SAMPUNLA : Pagdiriwang sa Isang Dekada ng Musika

Write up by: Harold Santos and Jed Zulaybar

The noisy kids in the hallway hits ten! Celebrating a decade of tradition and innovation, the UP College of Music grown Tugtguang Musika Asyatika (UP TUGMA) held their tenth anniversary concert last November 24, 2017 at the Abelardo Hall Auditorium, College of Music.

UP TUGMA was formed in 2007 by singer and multi-instrumentalist Froilan Canlas along with other Asian Music and Musicology students. Through the years, the group has grown from its humble beginnings as a student organization established solely to help with student recitals to a performing group open to all college of music students with the love and passion for Asian music; a simple seed of an idea that was bound to grow. The concert takes its name from that idea of a simple and single seed. Isang Punla. Sampula, a celebration of the decade of music making that single seed grew into.

With the group’s dream to continually share Asian music to the public, UP TUGMA showcased thirteen newly composed and arranged pieces during the concert - a concert format totally different from their past concerts.


The concert begins with Salidummay, the most popular song form across the Cordillera region arranged for various Asian instruments. Instruments such as the Dizi, the Buk, the Koto, the Kulintang, the Kudyapi, and Cordillera bamboo instruments all play in the interlocking style of northern Philippine music. With all instruments interlocking while players are singing, the arrangement is reminiscent of a typical welcome of a community.

The first piece is followed by the all percussion piece Halinhinan another piece that makes use of Interlocking patterns. This piece juxtaposes the indigenous Cordillera bamboo music and the “baiao” from the northeast region of Brazil with rhythms and instruments from both cultures.

Following that is a piece written for four lutes; Laot (Lit: ‘midsea’, but also implies ‘forever‘) makes the Chinese Ruan and Pipa with Philippine Kutiyapi and Bandurria mixing Chinese tunes with Mindanao rhythmic patterns. As the title suggests, Laot is a musical exploration of how our seabound cultures flow together.


The next piece is Persatuan (Bahasa for ‘unity’) is a fusion of the rhythms used by the Kendhang and Ciblon from the Javanese Gamelan with the various jangdan used in Korean Samulnori and the rhythmic modes used in Maguindanao Kulintang music. The all-percussion piece is an unites the various cultures’ sense of rhythm and time.

Originally a protest song, Veronika is composed by Patatag (a protest music group formed in the 80s). Known for its pentatonic scale, the song is arranged for Indonesian Gamelan in slendro mode. The Gamelan ensemble with addition of a Chinese erhu and three female singers made Veronika into a tranquil sound experience, capturing the music of struggle across times and cultures.


It is followed by the Tadao Sawai Piece URUMA; this time arranged for Koto and Gamelan ensemble. The piece uses a scale particular to Okinawan Music that bears a great similarity to the Indonesian pejogedan scale, which is heard on the gamelan played in Java and Bali. This piece is arranged for five kotos and gamelan with additional flavors from different asian instruments such the Cordillera tongali and and the Chinese dizi to portray the suling, a wind instrument that is used in gamelan music.

The second half of the concert starts with a bang. Tangis ng Ulila (lit: Cry of the Orphan) is an arrangement for Chinese sizhu and a standard band trio set up (bass, drums, keys) With themes of Chinese sizhu and rhythms from Maguindanao kulintangan, this programmatic music is an expression of the bleak feeling of 'pangungulila' (lit: orphanhood). The recurring motif hidden in the different elements of the piece reflects a person’s ever-present desire for familial companionship.


Right after that, the bass and drums stay for a funky spin on the Maguindanaon kulintang piece Tidtu a Bagan. The rap part is taken from the song “Mindanaw” written by Tunog Bobongan that tells the story of our brothers and sisters from Mindanao and their fight for ancestral land. In the end, Bagan Jam invites the audience “kumilos ka, gumising na’t buksan ang ‘yong mga mata (Lit: Time to move! Wake up and open your eyes!)


The piece is followed by a smaller ensemble. YON (Japanese for four) is a played by east-Asian instruments. A piece with three parts, it is written imagining what this semester would sound like with all its ups and downs and twists and turns. The title is also a pun on the word and the Filipino expression “yon”. the quartet thinks that at the end of all the hurry-scurries of the semester, everyone simply sighs “yon”.

The piece is followed by an even smaller ensemble. Short for Cordillera,『CORDI』 for three kotos is an homage to the traditional music of Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), the only landlocked region in the Philippine archipelago. Inspired by gong and bamboo music from Kalinga and folk songs from Mountain Province, this koto piece composed specifically for three singer-kotoists applies the traditional Cordillera musical concepts of interlocking melodies and rhythms.

After the small ensembles, a grand ensemble of seventeen Asian instruments comes back to the stage. Merry Christmas on the Battlefield is a popular christmas instrumental composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto for the 1983 World War II Film: “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence”. In this concert, it is arranged specifically for Asian orchestra-like ensemble through the combination of koto, chinese and Asian percussions. This melancholic music paints a picture of solitude in the middle of a cold winter day.


To cap off the concert, the whole UP TUGMA performs Tugtugang Asyatika a combination of Philippine, Chinese, Japanese and Javanese Gamelan motifs with Korean Samulnori as the heartbeat of this piece. It starts with a marching rhythm, painted by the subtle sounds of the tongali and concludes with exhilarating rhythmic patterns that is sure to captivate any listener. The concert caps off with a piece that represents what UP TUGMA has always been: loud yet always happy and playing in unity.


Culture is in a state of constant change: between the rigid foundations of tradition and the youthful flux of innovation. As UP TUGMA continues on to its next decade of music making, they hope to perfectly balance the respect for tradition and the journey to innovation.

Photo Credits:
Jed Zulaybar of UP Iris: Photo 1, 2, 4, 6
Doll Llaguno of UP Iris: Photo 3, 5, 7

University of the Philippines College of Music, Ylanan Street, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City
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