The Sentiments of the Kundiman

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Excerpts from "The Sentiments of Kundiman"

by Antonio J. Molina - Filipino Heritage

Often billed as the typical love song of the Tagalog region, the Kundiman is an erotic and sentimental study. The sad and haunting melody accompanying the sentimental lyrics often serves to soften a stubborn heart and to give consolation to a heart in anguish. The word "Kundiman" is thought to be the contraction of the most often used first words of the song - "Kung hindi man...". This phrase which translates as "Though I am not worthy" is the young man's expression of his humility and unworthiness.

To a young man in love, letter writing on linen paper is too slow, hence he often resorts to the guitar and serenades his beloved with his Kundiman. If he can afford it, he may even hire the town band to play the corresponding accompaniment to his serenade. The early Kundimans often told of an enamored swain who must cross towns, villages and bridges on foot to reach the feudal castle tower window of his beloved. Later versions of the Kundiman are sung on various occasions, with the lyrics often changed to suit the occasion.

The Kundiman is always written in 3/4 time, often in minor key. It is characterized by the accent on the second beat of every second bar of the melodic phrase.

The years 1880 to 1930 are considered as the Kundiman era. Masters in the style of writing the Kundiman included Francisco Baltazar(Balagtas) and Deogracias H. Rosario in Tagalog and Manuel Bernabe and Jesus Balmori in Spanish. Francisco Santiago, Juan de S. Hernandez, Francisco Buencamino, and Crispin Reyes are among the contemporary composers of the Kundiman. "Nasaan Ka Irog" by Nicanor Abelardo is considered the best example of the Kundiman.

Article contributed and edited by Amy Lottmann

Created on October 22, 1995

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