Thursday, February 20, 2014

Here's Why I Think The 'Awong Chi Gangsa' Was A Bad Idea (With Video)

A week ago, as part of the activities for the Ullalim Festival in Kalinga, a thousand men in traditional attire and each beating on a gong swarmed the grounds of the Kalinga Sports Complex to perform what could possibly be the biggest gathering of traditional dancers ever. (Well, as far as this part of the planet is concerned.) Dubbed as the Awong Chi Gangsa (loosely translated to The Call of a Thousand Gongs), the spectacle was the highlight of the annual festival in Kalinga.

The human gong formation spelled the words KALINGA SHINES. Also joining the men are female dancers in the foreground. It's a huge spectacle, there's no question about that. However, let's take into account what beating on the gongs and dancing to the sound of it are supposed to be for. There's a reason why you don't usually see over a dozen men beating on gongs at any event.

Rhythm is a very important aspect of traditional Cordilleran music and dancing. The more gongs there are, the more difficult it will be to maintain the rhythm and the beat. Needless to say, the Awong Chi Gangsa was rather too ambitious and it bit more than it can chew.

Whoever came up with the idea of a thousand gongs being beaten at the same time weren't going for the music, they were going for the spectacle. And this is what I'm concerned about. Our traditional music and dances have become mere spectacles. We have this beautiful culture and we are making a spectacle of it. It's not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just that we are doing it the wrong way. At least, this is what I think.

A Cordilleran dance is personal in nature. To truly appreciate what IT is, you need to listen to the distinct beat and the varying rythms. You need to see the dust flying off the dancer's feet. Smell his or her sweat, even. You need to be just a few feet away.

The Awong Chi Gangsa is the complete opposite of everything that a Cordilleran dance should be. Listening to a thousand gongs beating is NOISE, nothing more. It's even worse than noise. I can't help but think of an outsider who who has never listened to a Cordilleran gong routine before. What would he or she think? She would think that the NOISE he/she was listening was the real thing when it's NOT.

Although I do understand the intentions of the people behind the creation of the Awong Chi Gangsa, I can't support such a thing. The organizers threw the true nature of Cordilleran culture to the backseat and opted instead with something the only purpose of which is to serve as tourist-bait.

In conclusion, I'm hoping that next year's Ullalim Festival will not serve yet another copy of this spectacle. Forming the words KALINGA SHINES with a thousand dancers is cool but almost everything that represents Cordilleran music and dances were lost along the way. I don't want to see it again. You don't preserve and show your identity as part of an ethnic group by making a spectacle of the very thing that defines you as an ethnic group.

Anyway, congratulations to the province of Kalinga for staging yet another Ullalim Festival. And the two groups of singers who performed before the Awong Chi Gangsa, they are good. I couldn't quite understand most of the lyrics but the distinct Kalinga voice is there.

If you haven't seen the Awong Chi Gangsa, here's a video of it courtesy of hanakanah:

And here are a few screen grabs: