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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Kadangyan mystique
The life they live is their music
By Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
Photos by Chendrina Villarino Rosaroso

Blurb: “Come weekend, prepare to be mesmerized once again by the Kadangyan mystique. Get ready to shed tears for this infinite love of “cool-ture”…brace to embrace back cultural roots – the tribal wisdom propagated by Kadangyan, the “godfather of local ethno-tribal music”.

Their music is classified ethno-tribal for employing indigenous musical instruments and expounding on strong cultural continuity over time. The genre is tribal pertaining to a system that governs groups of people dwelling in small communities sharing common norms and social institutions and experiencing internal cohesion.
Their music is considered Earth as it gives more prominence on the afterbeat over the downbeat. Theirs is labeled World music, as the message is of universalism and peace, touching ideologies and philosophies without having to break up, destroy, erase, collapse, or, worst, indoctrinate!
So much had already been written about Kadangyan, Ifugao term for “datu sa kultura” (rich in culture), that to dig up a fresher angle would require one to sit down with the band’s main men --- Iligan City-born Jean Marquesto aka John Govinda on Muslim gong, and the son of the Gran Cordillera Bhavamitra on vocals. The rest are Jerome Resuera on drums, Rolly Resuera on bass and Rolo Manayan on percussion, proudly Sugbuanons.
With a little download session at
www.fiestamundo.com/kadangyan, shrouded by the seemingly ambiance of trance, I entered into a page of the lives of these visual artists-turned musicians. These lives they are living, they said, happen to be their music.
Their self-titled 10-tracked debut album featured a repertoire of the cultural anthropology and folk traditions of northern and southern Philippines beginning with the hunt song “Anup” to the chant “Umaga”. There’s also the intertwining of brown tapestry of the indigenous cultures of the Ifugao, the Iliganon, the Maranao and the Sugbuanon in “Iba’t-Iba”, to the hypnotic mantra in Babanam (actually O Bhavanam Kaiwalam), which means Infinite Love. Their love of environment is manifested in “Kalikasan”, and their mission to support universalism is passed on orally with the fusion of native tongues in Elal-lay (“the real spirit in this material world”) that showcases the belting out of “kayamanan at kasikatan di namo kinahanglan (wealth and fame ain’t a necessity).”
The site also offers a glimpse of an August 2005 interview with video jock John Joe via MTV Siesta and a sampler-video of the carrier track “Babanam” that featured the “lagapak” of the flip-flops over the mouth of a bamboo tube, a Kadangyan ingenuity, which espouses the concept of non-distortion of musical creations.
Come weekend, prepare to be mesmerized once again by the Kadangyan mystique. Get ready to shed tears for this infinite love of “cool-ture”, the environment, and a God perceived in kaleidoscopic shapes, forms, patterns, images.
Like a child long lost in a river of influences, brace to hug back a Mother thought to have long-perished as we all embrace back cultural roots – the tribal wisdom propagated by Kadangyan, the “godfather of local ethno-tribal music”.
Cultural preservation, per se, is not a Kadangyan goal, Bhavamitra pointed out. Rather the group is working for culture to evolve, to move with the swell of the influences without losing a grip on tribal wisdom. Sad to note that with these various influences through the ages, most Filipino people have lost touch of their cultural identity and could not even point out the true makeup of a Filipino.
This predicament has become a challenge to Kadangyan on how to make way for the thread of ethnic unity to come splendidly amid cultural multiplicity in this country.
“We have music that’s truly our own to be proud of, and we have started from here to create consciousness that would give way to the recognition of cultural roots so that we may be able to know who we really are as a Filipino and move from there to deal with our social issues and concerns,” Bhavamitra said during the interview at Robinsons where their henna tattoo exhibit opened last Wednesday and will wrap up this Sunday, mall hours, at the Fountain Area.
Kadangyan points out that there’s so much more to external wealth that’s only superficial. Beyond such is richness in knowledge, morals, culture, friends, and philosophy that a Filipino could possess if only he would take pride in recognizing his roots. “Plant without roots will not flourish,” Bhavamitra stressed.
To connect the present to its roots would also mean to trace what makes up a “lumad Sugbuanon”. The absence of a tribal community here in Cebu only shows that we had long given up our cultural identity to western influence. It has been written that traditional tribal cultures must have been dissolved as a result of the confrontation with a variety of influences. This gives weigh to the observation that the national culture of the Philippines is strongly influenced by western civilization, and that many modern Filipinos have grown up with the view of having no other cultural past other than a colonial one.
Enters Kadangyan with its promising Earth music to help reconnect the severed link.
Kadangyan with its mission of supporting universalism and peace will perform at the E-Mall to provide scoring to a fashion show this Saturday at 2pm and will perform at the Ayala parking area at 11pm. On Sinulog Day, the band will still be at the Ayala parking lot to continue with its mission of promoting cultural appreciation through the genre of their music.
John Govinda eagerly shared his excitement over the group’s upcoming show with recycled trash for percussion. On behalf of Kadangyan, he would like to thank the people who fully believed and supported them in their cause, their album and gigs, and hopes that same support will be given to the second album they are currently working on with “Huminga Ka Ng Malalim” as carrier.
Other than that, another interesting thing about Kadangyan is their work on the promotion of environmental concerns and humanism, moral and drug-free music, aside from the promotion for the appreciation for Philippine ethnic music and the revival and evolution of the vanishing Philippine culture.
“You need not indulge in drugs to set a beautiful mind free,” Bhavamitra said. “This is all about natural high!”
As Kadangyan finds acceptance in mainstream music, there still dangles the thought that what it is propagating might not be able to win everyone. For its 5-point mission to find realization, Kadangyan can only do so much. The challenge now is to allow that Kadangyan mystique to inspire us move on as a people on top of our Hispanic, Chinese, American, Hindi and Malay influences.
“The beauty of every place in the world is its own culture,” John quipped.
May this advocacy be sustained to deal with the great need for the development of national cultural identity in the Philippines as this would mean that once knowledge on cultural traditions become embedded in the nation’s psyche, our one love for the “katutubos” and their lifestyle follows in line.
I think that what we miss as a brown race is the appreciation for one beautiful tapestry of indigenous cultures and the love for this intricate weaving of tribal wisdom that should have strengthened our cultural pride.

(For your comments, reactions, suggestions, contributions, and band feature requests crank up my email addy:
pinay_mangatkatay@yahoo.com or text me at 09215323616. Thanks!)