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Kulintang and the Philippine-American Performing Arts of Greater Pittsburgh

If you are Filipino and have lived in Pittsburgh (particularly coming from a state like California), you know how difficult it is to find other Filipinos in this city.


So when I discovered that there were not one, but three different Filipino organizations in Pittsburgh, I knew I had to get involved somehow.

After reaching out to the Philippine-American Performing Arts of Pittsburgh (PAPAGP), I learned that the organization owned a traditional Philippine instrument, kulintang, that no one knew how to play. 

PAPAGP offered for me to teach myself the instrument and perform in their annual recital in September 2019, Sari-sari. So I learned basic patterns from YouTube videos, improvising with them until I could play for two or three minutes fluidly.


Learning kulintang was a beautiful opportunity that completely displaced me from my previously Western-only experience of being a musician. Not only was I training different muscles, but my approach to sound and rhythm, as well as my goals, were totally different (something closer to sustaining a groove across subtle changes in timbre than detailed, compelling phrasing).

I've barely scratched the surface, and so I hope to learn more about playing this instrument and its history.

For the recital, in addition to performing kulintang, I danced folk dances and arranged a medley of traditional flute music.

Video by the Philippine-American Performing Arts of Greater Pittsburgh. (If you are familiar with kulintang, you'll notice that the gongs were accidentally placed in reverse order! I was startled as you are when I walked onstage, but managed to adapt.)

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