Music of the Philippines

Music of the Philippines
Music of Southeast Asia
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Music of the Philippines are performance arts composed in various genre and styles. The music of the Philippines is a mixture of indigenous, other Asian, European, Latin American, and American influences.


Traditional music

Philippine gong music can be divided into two types: the flat gong commonly known as gangsa and played by indigenous groups in the Cordillera region of Northern Philippines and the bossed gongs played among the Islam and animist groups in the Southern Philippines.

Kulintang refers to a racked gong chime instrument played in the southern islands of the Philippines, along with its varied accompanying ensembles. Different groups have different ways of playing the kulintang. Two major groups seem to stand-out in kulintang music. These are the Maguindanaon and the Maranaw. The kulintang instrument itself could be traced to either the introduction of gongs to Southeast Asia from China from before the 10th century CE, or more likely, to the introduction of bossed gong chimes from Java in the 15th century. Nevertheless the kulintang ensemble is the most advanced form of music from before the late 16th century and the legacy of hispanization in the Philippine archipelago.

The tradition of kulintang ensemble music itself is a regional one, predating the establishing of borders between the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. It transcends religion, with animist and Christian ethnic groups in Borneo, Flores and Sulawesi playing kulintangan; and Muslim groups playing the same genre of music in Mindanao, Palawan and the Sulu archipelago. It is distantly related to the Gamelan music orchestras of Java and Bali, as well as the musical forms in Mainland Southeast Asia, mainly because of the usage for the same bossed racked gong chimes that play both melodical and percussive.

Notable folk song composers include the National Artist for Music Lucio San Pedro, who composed the famous "Sa Ugoy ng Duyan" that recalls about the loving touch of mother to her child. Another great composer who's known as patriotic composer, Alfredo Buenaventura.

Harana and Kundiman

The Harana and Kundiman are lyrical songs popular in the Philippine Islands dating back to the Spanish period. Harana are traditional courtship songs in the Mexican-Spanish tradition based on the habanera rhythm while the Kundiman, which has pre-colonial origins from the Tagalog region, uses triple meter rhythm. Kundiman is also characterized by a minor key at the beginning and shifts to a major key in the second half. Its lyrics depict a romantic theme, usually portraying love, passion, or sadness.

In the 1920s Harana and Kundiman became more mainstream musical styles led by performers such as Atang de la Rama, Jovita Fuentes, Conching Rosal, Sylvia La Torre and Ruben Tagalog.

The traditional harana has been kept alive by companies such as HARANA.PH, which is the only professional serenade and surprise service in the Philippines.

example : Duwangin mo Hirang by Prof. Santiago S. Suarez


The Tinikling is a Philippine dance which involves two individual performers hitting bamboo poles, using them to beat, tap, and slide on the ground, and against each other in co-ordination with one or more dancers who steps over, and in between poles.


The Cariñosa (meaning loving or affectionate one), is a Philippine national dance from the María Clara suite of Philippine folk dances, where the fan, and handkerchief plays an instrument role as it places the couple in romance scenario. The dance is similar to the Jarabe Tapatío. The Cariñosa is accompanied with Hispanic music, and language.


The Rondalla is performed on ensembles comprising mandolin instruments of various sizes called banduria composed on the Iberian tradition. Other instruments including guitars, is also performed.

Choral Music

In the forefront of choral music in the Philippines, the Philippine Madrigal Singers has from its ranks produced more than 200 choral arrangers and composers who have contributed to the wealth of Philippines choral literature. They are the first and only two-time champions in the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing (1997, and 2007), widely considered the most prestigious choral competition in the world.

There are choirs in about every university, school, or church in the Philippines and most have gone and won on national and international competitions. Of mention are the University of Santo Tomas Singers, University of the Philippines Singing Ambassadors, University of the Philippines Concert Chorus, University of the Philippines Manila Chorale, Ateneo de Manila College Glee Club, Philippine Normal University Chorale, Saint Louis University Glee Club (Baguio City), University of the East Chorale, Hail Mary the Queen Children's Choir, Polytechnic University of the Philippines Bagong Himig Serenata De La Salle University Chorale, [Adventist University of the Philippines Ambassadors Chorale], Don Bosco Makati's all-male choir "Boscorale" and the Kilyawan Boys Choir (Claret School of Quezon City). Loboc Children's Choir of Loboc, Bohol.

