Music of the Philippines

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Music of the Philippines (Filipino: Himig ng Pilipinas: Spanish: Música de Filipinas) include musical performance arts in the Philippines or by Filipinos composed in various genres and styles. The compositions are often a mixture of different Asian, Spanish, Latin American, American, and indigenous influences. Philippine folk music has a strong Spanish and Latino influence as the country was under the Spanish crown for over 300 years.

Indigenous music[edit]

Notable folk song composers include the National Artist for Music Lucio San Pedro, who composed the famous "Sa Ugoy ng Duyan" that recalls the loving touch of a mother to her child. Another composer, the National Artist for Music Antonino Buenaventura, is notable for notating folk songs and dances. Buenaventura composed the music for "Pandanggo sa Ilaw".

Gong music[edit]

Philippine gong music can be divided into two types: the flat gong commonly known as gangsà and played by the groups in the Cordillera region and the bossed gongs played among the Islam and animist groups in the southern Philippines.

Kulintang refers to a racked gong chime instrument played in the southern islands of the Philippines, along with its varied accompanying ensembles. Different groups have different ways of playing the kulintang. Two major groups seem to stand out in kulintang music. These are the Maguindanaon and the Maranaw. The kulintang instrument itself could be traced to either the introduction of gongs to Southeast Asia from China before the 10th century CE or more likely, to the introduction of bossed gong chimes from Java in the 15th century. Nevertheless, the kulintang ensemble is the most advanced form of ensemble music with origins in the pre-colonial epoch of Philippine history and is a living tradition in southern parts of the country.

The tradition of kulintang ensemble music itself is regional, predating the establishment of the present-day Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. It transcends religion, with Buddhist, Hindu Animist, and Christian ethnic groups in Borneo, Flores, and Sulawesi playing kulintangan; and Muslim groups playing the same genre of music in Mindanao, Palawan, and the Sulu archipelago. It is distantly related to thegamelan ensembles of Java and Bali, as well as the musical forms in Mainland Southeast Asia, mainly because of the usage for the same bossed racked gong chimes that play both melodic and percussive.

Hispanic-influenced music[edit]

Spain ruled the Philippines for 333 years, and Hispanic influence in Filipino culture is ubiquitous. This influence can be easily seen in folk and traditional music, especially in the Tagalog and Visayan regions, where Spanish influence was the greatest.

Rondalla music[edit]

The Rondalla is a traditional string orchestra comprising two-string, mandolin-type instruments such as the banduria and laud; a guitar; a double bass; and often a drum for percussion. The rondalla has its origins in the Iberian rondalla tradition and is used to accompany several Hispanic-influenced song forms and dances.

Harana and Kundiman[edit]

The Harana and Kundiman are popular lyrical songs dating back to the Spanish period and are customarily used in courtship rituals. The Harana is rooted in the Mexican-Spanish from Spain, traditional and based on the rhythmic patterns of the habanera. The Kundiman, meanwhile, has pre-colonial origins from the Tagalophone parts of the country, uses a triple meter rhythm, and is characterized by beginning in a minor key and shifting to a major one in the second half. But make no mistake, harana and kundiman are stylistically different. Whereas harana is in 2/4/ time, kundiman is in 3/4. The formula is verse 1 on minor key (e.g. C Minor) followed by verse 2 on parallel major key (C Major) midway through.

In the 1920s, Harana and Kundiman became more mainstream after performers such as Atang de la Rama, Jovita Fuentes, Conching Rosal, Sylvia La Torre, and Ruben Tagalog introduced them to a wider audience.


The Tinikling is a dance from Leyte which involves two individual performers hitting bamboo poles, using them to beat, tap, and slide on the ground, in coordination with one or more dancers who step over and in between poles. It is one of the iconic Philippine dances and is similar to other Southeast Asian bamboo dances.


The Cariñosa (meaning "loving" or "affectionate one") is the national dance and is part of the María Clara suite of Philippine folk dances. It is notable for the use of a fan and handkerchief in amplifying romantic gestures expressed by the couple performing the traditional courtship dance. The dance is similar to the Mexican Jarabe Tapatío, and is related to the Kuracha, Amenudo, and Kuradang dances in the Visayas and Mindanao Area.

Popular music [edit]

Original Pilipino Music, now more commonly termed OPM, originally referred only to a genre of Philippine pop songs, mostly ballads, that became popular after the collapse of its predecessor, the Manila sound of the late 1970s. Currently, the term "OPM" has been a catch-all description for all popular music composed and performed by Filipinos,[1] originating from the Philippines.

