|Stylistic origins||Filipino folk music|
|Cultural origins||Tagalog, also other ethnic groups in the Philippines|
|Typical instruments||Vocals • acoustic guitar|
|Derivative forms||Manila sound|
Kundiman is a genre of traditional Filipino love songs. The lyrics of the kundiman are written in Tagalog. The melody is characterized by a smooth, flowing and gentle rhythm with dramatic intervals. Kundiman was the traditional means of serenade in the Philippines.
The kundiman emerged as an art song at the end of the 19th century and by the early 20th century, its musical structure was formalised by Filipino composers such as Francisco Santiago and Nicanor Abelardo; they sought poetry for their lyrics, blending verse and music in equal parts.
The formalized art song structure of the kundiman is characterized by moderate 3/4 time, with the piece beginning in a minor key and ending in the parallel major.
Dr. Francisco Santiago (1889–1947), the "Father of the Kundiman Art Song", briefly explains in his scholarly work The Development of Music in the Philippines that the reason this Tagalog song is called kundiman is because the first stanza of this song begins thus:
In 1872, the illustrious Franciscan Tagalist and poet, Joaquín de Coria wrote Nueva Gramática Tagalog Teorica-Práctica which, besides treating grammar, also enumerates the characteristics of Tagalog language, and discusses Tagalog poetry. In this book, Coria also listed the names of the most important songs of the Tagalogs. They are:
The Spanish scholar V.M. Avella described the kundiman in his 1874 work Manual de la Conversación Familiar Español-Tagalog as the "canción indígena" (native song) of the Tagalogs and characterized its melody as "something pathetic but not without some pleasant feeling."
In his 1883 book Cuentos Filipinos, Don José Montero y Vidal recorded in Spanish the sad lyrics of what he describes as a popular kundiman of the Tagalogs:
The Spanish writer and historian Wenceslao E. Retana recorded in 1888 the lyrics of a popular kundiman in Batangas. The melancholic lyrics in the Tagalog original as recorded in Retana's book El Indio Batangueño reads:
In 1916, Dr. Juan V. Pagaspas, a doctor of philosophy from Indiana University and a much beloved educator in Tanauan, Batangas described the kundiman as "a pure Tagalog song which is usually very sentimental, so sentimental that if one should listen to it carefully watching the tenor of words and the way the voice is conducted to express the real meaning of the verses, he cannot but be conquered by a feeling of pity even so far as to shed tears."
Dr. 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."
Endowed with such power, the kundiman naturally came to serve as a vehicle for veiled patriotism in times of colonial oppression, in which the undying love for a woman symbolized the love of country and desire for freedom.
José Rizal, leader of the Propaganda movement and the Philippine national hero, has consecrated the kundiman in his social novel Noli Me Tangere. Not only this but he himself wrote a kundiman which is not of the elegiac type because its rhythm sounds the threat, the reproach and the revindication of the rights of the race.
In 1941, National Artist for Music, Antonio J. Molina introduced Jocelynang Baliwag as the Kundiman of the Revolution. The melody of "Jocelynang Baliwag" is undeniably older than the title and the lyrics. The music sheet introduced by Molina describes the melody of "Jocelynang Baliwag" as “musica del legítimo kundiman procedente del Campo insurrecto" ('authentic kundiman music in the revolutionary camps'). In 1905, Isabelo Florentino de los Reyes wrote the kundiman and other written pieces including "Ang Singsing ng Dalagang Marmol" dedicated to Josefa 'Pepita' Tiongson y Lara from Baliwag, Bulacan whom he courted. "Jocelynang Baliuag" is actually composed of four musical pieces - "Liwayway", "El Anillo de Dalaga de Marmol", "Pepita" and Jocelynang Baliuag".
The Filipino composer, conductor and scholar Felipe M. de León Jr., wrote that the kundiman is a "unique musical form expressing intense longing, caring, devotion and oneness with a beloved. Or with a child, spiritual figure, motherland, ideal or cause. According to its text, a kundiman can be romantic, patriotic, religious, mournful. Or a consolation, a lullaby. Or a protest and other types. But of whatever type, its music is soulful and lofty, conveying deep feelings of devotional love."