Modern Filipino Music

OPM (Original Pilipino Music)

Pop music

Original Pilipino Music, now more commonly termed Original Pinoy Music or Original Philippine Music or OPM for short, originally referred only to Philippine pop songs, particularly ballads, such as those popular after the collapse of its predecessor, the Manila Sound, in the late 1970s, up until the present. In the 1970s the major commercial Philippine pop music artists were, Claire dela Fuente, Didith Reyes, Rico Puno, Ryan Cayabyab, Basil Valdez, Celeste Legaspi, Freddie Aguilar, Hajji Alejandro, Rey Valera, and Freddie Aguilar, among many others.

Between the 1980s and 1990s, OPM was led by artists such as Regine Velasquez, Sharon Cuneta, APO Hiking Society, José Mari Chan, Dingdong Avanzado, Rodel Naval, Janno Gibbs, Ogie Alcasid, Joey Albert, Lilet, Martin Nievera, Manilyn Reynes, Pops Fernandez, Lea Salonga, Vina Morales, Raymond Lauchengco, Francis Magalona, and Gary Valenciano among many others. Some popular singles during this period include Narito Ako (Regine Velasquez), Babaero (Randy Santiago), Boy (Timmy Cruz), Di Bale Na lang (Gary Valenciano), Mga Kababayan Ko (Francis Magalona) which were exceedingly popular and played regularly on FM radio. On July 25, 1987, then President Corazon Aquino enacted into law Executive Order No. 255 as a which required FM radio stations to play locally-produced songs (i.e. OPM) on an hourly basis. FM stations like DZOO, DWLS and others produced OPM songs, particularly disco/dance and easy listening music. OPM Christmas songs such as Pasko na Sinta ko(Gary Valenciano), Ang Pasko ay Sumapit, Christmas in our Hearts(Jose Mari Chan), Kumukutikutitap(Ryan Cayabyab), Christmas won't be the same without you(Martin Nievera) are also frequently played during Christmas. Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo, Bayan Ko and Magkaisa are the post-1986 People Power Revolution songs also played to immortalize the events brought after the revolution.

Also in the 1980s and the 1990s, TV stations made theme songs from their slogans like GMA-7's Where You Belong and PTV-4's Four For You which are played popularly while ABS-CBN's The Star Network theme music (played by Cayabyab) is also made at the time when channel 2 was relaunched on March 1, 1987.

In the 1990s, the famous artists/bands included Eraserheads, Smokey mountain, Donna Cruz, Jessa Zaragoza, Ariel Rivera, Southborder, Afterimage, Andrew E., Jaya, Rivermaya, Ella May Saison among many others. OPM pop has also been regularly showcased in the live band scene. Groups such as the Neocolours, Side A, Introvoys, The Teeth, Yano, True Faith, Passage, and Freestyle popularized songs that clearly reflect the sentimental character of OPM pop. Some of the biggest OPM hits during this period include Paraiso(Smokey Mountain), Gaya ng Dati(Gary Valenciano), Till my Heartaches End(Ella May Saison), Next in Line(Afterimage), Forever Blue(Cacai Velasquez), Line to Heaven(Introvoys), Ligaya(Eraserheads), Nanghihinayang(Jeremiah), Before I let you Go(Freestyle).

More recently and with the emergence of many diverse, alternative musical styles in the Philippines, the term OPM now refers to any type of music produced in the Philippines or composed by individuals of Filipino descent, regardless of location. The lyrics may be in any Philippine languages or dialect. However, certain exceptions exist, in which foreign songs by foreign composers created specifically to be performed by Filipino singers are considered OPM as well.

From its inception, OPM has been centered in Manila, where Tagalog, and English are the dominant languages. Other ethnolinguistic groups such as the Visayan, Bikol, and Kapampangan, despite making music in their native languages have not been recognized as OPM, except in unusual cases like the Bisrock (Visayan Rock music) song "Charing" by Davao band 1017.