Before the 1970s emergence of OPM, from the 1950s through the 1960s, popular music in the Philippines was a varied showcase for songs in the vernacular and movie themes interpreted by recording artists such Pilita Corrales, Sylvia La Torre, Diomedes Maturan, Ric Manrique Jr., Ruben Tagalog, Helen Gamboa, Vilma Santos, Edgar Mortiz, Carmen Camacho, among many others.

In the 1970s, popular artists were Nora Aunor, Tirso Cruz III, Eddie Peregrina, Ramon Jacinto, Victor Wood, and Asin. The more major commercial Philippine pop music artists were Claire dela Fuente, Didith Reyes, Rico Puno, Ryan Cayabyab, Basil Valdez, Celeste Legaspi, Hajji Alejandro, Rey Valera, Freddie Aguilar, Imelda Papin, Eva Eugenio, Marco Sison, Nonoy Zuñiga, Leah Navarro, Cinderella, Tillie Moreno, Ric Segreto, Janet Basco, Boyfriends, Hotdog, VST & Co., and many others.

Between the 1980s and the 1990s, OPM was led by artists such as Regine Velasquez, Pops Fernandez, APO Hiking Society, Kuh Ledesma, Jose Mari Chan, Dingdong Avanzado, Tito Mina, Rodel Naval, Janno Gibbs, Ogie Alcasid, Joey Albert, Lilet, Martin Nievera, Manilyn Reynes, Lea Salonga, Kristina Paner, Rachel Alejandro, Raymond Lauchengco, JoAnne Lorenzana, Francis Magalona, Gino Padilla, Sharon Cuneta, Sheryl Cruz, Keno, Lou Bonnevie, Zsa Zsa Padilla and Gary Valenciano, among many others.

In the 1990s, famous artists included Eraserheads, Rockstar (Arkasia), Siakol, the Company, April Boy Regino, Smokey Mountain, Rivermaya, Jaya, Agot Isidro, Dessa, Isabel Granada, Vina Morales, Donna Cruz, Neocolours, Jolina Magdangal, Jessa Zaragoza, Ariel Rivera, South Border, Carol Banawa, Yano, Teeth, Introvoys, AfterImage, Side A, Andrew E., Lani Misalucha, Ella May Saison, Joey Ayala, Parokya ni Edgar, Viktoria, April Boys, Color It Red, Roselle Nava and Blakdyak, among many others.

In the 2000s and the 2010s, leading OPM artists include Sarah Geronimo, Julie Anne San Jose, Angeline Quinto, Aicelle Santos, Gerald Santos, Jonalyn Viray, Rachelle Ann Go, Christian Bautista, Kitchie Nadal, Yasmien Kurdi, Moonstar88, Itchyworms, Rocksteddy, Aiza Seguerra, Toni Gonzaga, Richard Poon, Nina, Yeng Constantino, Piolo Pascual, KZ Tandingan, Nyoy Volante, Daniel Padilla, Hale, Spongecola, Mark Bautista, Jennylyn Mercado, Jake Zyrus, Jed Madela, Erik Santos, Parokya Ni Edgar, Ben&Ben, Kamikazee, TNT Boys, Moira Dela Torre, James Reid, Sheryn Regis, Gloc-9, MNL48, and SB19 among many others.

Underground bands emerged; along with them were their perceptions of idealism and self-expression. The famous lyricist of Circle's End, Geno Georsua landed on top as the melodramatic expressionist. Bassist Greg Soliman of UST Pendong grasps the title as the best bassist of underground music.

From its origin, OPM is centered in Manila, where Tagalog and English are the dominant languages. Other ethnolinguistic groups such as Visayan, Bikol, and Kapampangan, who are making music in their native languages, rarely break into the popular Filipino local music scene. But there are unusual cases which include the Bisrock (Visayan rock music) song "Charing" by 1017, a Davao-based band, and "Porque" by Maldita, a Zamboanga-based Chavacano band. A lot of compositions of Bisrock are contributed by bands such as Phylum and Missing Filemon. However, a band called Groupies' Panciteria that hails from Tacloban, a Winaray-speaking city, launched a free downloadable mp3 album on in 2009 containing 13 Tagalog songs and only one very short song in the Cebuano language.[2]

Following suit are the Kapampangans. The debut music video of "Oras" ("Time") by Tarlac City-based Kapampangan band Mernuts penetrated MTV Pilipinas, making it the first-ever Kapampangan music video to join the ranks of other mainstream Filipino music videos. RocKapampangan: The Birth of Philippine Kapampangan Rock,[3] an album of modern remakes of Kapampangan folk extemporaneous songs by various Kapampangan bands was also launched in February 2008, and was regularly played via Kapampangan cable channel Infomax-8 and via one of Central Luzon's biggest FM radio stations, GVFM 99.1. Inspired by what the locals call "Kapampangan cultural renaissance", Angeles City-born balladeer Ronnie Liang rendered Kapampangan translations of some of his popular songs such as "Ayli" (Kapampangan version of "Ngiti"), and "Ika" (Kapampangan version of "Ikaw") for his repackaged album.

