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Traditional Music of the Philippines

The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco recently celebrated Filipin@ American History Month, so I thought I’d share a little bit of what I knew about traditional Philippine music!

As a kid, I grew familiar with Philippine music through karaoke. For the longest time, my perception of Philippine music only reached as far as saccharine love ballads.

But of course, there’s much more to the music of the Philippines. Though scarcely documented, music played an integral part of everyday life in indigenous Philippines.

™Only 10 percent of population practices traditional music today. In the spirit of Filipin@ American History Month, here are some facts to celebrate traditional Philippine music!

Music was practiced by several indigenous Philippine tribes, who all resided in concentrated areas of three different regions.  

  • 1.Northern Luzon
    • ™Tribes collectively called the Igorots
    • Lived in Cordillera mountain range
  • 2.Central Islands
    • ™Tribes: Visayans, Tagalogs, Ilocanos
  • 3.Southern Islands
    • Tribe: Moros

Despite regional division, all music shared common elements.


    ™Music was almost idiosyncratic, used either for ritual or secular practice

  • ™Utilized both vocals and instrumentals
  • ™Improvisation was an important element
  • Common characteristicsFreeform structure, constant changes in tempo
  • ™Flat gongs were a symbol of solidarity™

Music of the Philippines today has a huge Western influence due to the heightened popularity of radios and records (LPs and EPs) in the 1960s.

Check out this example of indigenous Philippine and contemporary music combined.


  • Diamond, B. (2007). The Music of Modern Indigeneity: From Identity to Alliance Studies. European Meetings in Ethnomusicology, 12(22), 169-190.
  • Dioquino, C. (1982). Musicology in the Philippines. Acta Musicologica, 54, 124-147. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from JSTOR.
  • Famous Kadangyan Tribal Music Video, Cebu, Philippines. (2009, August 27). Retrieved December 10, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtCfgwTOOrA
  • Griffith, C. (1924). Folk Music in the Philippines. Music Supervisors’ Journal, 26-26. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from JSTOR.
  • Hila, A. (2006). Indigenous Music. In Tuklas Sining: Essays on the Philippine Arts.
  • Kadangyan Band. (n.d.). Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://band.castpel.com/kadangyan/about
  • Reyes, M. (2002). Under Attack: Mass Media Technology and Indigenous Musical Practices in the Philippines. In R. King (Ed.), Global goes local: Popular culture in Asia.
    Vancouver, B.C.: UBC Press.
  • Lagguy, S. (2012, April 27). Ifugao Gong Music or Ethnic Music. Retrieved December 15, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZUat-QzICA
  • Moon, V. (2013, January 8). Tribal sounds of the Philippines: IFUGAO. Retrieved December 15, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qZOSdpdumY
  • Osal, R. (2013, May 8). Filipino Folk Music. Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://philippineculture.ph/filer/Philippines_Folk_Music.pdf
  • Rosario, R. (2010, July 12). Philippine folk songs. Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://www.slideshare.net/Pyxsally/philippine-folk-songs

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