Thursday, February 20, 2014

Initial Thoughts On The 'Awong Chi Gangsa'

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 indigenous dancers ever. 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. Grand. A sight to behold. The whole thing is candy for the eyes, that's for sure.

However, I have my reservations with the "music" aspect of the performance. Rhythm is a very important aspect of traditional Cordilleran music and dance. The more gongs there are, the more difficult it will be to maintain the rhythm and the beat. In that regard, I thought that 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 were going for the spectacle. This isn't bad per se but the music sort off took a back seat. A Cordilleran dance is very personal by its nature. To fully experience and appreciate it, you need to listen to the distinct beat and the varying rhythms. To see the dust flying off the dancer's feet. The closer you are to the dance, the better.

The sound of a thousand men beating on a thousand gongs is closer to being noise than music. Imagine a thousand men strumming on a guitar. Or a thousand men playing a thousand pianos. 

Anyway, congratulations to the province of Kalinga for staging yet another interesting 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: