Bronze, Wood and Bamboo Instruments

KP’s Percussion ensemble compliments the indigenous folk dances from Mindanao and Luzon, and is one of the highlights of any of KP’s performances.

The Philippines, being a large archipelago, has musical styles that vary from region to region. Traditional Filipino music typically employs a combination of musical instruments belonging to the percussion, wind, and string families. These instruments are usually made of bronze, wood, or bamboo.


Among the various groups of the island of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, a highly sophisticated musical repertoire called kulintang exists in which the main instruments used are bossed gongs not dissimilar to gongs used in Indonesia.

Generally, kulintang ensembles among the Maguindanao, Maranao, the Tausug and other lesser known groups, are composed of five pieces of instrumentation. Among the Maguindanao, this includes: the kulintang (strung out horizontally on a stand, serving as the main melody instrument of the ensemble), the agung (the largest gongs of the ensemble providing much of the lower beats, either coming in a pair of two or just one alone), the gandingan (four large vertical gongs aligned front to back, used as a secondary melodic instrument), the dabakan (an hour-glass shaped drum covered in goat/lizard skin) and the babendil (a singular gong used as the timekeeper of the entire ensemble). The Maranao have similar instrumentation with the exception of the gandingan which they do not have an equivalent of.

Traditional instruments of Mindanao:

  • Kulintang
  • Agung
  • Gandingan
  • Babendil
  • Dabakan

Among the Maguindanao/Maranao, kulintang music serves as their means of entertainment and hospitality, being used in weddings, festivals, coronations, to entertain visiting dignitaries and to send off those heading and coming back from pilgrimages. Kulintang music is also used to accompany healing ceremonies and particularly among the Maguindanao, can serve as a form of communication. Because the Maguindanao can convert the music into their language and vice versa, the Maguindanao can sends messages long distances using their instruments. The gandingan usually is their instrument of choice to send messages, known among the Maguindanao as apad. Apad has been used to warn others of impeding danger or to send a message to a lover. In fact, people have been known to elope with the use of such songs.

Among the Tausug of the Sulu Archipelago, The Sindil (sung verbal jousts) is a musical lighthearted style that is sung by a duo of both sexes sung in front of an audience. Teasing, jokes, and innuendos flow into the verses, the better ones being applauded by the audience. The gabbang xylophone and biyula traditional violin are the instruments mainly used. Although Sindil is a particular genre of music, the verbal jousting musical type is also found in many other parts of the country, especially among the Visayan peoples, who are ethnically related to the Tausug. Sindil are normally used at weddings and other festive events.

Other musical traditions of this region are those of the serenade form Kapanirong and the outdoor “loud” music repertoire called Tagonggo.


Among the indigenous peoples of the Central Cordilleras of the northern island of Luzon, music is also played with gongs, but unlike those of southern repertoires, these gongs, called Gangsa, are unbossed and have their origins in mainland Asia. Music is usually played to accompany dance, and because of this is mostly percussion based. Gong ensembles are normally accompanied by drums. The music is polyphonic, and uses highly interlocking repeated patterns.

Other indigenous instruments include a bamboo zither, log drums, the Kudyapi two stringed boat lute and various flutes, including some nose flutes used by northern tribes.