9 Musical Instruments Of Cordillera (You’ve Probably Never Heard Of)

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  • The Cordillera region is synonymous with distinctive vocal and instrumental music
  • We list the 9 most popular instruments of Cordillera 
  • Common and traditional instruments used in ceremonies and celebration

The Cordillera region is noted for its ancient culture, indigenous people, and distinctive vocal and instrumental music.

The Cordillera people’s way of existence is reflected in their vocal music. Instrumental music, on the other hand, is traditionally composed and recorded without lyrics and is only for instruments.

These traditions, however, are on the verge of extinction due to a variety of circumstances. 

Cordilleran music contains various instruments made from different materials. Therefore, Cordillera instruments each have a specific and unique sound.

It serves the same purpose as vocal music. These instruments are used during ceremonies, rites, celebrations, and social and tribal events of the Cordilleran people. 

What Are The Musical Instruments Of Cordillera?  

Cordillera is associated with a wide variety of instruments, but the main ones include:

  1. Gangsa
  2. Bungkaka
  3. Tongali
  4. Tongatong
  5. Diwdiwas
  6. Solibao
  7. Kolitong
  8. Ulibaw
  9. Paldong

Cordillera instruments are distinguished by two distinct sound qualities based on the materials used.

The first ones, flutes and percussion instruments, are made of bamboo, while the second ones, gongs, are built of metal.

1. Gangsa

Gangsa is a single smooth-surfaced hand-held gong with a narrow rim, considered an idiophone, a metal instrument. It is set to various notes based on regional and cultural preferences.

Gangsa ensembles are often composed of five to six flat gongs and are performed standing. This, however, may vary based on the availability of the instruments and the traditions of specific ethnic groups.

There is two ways of playing the gangsa: Gangsa Toppaya and Gangsa Palook. In Gangsa Toppaya, gongs are played by striking them with the palm resting on the lap. 

In Gangsa Palook, the gongs are hit or beaten with wooden mallets while held in the left hand.

Musicians (typically men) are standing or performing step dance movements while slightly bending forward with the female dancers. They are commonly heard at weddings, peace treaties, and joyous events.

2. Bungkaka

Also known as Bilbil, Bungaka is a Kalinga bamboo buzzer used by women. It is played by grasping the end of the tube with one hand and striking it with the other hand’s open palm or wrist.

By covering and uncovering the little hole bored in the bottom half of the instrument with the thumb, you can change the buzzing sound. This instrument is thought to ward off evil spirits. 

To change the tone, place the thumb over the hole on the side of the instrument at the base. The instruments follow a precise rhythm, with each instrument entering at different points, creating an interlocking pattern.

3. Tongali

Tongali, also known as Kaleleng is a long and thin internal diameter nasal flute.

Overblowing is possible due to its shape, and it allows you to play different harmonics, even with a very weak airflow from one nostril

As a result, this nose flute has a note range of two and a half octaves. The holes on the side of the bamboo tube adjust the operating length, resulting in different scales.

To boost the force of their breath through the flute, players plug the other nostril. Tongali is considered aerophones that generate sound by vibrations of the air. 

4. Tongatong

It is a bamboo drumming instrument that Kalingans use to communicate with spirits during house blessings. It’s made of bamboo sliced into different lengths and played by stamping each one against the ground. 

The instrument is pounded at a modest angle on the hard dirt or floor with one hand. To produce diversity in sound, the player’s other hand partially covers and uncovers the open end of the tube. 

When a complete set of Tongatong is performed in interloping beat and extended with tribal chanting, the audience and dancers may go into a trance.

The Kalinga people have traditionally utilized the Tongatong to converse with spirits, notably as part of healing ceremonies. It is also performed recreationally as part of an ensemble in current times.

5. Diwdiwas

Another one of the indigenous musical instruments of Cordillera is the Diwdiwas, a wind instrument that is similar to the well-known panflutes or panpipes.

It also lacks finger holes, in contrast to common aerophones such as flutes, which have finger holes or tone holes to play different pitches on the instrument.

Diwdiwas compensates for this by arranging pipes of varying lengths together. So you switch from one pipe to another to make sound with variable pitch. 

The instrument is played by blowing on the instrument’s embouchure. The embouchure has two sides, although either side can be used to play the instrument.