Multiculturalism advocates, and federalists often associate this discrepancy to the Tagalog-centric cultural hegemony of the capital city of Manila.

Having successfully created a subgenre of Philippine Rock they called Bisrock, the Visayans by far have the biggest collection of modern music in their native language, with great contributions from Visayan bands Phylum, and Missing Filemon. However, a band called Groupies' Panciteria that hails from Tacloban, a Winaray-speaking city, launched a free downloadable mp3 album on in 2009 containing 13 Tagalog songs and only one very short one in the Cebuano language.[1]

Following suit are the Kapampangans. The debut music video of "Oras" (Time) by Tarlac City-based Kapampangan band Mernuts has penetrated MTV Pilipinas, making it the first ever Kapampangan music video to join the ranks of other mainstream Filipino music videos. "RocKapampangan: The Birth of Philippine Kapampangan Rock," an album of modern remakes of folk Kapampangan extemporaneous songs by various Kapampangan bands was also launched last February 2008, which are now regularly played via Kapampangan cable channel Infomax-8 and via one of Central Luzon's biggest FM radio stations, GVFM 99.1. Inspired by what the locals call "Kapampangan cultural renaissance," Angeles City-born balladeer Ronnie Liang rendered Kapampangan translations of some of his popular songs such as "Ayli" (Kapampangan version of "Ngiti"), and "Ika" (Kapampangan version of "Ikaw") for his repackaged album.

Despite the growing clamor for non-Tagalog, and non-English music, and greater representation of other Philippine languages, the local Philippine music industry, which is centered in Manila, is unforthcoming in venturing investments to other locations. Some of their major reasons include the language barrier, small market size, and socio-cultural emphasis away from regionalism in the Philippines.

In September 2010, Click Music Philippines was formally launched at the New Horizons Hotel, Mandaluyong City, with members of the press, music artists and radio station executives in attendance. Its primary aim is to revive interest in OPM as an industry standard. As a precedent, this movement hopes to bring together music composers and radio stations towards a unified business direction anchored on musical creativity initiatives and a tighter focus on copyright protection and ownership, in the value chain during stages of the production and distribution of music content.

Rock and Blues

The United States occupied the Islands in 1898 until 1946, and introduced American blues folk music, R&B, and rock and roll became popular. In the late 1950s, native performers adapted Tagalog lyrics for North American rock n'roll music, resulting in the seminal origins of Philippine rock. The most notable achievement in Philippine rock of the 1960s was the hit song "Killer Joe," which propelled the group "Rocky Fellers" which reached number 16 on the American radio charts.

Up until the 1970s, popular rock musicians began writing and producing in English. In the early 1970s, rock music began to be written using local languages, with bands like the Juan Dela Cruz Band being among the first popular bands to do so. Mixing Tagalog, and English lyrics were also popularly used within the same song, in songs like "Ang Miss Universe Ng Buhay Ko," by the band Hotdogs which helped innovate the Manila sound. The mixing of the two languages (known as "Taglish"), while common in casual speech in the Philippines, was seen as a bold move, but the success of Taglish in popular songs, including Sharon Cuneta's first hit, "Mr DJ," broke the barrier forevermore.

Philippine rock musicians added folk music, and other influences, helping to lead to the 1978 breakthrough success of Freddie Aguilar. Aguilar's "Anak" (Child), his debut recording, is the most commercially successful Filipino recording, and was popular throughout Asia, and Europe, and has been translated into numerous language by singers worldwide. Asin also broke into the music scene at the same period, and were popular.

Folk-rock became the Philippine protest music of the 1980s, and Aguilar's "Bayan Ko" (My Country) became popular as an anthem during the 1986 EDSA Revolution. At the same time, a counterculture rejected the rise of politically focused lyrics. In Manila, a punk rock scene developed, led by bands like Betrayed, The Jerks, Urban Bandits, and Contras. The influence of New Wave was also felt during these years, spearheaded by The Dawn.

