Kulintang in Asian America

30 Mar
Kulintang with Asian Crisis

Kulintang with Asian Crisis at the San Jose Museum of Modern Art photo by Jay Jao

I had the pleasure of performing with one of the groups that inspired me to dare to try new things with the kulintang at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival’s San Jose Gala.  The melodic percussive instrument from the Southern Philippines was featured on their self-titled album “Asian Crisis,” which was recommended to me at Clarion Music store of San Francisco Chinatown while I was buying my second kulintang set.

Formed by a group of Asian musicians from different countries, each one proficient in the traditional music of their heritage, coming together to create a truly Asian-American musical space where traditional songs from different cultures could be showcased while individual musicians could stretch their limits through long improvisational sections.

Bringing traditional melodies and rhythms together in a jazz-inspired context brings the Asian diaspora into the jazz continuum, something pioneered in the Bay Area and kept alive in the bustling multi-cultural arts scene even today.

The main Filipino staple in the Asian Crisis repertoire is “Ditagaonan,” a tune that is commonly known among Bay Area kulintang players.  Traditional versions of it can be found on CDs like “Traditional Music of the Southern Philippines” by Palabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble, “Manta Gowani” by Mindanao Kulintang ensemble, and “Kulintang: Ancient Gong-Drum Music of the Southern Philippines” by World Kulintang Institute.  Excellent contemporary versions have previously been recorded by the Noh Buddies, Goldar, and Asian Crisis, who produced two separate arrangements of it on the “Asian Crisis” album.

At the San Jose SFIAAFF Gala reception we set up our astonishing collection of instruments and I performed with Jason Jong, Masaru Koga, Van-Anh Vo, and Frances Martin.  Van-Anh Vo is an amazing performer who’s pushing the limits of Vietnamese music on her instrument the dan tranh.  Her new album “She’s Not She” is highly recommended.

Check out the Asian Crisis CD at Eastwind Books of Berkeley.

Check out Van-Anh Vo’s CD “She’s Not She” at her website.

Photos by Jason New.

This is the exciting artistic melting pot environment that Kulintronica is stewing in, and I am so excited as the light at the end of the tunnel of the album recording process almost comes into view.  As a preview, it is highly likely that the Kulintronica full-length album also has a new rendition of “Ditagaonan,” adding to the continuing vision of a new Asian music coming from America.

Asian Crisis SFIAAFF at San Jose SFIAAFF Gala

Asian Crisis SFIAAFF at San Jose SFIAAFF Gala

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