Philippine Independence Day: A Look Into The Art of Kundiman—Origins, Singers, Relevance Today
The romance of the Philippines is easily forgotten. Amidst the chaos of modern life, we oftentimes forget about the rich history that has made our culture what it is today. This 12 June, Tatler Philippines delves into the origins of the beloved kundiman, a traditional Filipino love song that's proven itself useful in both the art of seduction and national morale.
The term kundiman came about during the Spanish colonial period. This referred to the traditional love song that comes in a 3/4 time verse. It starts out on a minor chord before progressing to major chords, making it sound gentle at first and more dynamic as it goes on. They're often very poetic and sung in either Tagalog or Spanish; though kundiman is oftentimes known as a courtship song, some of them also speak out on the love of country and patriotism.
Though the kundiman has been credited as a colonial-era art, it actually evolved from a pre-colonial tradition known as the kumintang. The kumintang is an indigenous courtship or bridal song that shares the same sense of heart and passion.
Many people oftentimes confuse harana and kundiman. While both are somewhat similar, there are a few key differences. Stylistically, harana follows a 2/4 time verse. It also uses strictly Tagalog lyrics—any Spanish words would automatically make a song a kundiman. Interestingly enough, the singer was also one main difference between a harana and a kundiman; men would often sing the former, while most women would sing the latter.
Though OPM today may not sound like it did before (when kundiman was at the height of its popularity at the turn of the 19th century), there are still many ways in which its influence can still be seen and or felt. Music by singers such as Ben & Ben and Moira Dela Torre often encapsulate a type of nostalgic feeling that is reminiscent of the emotion a kundiman stirs. Besides, famous kundiman songs still continue to live on. There's Pilita Corrales' Dahil Sa Iyo, and Nicanor Abelardo's Mutya ng Pasig. One of the most famous contemporary ones is also Maalaala Mo Kaya? This was originally composed by Constancio de Guzman but has been performed by artists such as Gary Valenciano and Jolina Magdangal. The namesake Filipino series on ABS-CBN also uses this as its theme song.
There is no doubt about it: kundiman is still relevant today. Though it's no longer present in our mainstream OPM, its cultural importance can never be taken away or disregarded. As music continues to evolve, the kundiman will find itself at the pillar of a music industry that continues to blossom and grow. Not only that but with a resurgence of "loving local" comes the curiosity of our kababayans to look back and appreciate older forms of art. In 2019, the Philippine Educational Theatre Association (PETA) released a play entitled The Kundiman Party, which put this art form at the centre of the lives of its characters.