The 1990s saw the emergence of a superstar pop-rock group, the Eraserheads, considered by many Philippine nationals as the number one group in the Philippine recording scene. In the wake of their success was the emergence of a string of influential Filipino rock bands such as Yano, Siakol, Parokya ni Edgar, and Rivermaya, each of which mixes the influence of a variety of rock subgenres into their style.

Filipino rock has also developed to include some hard rock, heavy metal, and Alternative rock such as Razorback, Wolfgang, Greyhoundz, Slapshock, Grin Department, and the progressive bands Paradigm, Fuseboxx and Eternal Now.

The Neo-Traditional genre in Filipino music is also gaining popularity, with artists such as Joey Ayala, Grace Nono, Bayang Barrios, Cocojam, and Pinikpikan, reaping relative commercial success while utilizing the traditional musical sounds of many Indigenous tribes in the Philippines.


Filipino hip-hop is hip hop music performed by musicians of Filipino descent, both in the Philippines, and overseas, especially by Filipino-Americans. This article focuses first on Filipino hip-hop in the Philippines, and secondly on that in the USA. The Philippines is known to have had the first hip-hop music scene in Asia[1] since the early 1980s, largely due to the country's historical connections with the United States where hip-hop was originated. Rap music released in the Philippines has appeared in different languages such as Tagalog, Chavacano, Cebuano, Ilocano and English. In the Philippines, Francis M and Andrew E. are cited as the most influential rappers in the country, being the first to release mainstream rap albums. In the USA, of The Black Eyed Peas, Cassie Ventura and Chad Hugo of The Neptunes and N.E.R.D are cited as the most successful Filipino-Americans in the music industry.

Other genres

A number of other genres are growing in popularity in the Philippine music scene, including a number of alternative groups, and tribal bands promoting cultural awareness of the Philippine Islands.

Likewise, jazz has experienced a resurgence in popularity. Initial impetus was provided by W.D.O.U.J.I.(Witch Doctors of Underground Jazz Improvisation)with their award winning independent release "Ground Zero" distributed by the now defunct N/A Records in 2002 and the Tots Tolentino-led Buhay jazz quartet on the year before that. This opened up the way for later attempts most notable of which is the Filipino jazz supergroup Johnny Alegre Affinity releasing its eponymous debut album in 2005 under London-based Candid Records. Mon David has also made the rounds of the Las Vegas music circuit. Among the female performers, Mishka Adams has been the most prominent. A recent development is the fusion of spoken-word and jazz, and rock, chiefly attributed to Radioactive Sago Project. Other notable names of late are Bob Aves with his ethno-infused jazz, The Jazz Volunteers and Akasha which have anchored the now legendary underground jazz jams at Freedom Bar for almost half of the 11 years of its existence.

Bossa nova and Latino music has been popular since the 1970s. Performers like Annie Brazil were active in the 1970s, while more recently, Sitti has been earning rave reviews for her bossa nova covers of popular songs.

While there has long been a flourishing underground reggae and ska scene, particularly in Baguio City, it is only recently that the genres have been accepted in the mainstream. Acts like Brownman Revival, Put3Ska and Roots Revival of Cebu, Philippines have been instrumental in popularizing what is called "Island Riddims". There is also a burgeoning mod revival, spearheaded by Juan Pablo Dream and a large indiepop scene.

Music videos

From the 1990s to the present, the quality, and diversity of Philippine music video has greatly improved. Notable directors such as Raymond Red, Robert Quebral, Cholo Laurel, Louie Ignacio, Avid Liongoren, Marie Jamora, J. Pacena, and Pancho Esguerra have made excellent videos for both mainstream, and alternative artists. These directors have brought production values, and techniques up to an international level for the first time, and have been widely employed by the major labels.

Fans consume music videos from a variety of outlets. The main television outlets for music videos in the Philippines are the music-centered networks MTV Philippines, Channel V Philippines, and MYX.

See also


  1. ^ the 2009 mp3 album of the Tacloban-based band Groupies' Panciteria is downloadable for free here


  • Clewley, John. "Pinoy Rockers". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 213–217. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

External links

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