Archive | September, 2010

The Red, White, and Drums (and gongs)

13 Sep

Performing once again with Sambasia at the Yerba Buena Garden Neighborhood Fair in San Francisco is the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Kulintang Electronica with Sambasia at Yerba Buena Gardens

Crossing musical borders with Sambasia SF.

I love Sambasia’s approach to music, treating it as something that is accessible to all people. As director Maseru Koga said to the crowd, “…this [music] is for everyone.”

This echoes something that Master K would often say to the audience.  “Kulintang music is for everyone,” announced into the mic with a warm smile to an open-minded audience entranced by the sound of the gongs from Mindanao.  It is this welcoming sentiment that empowered a few audience members (like myself six years ago) to feel like kulintang music is approachable and accessible.

Sambasia has grappled with this issue as an Asian-led Brazilian Samba Ensemble with a multi-cultural lineup based in Japantown of San Francisco.  What does it mean for Asians, or any other non-Brazilian people, to undertake the serious study of a traditional music?

According to their website, “SambAsia’s theme of One World Awareness, Building Cultural Bridges was born out of Jimmy Biala’s (SambAsia’s founder) observations of the separation that continues to exist between different areas of San Francisco despite the diversity of our city. We hope to convey a spirit of our own individual cultural pride while expressing the need for more communication and contact with each other as human beings, the acknowledgment of all possibilities.”

I was honored to be invited to attempt to build a cultural bridge from Cotabato to Rio de Janeiro with on-ramps coming from San Francisco.  Bringing these two percussive traditions together was both a challenge and a joy, and we showcased the result at the 2010 SF Carnaval parade!

Parangal tries the Kulintronica gongs

You've heard of carshare... what about gong-share?

The Yerba Buena Gardens Neighborhood Fair is a great gathering showcasing the diversity of San Francisco.  Kulintronica and Sambasia were representing for the Filipino-American contingent, joined also by old friends from Parangal.

In an interesting turn of events, we found it easier to share kulintang, and it was nice to hear my unique hybrid kulintang set in the hands of the Parangal musicians.

Beautiful pose during Pangalay dance by Parangal

Pangalay in San Francisco


A kulintang player of many hats

1 Sep

Greetings, kulintang fans, and welcome to the Kulintronica blog. Today’s entry will recap my gong-related activities in August 2010 which brought me from San Francisco to San Diego.

Kulintang, Agung, and Dabakan in Rock City, Mt. Diablo, CA

Kulintang at Rock City, Mt. Diablo, CA

A highlight of this month was my own birthday celebration; a gathering of gongs, bamboo, singsong, talkstory, and delicious Filipino pasteles at beautiful Rock City in the cradle of Mt. Diablo. Rock City, like Mt. Diablo and its surrounding foothills, was created by the crumpling and stirring of bedrock later exposed by erosion, resulting in the phenomenon that you are traveling backwards in time (encountering older and older rock) as you ascend the mountain. We set up my newly acquired fourth kulintang set on a natural stage of rock formation and hung a grand total of four agungs from the trees. We were also blessed to be visited by a tribe of bamboo instruments from Kalinga via Alaska and Richmond, CA.

Palabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble performed at the SF Public Library as part of the Singgalot series. This library branch across from SF City Hall and adjacent to the Asian Art Museum houses an impressive collection of Filipino and Fil-Am publications housed in a dedicated reading room.

Explaining what a kulintang is while Jason Mateo looks on

Kulintronica at Pistahan 2nd Show

Pistahan festival and parade was a great free event for the community held at Yerba Buena Gardens. I opened the festival from the main stage with a Kulintronica set complete with live looped guitars, kulintang playing and dancing lolas on the grass. Riding a wave of positive energy I glided over to the youth stage for an encore performance. I was so grateful to get two sets of applause that day. The sun came out too by the time I loaded my gongs back into the gong-mobile for the drive East through bridge and tunnel.

Playing agung and dabak with Pakaraguian members

Palabuniyan and Pakaraguian at PDGW 2010

Finally, I attended the Philippine Dance Gathering Workshop in San Diego. It was a reunion of friends and colleagues from the folk dance community, and a chance for all of us to sharpen our discipline, inform the discussion, and invigorate our passion for cultural performance. Amongst the legions of new talent on stage, it was the first time since blowing out the candle on my babayin double tsokolate cupcake (thanks, Shuganomics!) to really feel my age.

Thanks for accompanying me on this trail through time!