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Palabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble

The PALABUNIYAN KULINTANG ENSEMBLE, under the artistic direction of Master Danongan “Danny” Kalanduyan, presents traditional music and dance of the Southern Philippines. Their specialty is traditional kulintang (bronze gong) ensemble music of the Maguindanaon culture of Mindanao Island.


What is kulintang?


Preserved for more than 1700 years by the indigenous, Islamized ethnolinguistic groups in Mindanao, kulintangan is a living testament to the rich cultural history of the Philippines.


Kulintangan is an ancient form of orchestra music which predates the influences of Islam, Christianity or the West in the Philippine Islands (PI). As part of the larger ‘knobbed gong-chime culture’ of Southeast Asia, kulintang music ensembles have been playing for centuries. It is said to have evolved from a simple native signaling tradition, and developed into its present form with the incorporation of knobbed gongs from Sunda.


The ensemble is made up of five instruments. The kulintang instrument consists of a row of small brass or bronze gongs horizontally laid upon a wooden rack; it is the main melody instrument and is played by striking the bosses of the gongs with two wooden beaters. Accompanying instruments include the gandang, the two headed cylindrical drum, as well as the duahan agong pair consisting of the bua (a giant sized gong) and pulakan (a narrow shaped knobbed gong).


Compositions are passed down orally from generation to generation. The beauty of the music of kulintangan lies in the collective artistry of all the members of the ensemble. As an oral tradition, one has to hear it repeatedly until it ‘gets in the blood.’ Once a musician has trained his or her ear to recognize rhythms and meldies, one can perform the required improvisation, still following the traditional formats. Of course, one sets the temp. Likewise, another directs the general theme of music. While one musician establishes the tempo, another will direct the general theme. The piece then evolves fromt, they will listen to each other carefully, augmenting and playing in counterpoint to one another. It is at this moment that the diversity of their talents and the diversity of their musical instruments come to life.


Titania Buchholdt (ADN, University of Alaska, Anchorage; B.A., University of California, Berkeley; J.D., Georgetown University) is a cultural worker who first learned kulintang music while residing at Philippine Women's University in 1976. Raised in Alaska, she has studied kulintang music in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1993. A lifetime member of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), she has presented kulintang music and indigenous Philippine culture at the biennial National FANHS conferences since 2000. She has taught kulintang music at cultural centers, cultural events, and private and public schools since 1999. She is an active volunteer with the Glide Ensemble in San Francisco, the Center for Babaylan Studies (CFBS) in Santa Rosa, and in Berkeley, California. Kindly visit her mother's memorial website at:

Palabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble

  • Danongan “Danny” Sibay Kalanduyan, Artistic Director 

  • Conrad Benedicto

  • Titania Buchholdt 

  • Alexis Canillo

  • Manny Dragon

  • Guest performer: Ron Quesada of Kulintronica 


Manny Dragon is a martial arts instructor who teaches the Villabrille-Largusa Kali System in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also an accomplished kulintang player and has been a member of the Palabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble since 1999. He is working to put the the two ancient arts together - Philippine kulintang music, and Philippine martial arts - as was done in the distant past. Since retiring from his job with the federal government, he has split his time between the delights of northern California, and his grandchildren in southern California.

Ron Quesada is a musician on a mission to make the kulintang a household name. By combining traditional kulintang playing with soulful and deep electronic dance music, Kulintronica brings Filipino culture to the global dance floor. Ron learned traditional kulintang music from Danongan "Master K" Kalanduyan and toured with him for six years before he experimented combining the ancient gong tradition with computer music, bringing the kulintang into the 21st Century. Kulintronica music is available at Pagdiwirang 2015 including single "The First Time," and the first full length album "Till The Break Of Gong," where songs blend into each other in an epic long play listening experience.

Conrad J. Benedicto (B.A., University of California, Santa Cruz) teaches English and Social Studies at Balboa High School, San Francisco, California, and has done so for the past 20 years. As Executive Director of the Wilderness Arts and Literacy Collaborative (WALC), a weekend academic program, he teaches high school students to integrate writing into their environmental education. Mr. Benedicto is a two-time recipient of funding through the Alliance for California Traditional Artists (ACTA) Master-Apprentice program, and he has studied with Master Danongan "Danny" Kalanduyan since 1998. He is an experienced kulintang music teacher, having taught high school students and the San Francisco community for more than a decade. He is a featured performer at Kommunity Kulintang, a regular event held weekly at the San Francisco I-Hotel Manilatown Center.

Alexis Canillo (B.A., University of California, Santa Cruz) is an active world traveler focused on learning about indigenous cultures and world music. His cultural heritage is Native Californian (Pomo and Coast Miwok) and Cebuano; his ancestors for untold generations lived in the central Philippines or in the area just north of San Francisco, California. Since retiring from local government health care, he has taken a lead position with Bangka Journey, which seeks to reclaim the cultural heritage of the Pacific Rim by building sea-worthy cedar canoes, with a goal of having a handmade Filipino canoe join in the Pacific Northwest's Tribal Canoe Journey. Mr. Canillo has studied with Mr. Kalanduyan since 1997, and specializes in playing the agung, a large hanging kettle gong that is commonly played in pairs by the Maguindanaon people of south-central Mindanao Island.

Danongan "Danny" Kalanduyan (B.A., Mindanao State University at Marawi City; M.A., University of Washington) was born into a musically talented family near one of the oldest cultural centers in the southern Philippines: Datu Piang (formerly known as Dulawan). While not well known today, prior to the late 1800s, the town of Dulawan rivaled Zamboanga in size and importance. Because of this, the traditional kulintang music that Mr. Kalanduyan learned on his mother's knee is an ancient style of music, said to be one of the very oldest of the many styles of traditional kulintang music played in the Philippines. Mr. Kalanduyan is currently acknowledged as the most accomplished and respected kulintang master musician in the Western hemisphere, having received multiple awards from cultural groups including the National Endowment for the Arts (1995 National Heritage Fellow), the Fund for Folk Culture, the Alliance for California Traditional Artists, and United States Artists (2009 Broad Fellow). Based in San Francisco, California since the early 1980s, Mr. Kalanduyan was named a National Heritage Fellow (1995) of the National Endowment for the Arts. He founded the San Francisco-based Palabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble to “encourage Filipino Americans to maintain contact with their cultural heritage.”

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