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Meaning-making and Multiple Identities for the Kulintang Gong-Chime in the Philippines

Fri, June 24, 11:00am to 12:50pm, Kambaikan (KMB), Floor: 2F, 212


For the Philippine nation the single row gong-chime, known as kulintang, registers a belonging to the Sulu Zone. It engenders various meanings arising from such diverse synchronic and diachronic environments as internecine contact and conflict, colonial rule and misadventure, and diasporic constructions and re-constructions of identity. The gong-chime constitutes the earliest European documentation of Philippine music (the Magellan expedition, 1522) and finds a current globalized transformation in Ron Quesada’s Kulintronica, a techno fusion Filipino-American development in the San Francisco diaspora. Frequently misidentified as “Muslim music,” the gong-chime predates Islam and is not part of Islamic practice. Using Slobin’s paradigm, this paper examines meanings at three levels (Mark Slobin, Subcultural Sounds: Micromusics of the West, 1993). The subcultural level includes historical shifts in gender roles and the present disaggregation of sonic identity and material identity. The intercultural level illustrates its appropriation by the majority Philippines for nation-building 1) as exemplary of resistance to colonial oppression and 2) as sonic and material icon for the imagined loss of a Filipino Urkultur. At the supercultural level selective valuation and legitimization by international entities such as universities and cultural agencies create other meanings for the kulintang, e.g. foregrounding Magindanao and Maranao kulintang while ignoring other traditions such as the Sama, Tausug, and Yakan. The gong-chime is at once local, national, regional, and global. In the context of the Sulu Zone it resonates with a number of domains, including lived experience as subaltern, staged commodification of an Other, and the guilty pleasures of decolonization.