitar is made of several types of wood: Cypress for the back and sides, cedar for the fingerboard, pine or spruce for the top, rosewood for the bridge, and ebony for the fret board.

Although the guitar is now the most prominent instrument, Flamenco began as nothing more than vocal music and hand claps. The singer's role is still very important to the music because it sets the mood and is used to connect with the audience on an emotional level. There are two basic forms of Flamenco song; jondo or "deep", slow, sad songs about death or lost love, and chico or "small", faster, happier dance-like songs.

Handclaps called palmas are designed to add rhythms to the music, as well as encourage the performers. There are two types of palmas: sordas"deaf"-palmas, which are muffled hand claps created when clapping the cupped palms of hands together, and secas"dry"-palmas, which are loud hand claps created when hitting the cupped palm of the left hand with the middle fingers of the right hand.

Castañuelasalso known as "Castanets"are spoon shaped pieces of wood also used to add percussion to a Flamenco performance. They are traditionally tied together with a piece of string and played by fastening the string around the thumb and index finger, and clapping the two pieces together with the fingers.

Zapatos or Botos are shoes and boots that are more like a tap dancer's shoes; nails are driven into the soles to produce loud clicks when struck. Traditionally, male Flamenco dancer's movements consist of complicated toe and heel-clicking steps known as Taconeo, which add the rhythm, and which these Zapatos or Botos help to emphasize.

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