Fancy Flutes from the Philippines | Herald of the Deccan



A trip to the Philippines is a beach lover’s delight. With over 7,000 islands to explore, it is a pleasant archipelago to visit. However, if you’re a music aficionado like me, you’ll have more reasons to celebrate your trip. Because you will see a different musical instrument in each island, which makes you marvel at their uniqueness. The natives protect their musical culture from foreign influences to preserve their ethnic identity, while enjoying world music.

The first instrument that caught my attention was the tongali, a flute that is played by passing air through the nose. Crafted from bamboo, this end-blown flute produces high notes. It was intriguing to see the player playing with one of his nostrils blocked. A four-hole flute, it is generally played by the inhabitants of the northern Philippines, especially in Kalinga of the Luzon region.

There is an interesting story surrounding this instrument. In the past, it was played in the rice fields by farmers who thought the rice grew better by listening to the tunes of the flute. Being a much sought after musical instrument by students, my local friends have told me that Tongali is one of the few nasal flutes actively played and taught at the University of the Philippines.

A tongali is called a kaleleng by the Bontok people and ungiung by the Ifugao people. This nasal flute is played in parts of the southern Philippines. And, in the Philippines’ largest province of Palawan, nasal tubes have much larger diameter tubes than those found in Luzon.

Another interesting flute that I came across was the lip flute, considered the most difficult flute to play. The mouthpiece is shaped to conform to the contour of the player’s lips, from which it takes its name. This flute is known by different names by different language groups – palendag, bangsi, falandag, pulalu and tulale are just a few.

The instrument, played in both the southern and northern Philippines, is quite appealing to look at as it is decorated with carvings blackened by combustion.

Similar flutes include the ring flute, whistle flute, and chip flute. The lip flute, also known as the notched flute, and the ring flute, are longer instruments, I have been told, generally used by professional musicians because they produce long melodies that can vary in color. ‘one octave range to another in excess.

Although I was fortunate enough to witness a musical performance that used a variety of instruments, I had difficulty identifying the octave shift. So good was the synchronization of musical instruments.

So, the next time you are in the Philippines, be sure to attend a musical performance to enjoy the many unique instruments of the beautiful island nation.


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