When playing on the shorter cut side, the instrument produces a higher pitch than when playing on the longer cut side.

The majority of Philippine bamboo panpipe varieties can be traced back to northern Luzon, where the instrument is known by several names.

The instrument is known as dad-ayu in Balangaw. It is known as Diwdiw-as in Bontoc. Dwdew-as in Tingguian. Diwdiwas in Kankanai. 

The number of pipes in these versions ranges from five to eight.

The size, length, and radius of the instruments vary depending on ethnic group, but precise measurements are not required. The aesthetics of the instrument differ from one group to the next.

6. Solibao

Solibao is a wooden tenor drum of the Cordilleran tribes. It is made of deer, pig, or lizard skin and is played by beating the drum head with both hands’ palms.

A piece of rattan is connected to the body and tightened.

The player strikes the instrument while holding it at an angle to the body. It is commonly seen in the Cordillera region ensembles with the kimbal, pinsak, kalsa, and palas and is primarily played with gongs together.

A Solibao is considered a membranophone, a musical instrument that generates sound largely through a vibrating stretched membrane.  

7. Kolitong

Kolitong is a musical instrument of the Cordillera region that produces sound by vibrating or stretching strings between two points.

Strings can be plucked, hit, and bowed. The Kolitong is a bamboo polychordal tube zither from Bontok, Kalinga, Philippines, having six parallel strings.

From the lowest to the highest, the strings are numbered one to six. Polychordal tube zithers differ by region in the Philippines. Each instrument is distinct in terms of size, shape, aesthetic design, and string count.

The body serves as the resonator for the instrument. The body can be a full or partial tube. The bamboo nodes close the two ends of the body in both circumstances.

To improve the instrument’s resonance, holes are drilled at both nodes, and lengthy cracks are drilled parallel to the strings. 

A wide range of bamboo tube zithers may be found throughout the Philippine archipelago, with each zither changing in name, size, and design based on the ethnic group with whom it is affiliated.

Men of the Kalinga group play the Kolitong as a solo instrument at night.

8. Ulibaw

In the Cordillera region, a bamboo jaw harp of Kalinga is found among the Maguindanaon and other non-Muslim tribes.

Ulibaw is also known as kubing. They are mostly constructed of bamboo, but some are also made of metal. 

The kubing is traditionally regarded as an intimate instrument, typically used in close quarters communication between family or a loved one.

Both genders can utilize the instrument, albeit females use it less frequently than males for short-distance courtship.

9. Paldong

The Paldong is a lip-valley flute used by the Kalinga people of the Philippines. It is a single-end-blown open flute. The flute’s lower-end features three finger holes. 

The bamboo instrument’s upper edge is chopped away obliquely from the rear and somewhat from the front side.

The Paldong is open on both ends and has four fingerholes: three in front and one in the rear. The lower lip of the player is pressed against the cut-away surface. 

The Paldong is used for serenades, courting women, leisure, and entertainment. Most of the melodies are improvised.

The song titles describe what the music attempts to imitate, such as birds chirping, eagle crying, wasp buzz, and so on.


What are the 3 most significant instruments in Cordillera?

The 3 most significant instruments in Cordillera region are Gangsa, Solibao and Diwdiwas

What is a Cordilleran drum called?

Solibao is the traditional Cordilleran drum, which has an important role in their ceremonies. There are two types of gangsas, which are gangsa toppaya and gangsa palook.

The rhythm and percussion instruments are highly important for the indigenous people of the Cordillera region. 

What do you call the temple instrument of Cordillera?

Although every instrument that belongs to Cordilleran culture is sacred and used in rituals or religious events by indigenous people, gangsa is the main instrument for Cordilleran sacred music. 

Wrapping Up

Cordillera has instruments that are primitive. The musical instruments we play today are deeply rooted in Cordilleran instruments.

The musical culture of Cordillera contains various traditions and styles regarding the purpose. On which occasion the music would be played, defines the instruments and the musical styles.

They had very strict and sacred methods of creating musical rituals and events. Therefore carefully preserved the ways of making and playing their traditional instruments. 

The healing and powerful properties of Cordilleran music are still alive, and their traditional music rituals are performed by natives in the mountains of Cordillera today.