Inter-ethnic encounters-A A +A
By Jimmy Fong
Friday, November 26, 2010
A RARE cross-cultural encounter took place in Baguio on November 12-16, 2010 as different Schools of Living Traditions (SLTs) converged in the city for an interesting week-long meeting. Indigenous arts workshops were conducted at UP Baguio as part of the conference convened by the Heritage and Arts Academies of the Philippines in cooperation with Dulaang UP Baguio.
Morning and afternoon workshop sessions on Talaandig (Bukidnon) music and dance and fire-poi dancing and hand drumming happened at UP Baguio on Saturday, November 13.
Now displaying themselves and performing for others have become a part of the culture of indigenous peoples. The Talaandig workshop was facilitated by a group led by Datu Vic Saway and his son Waway. The group introduced chanting, inspired by nature, as a form of self-expression and communication. The vocal drone, for instance, can be imagined to be following the contours of the land in a village, the flow of water in a stream, waterfalls, serrated mountain ranges, etc. Waway also demonstrated how playing the bamboo mouth harp was traditionally used to arrange a date at the river between a man and a woman, long before eyeball meetings were arranged through text messaging.
The high point of the Talaandig workshop was on the playing of the tambol or drums that necessarily accompanied dancing, which also mimicked animal movements. The traditional Talaandig hand drum is a wooden tube of about two feet in length and one and half feet in diameter, with animal skin on both ends. Rattan strips were also wound around the tube. Dancing to the drum music could be done by following the flight movements of the eagle or the funny gestures of the monkey. A member of the group also created a bamboo instrument that produced frog-like croaks and which could provide the music for a frog dance.
To enhance the music and performances of the group, they employ several African djembe drums which they acknowledge as a concession to profit. The group also taught a traditional Talaandig song.
Baguio- and Cordillera-based cultural groups were also on hand to interact with the Talaandig group. They tried the dances, drums and songs of their brothers and sisters from Mindanao. They must have realized how, in many ways, they are both similar and different.
The Kawangis ng Tribu of Palawan taught the basics of hand drumming using the African djembe and fire-poi dancing. Their workshop consisted of a brief history of African drumming and Pacific island fire dancing before going into actual drum exercises and fire dancing. The group, which fuses indigenous Philippine percussion instruments and foreign ones, returned to UP Baguio on Thursday, November 18 for an evening performance, the better to appreciate swirling and twirling fireballs.
Aside from providing a welcome break from serious academic work for both students and teachers, the workshops also show how far indigenous peoples' groups have now adopted a culture of performance, performing before an audience who are mostly strangers, and who therefore need the aid of translation. Despite the claim that music is a universal language, the audience still needs to make sense of sounds or movements that they are hearing or seeing for the first time, for a more meaningful experience.
I personally needed to know what an African drum, or a store-bought drum marked Premiere, was doing in a percussion set that was being passed off as Talaandig music. I know that several performing groups in the Cordillera and outside the region are now incorporating indigenous instruments into modern band instruments to achieve a generic ethnic sound. But I think traditional communities have not yet reached a point where foreign instruments are mixed into the traditional ensemble of musical instruments and still claim to be traditional.
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Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on November 27, 2010.