There is a genre of traditional Filipino love songs which is called kundiman, a contracted term for the phrase “kung hindi man” which typically was the first line of a song’s lyrics, usually in Tagalog. The melody is characterized by a smooth, flowing, and gentle rhythm with dramatic intervals.
Kundiman started as means of serenading and expressing one’s admiration for a lass in the rural areas of the Philippines. It emerged as an art song at the end of the 19th century and by the early 20th century, its musical structure was formalized by supreme Filipino composers such as Francisco Santiago and Nicanor Abelardo. In their hands, the lyrics became musical poetry, smoothly blending verse and melody and mood in one captivating artistic creation. Later, it was popularized by the sound medium of radio and performed on live stage entertainment.
Scholars and historians believe that the kundiman originated from the Visayas. Who is the father of the Tagalog kundiman? Do you know that kundimans usually were about “pagsinta,” “pangungulila,” at “panunumpa”? Who composed them? Who were the kings and queens of the kundiman? Which songs became tremendously popular? How did it survive the test of time? Which well-loved contemporary songs of today are really kundimans?
Little do we know, it is alive in our contemporary songs for it has become embedded in our cultural DNA. This is because, as Francisco Santiago, the “Father of Filipino Musical Nationalism,” declared in 1931 that the kundiman “is the love song par excellence of the Filipinos, the plaintive song which goes deepest into their hearts, song which brings them untold emotions.”
The time has come for today’s generation to discover the kundiman through the power of digital technology.
An online show to be produced by the Cultural Center of the Philippines Office of the President (CCP-OP) aims to bring back this traditional song genre for the enjoyment and cultural enrichment of all Filipinos young and old. The show will air weekly until December 2021 via the CCP’s OP Facebook Page.
CCP President Arsenio “Nick,” J. Lizaso says that the idea behind it is to acquaint and enrich the cultural knowledge of the Filipinos, especially the young generation, while being entertained.
Viewers will be delightedly enlightened about the early beginnings of the genre as well as how it has evolved into the modern pop kundimans that are sung by today’s celebrated performing musical talents.
Each episode will feature the world-renowned Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra as well as the cream of the crop among our performing artists. Among them are the acclaimed opera singer Arthur Espiritu, accomplished soprano Nerissa De Juan, award-winning Filipino soprano-songwriter Lara Maigue, Awit awardee and top musical theater talent Gian Magdangal, prime balladeer and theater artist Harry Santos, international pianist Mariel Ilusorio, and top pop-rock band Orange & Lemons. Multi-awarded actor Cesar Montano who has embarked on a singing career is slated to perform his award-winning song “Aking Ama.”
Each will be performing a song ranging from the traditional kundiman to the more contemporary interpretations of the genre. “Nahan, Saan Ka Man Naroroon,” “Magbalik Ka Na,” “Mahal,” “Mutya ng Pasig,” “Bituing Marikit,” “Panaginip” are just some of the immortal kundimans that will seek to bridge the generational gap among lovers of great music wherever they may be.
Written and directed by award-winning and multi-talented theater, film, and television director and writer Dennis Marasigan, “Kung Hindi Man” is a musical feast that will surely delight lolo and lola and their apo sitting side by side in front of their screens!