When I was in college, I had an inclination to ethnic sound. But it was nothing deep – it was only the surface of ethnic beat and dance, just an imitation to what I had seen on TV or other media. The only tribal sound I knew was of Kadangyan. And there was only one person who joined me in such liking – Floyd. He even had a kubing and loved to use any smooth surface as a drum. He was, after all, a frustrated musician. Or make it potential musician.
I did not imagine that years later we would encounter a real tribe who would show us how to play tribal music and dance it correctly. Through the invitation of Ms. Audrey Tomada of the Jose R. Gullas Halad Museum, we threw ourselves in an extraordinary adventure in the Huning Lumad, the Instrument Playing Workshop Leg. It was led by no other than the Talaandig Tribe Chieftain for the Arts, Waway Linsahay Saway.
The instruments, dances, and chants of the Talaandig Tribe, and may be true to all tribes, are all inspired from nature. There are dances that imitate the hawk (Binanog, and was performed by Salima Saway-Agraan during the event), there were also frog and monkey dances.
Different tribes have different ways of chanting. Waway said that chanting is the origin of singing. They are words from the heart, expression of nature. Its sound is likened to the sound of a bumblebee as it flies in the air and when it rests to lay eggs. The Talaandig do the epic chanting which, he says, would last days. The chanter, sometimes even when asleep would still be chanting because it is not the chanter anymore who sings but the spirits.
The chants are also patterned from the sound of the waves, the flow of the river and the waterfall.
The kubing (coined as jaws harp) is made of bamboo and when played, would sound like a hornbill or kalaw. Waway said it is mostly used for courtship and is played with hand and other body gestures that would express the message of the music. He shared a rather amusing story about the kubing. A man will try to play the bamboo instrument and as soon as the girl hears the sound, she tells her parents she is going out to the river to wash clothes. As the man notices this, he would tell his parents he is also going out to the river to fetch water. The kubing is not only for lovers, it is an intimate instrument that is used as communicating with loved ones.
Kokak is derived from the sound of a frog, thus the name. It is a pair of bamboo in rectangular shape – one has a crooked edge and the other one has a small hollow space at the back. To play the frog sound, the crooked edge is run through the edge of the other bamboo pair.
It is type of drum that copies the sound of a woodpecker (balalatuk).
Other musical instruments include the katyapi that is shaped like a lizard and different types of bamboo flute. The longest flute is called pulala. The length of the pulala should be customized to its user’s height. As one of the closing performances, Waway Linsahay Saway played the flute that mimic the sound of the cicala insect that weeps and cries when the sun is about to set. He shared that his mother would say, the cicala cries fearing that the sun will not anymore rise.