April was a busy month for Kulintronica, setting the tone for what will no doubt be an exciting summer season full of festivals, collaborations, and kulintang playing. Above is a picture from a collaboration with Filipino-Canadian virtuoso Alcvin Ramos. The instrument he is accompanying the kulintang with is a digeridoo made from an Agave stalk. Alcvin has studied digeridoo in Australia from indigenous musicians, and has also studied the Japanese shakuhachi from three different master artists from different disciplines! This travelling musician connected with me and Lizae Reyes (of Kulintang Dance Theater) for a collaborative performance in Historic Filipino South of Market district called, “Shakulintang.”
Another collaboration in April was with another virtuoso musician, the amazing Fil-Am guitar player Karl Evangelista and his Grex ensemble. It was a meeting of two musicians pushing their respective instruments into new territory. I was personally challenged to find ways to bring the kulintang into his eclectic and sometimes manic sound fuelled by intense improvisational sections.
It was my pleasure to once again take the stage with Asian Crisis for yet another fundraiser to benefit tsunami victims in Japan. After opening with an Asian Crisis version of “Ditagaonan” I switched instruments and finished the set playing electric bass wearing a malong.
Spring is also a very active and transformative time of year for California’s abundant population of Filipino college students as Filipino student groups across the state and the country made preparations for their respective “Pilipino Culture Nights” aka PCN. I was a tender young bar musician when I had my first Filipino Cultural Music experience sitting in with the Haranistas de Manila for a PCN over ten years ago. Like other Fil-Ams like myself, I was so intensely drawn toward Filipino culture after the PCN experience that I had to immerse myself as much as possible to learn as much as I could as fast as I could, gaining experience presenting the culture to different audiences in different contexts.
Pictured on the left is a snapshot of some of the percussion used for the “Southern Suite” portion of the Bayanihan-inspired repertoire. Notice their hybrid kulintang set. The older gongs with the darker metal are more vintage, and years of travelling and performing from Seattle to San Diego to Las Vegas serving traditional music to Filipino audiences throughout the west coast has damaged all of the gongs on this old set except for the two on the low side of this set. Gongs from a newer hybrid alloy set fill in where the vintage gongs are missing.
Here is a close-up picture of the road-worn Oktavina owned by Celestino “Bayani” Tan of the prolific Tan Brothers. Perhaps in a future blog a more complete telling of the Tan Brothers story will be posted that explains the tremendous contributions this family of musicians has made on the Filipino American musical landscape.
On the right is a traditional guitar pick, made a long time ago from the shell of a Visayan tortoise. The tortoise is cooked and eaten, and afterwards the shell is fashioned into jumbo guitar picks. The texture is not unlike the plastic polyurethane guitar picks that are mass produced, and has a thickness and flexibility comparable to a medium gauge pick.
And finally, here is a picture of Skyline College of San Mateo’s Kulintang group performing at the grand opening of the new Multi-Cultural Building on campus. Skyline College is a community college south of San Francisco in an area that is one of the areas most densely populated by Filipinos. This community college boasts an accredited Filipino ethnic studies cohort and also kulintang class taught by my teacher, Master Artist Danongan Kalanduyan.