Despite the growing clamor for non-Tagalog and non-English music and the greater representation of other Philippine languages, the local Philippine music industry, which is centered in Manila, is unforthcoming in venturing investments to other locations. Some of their major reasons include the language barrier, small market size, and socio-cultural emphasis away from regionalism in the Philippines. An example would be the songs of the Ilokano group The Bukros Singers,[4] who swept through Ilocandia in the 1990s and became a precursor for other Ilokano performers into the 2000s, but rarely broke through other music markets in the Philippines.

The country's first songwriting competition, Metro Manila Popular Music Festival, was first established in 1977 and launched by the Popular Music Foundation of the Philippines. The event featured many prominent singers and songwriters during its time. It was held annually for seven years until its discontinuation in 1985. It was later revived in 1996 as the "Metropop Song Festival", running for another seven years before being discontinued in 2003 due to the decline of its popularity.[5] Another variation of the festival had been established called the Himig Handog contest which began in 2000, operated by ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiary music label Star Music (formerly Star Records).

Five competitions have been held so far starting in 2000 to 2003 and were eventually revived in 2013. Unlike its predecessors, the contest has different themes which reflect the type of song entries chosen as finalists each year.[6][7] In 2012, the Philippine Popular Music Festival was launched and is said to be inspired by the first songwriting competition.[8] Another songwriting competition for OPM music being held annually is the Bombo Music Festival, being conducted by the radio network Bombo Radyo, first conceived in 1985.[9]

Pop music[edit]

From the 1990s to the 2000s, OPM pop was regularly showcased in the live band scene. Groups such as Neocolours, Side A, Introvoys, the Teeth, Yano, True Faith, Passage, and Freestyle popularized songs that clearly reflect the sentimental character of OPM pop of this era.

From 2010 to 2020, Philippine pop music or P-pop went through a huge metamorphosis in its increased quality, budget, investment, and variety, matching the country's rapid economic growth, and an accompanying social and cultural resurgence of its Asian identity. This was heard by heavy influence from K-pop and J-pop, growth in Asian style ballads, idol groups, and EDM music, and less reliance on Western genres, mirroring the Korean wave and similar Japanese wave popularity among millennial Filipinos and mainstream culture. Famous P-pop music artists who had defined the growth of this now mainstream genre include 4th Impact, Sarah Geronimo, SB19, 1st.One, KZ Tandingan, Erik Santos, Yeng Constantino, MNL48, Regine Velasquez, BGYO, BINI, Alamat, Press Hit Play, and P-Pop Generation.

Choir music[edit]

Choral music has become an important part of Philippine music culture. It dates back to the choirs of churches that sing during mass in the old days. In the middle of the 20th century, performing choral groups started to emerge and increasingly become popular as time goes by. Aside from churches, universities, schools, and local communities have established choirs.

Philippine choral arrangers like Robert Delgado, Fidel Calalang, Lucio San Pedro, Eudenice Palaruan among others have included in the vast repertoires of choirs beautiful arrangements of OPM, folk songs, patriotic songs, novelty songs, love songs, and even foreign songs.

The Philippine Madrigal Singers (originally the University of the Philippines Madrigal Singers) is one of the most famous choral groups not only in the Philippines, but also worldwide. Winning international competitions, the group became one of the most formidable choral groups in the country. Other award-winning choral groups are the University of Santo Tomas Singers, the Philippine Meistersingers (Former Adventist University of the Philippines Ambassadors), the U.P. Singing Ambassadors, and the U.P. Concert Chorus, among others.

Rock music[edit]

The United States occupied the Islands from 1898 until 1946 and introduced American blues, folk music, R&B and rock & roll which became popular.  In the late 1950s, native performers adapted Tagalog lyrics for North American rock & roll music, resulting in the seminal origins of Philippine rock. The most notable achievement in Philippine rock of the 1960s was the hit song "Killer Joe", which propelled the group, Rocky Fellers, reaching number 16 on the American radio charts.


Up until the 1970s, popular rock musicians began writing and producing in English. In the early 1970s, rock music began to be written using local languages, with bands like the Juan Dela Cruz Band being among the first popular bands to do so. Mixing Tagalog and English lyrics were also popularly used within the same song, in songs like "Ang Miss Universe Ng Buhay Ko ("The Miss Universe of My Life") by the band Hotdog which helped innovate the Manila sound. The mixing of the two languages (known as "Taglish"), while common in casual speech in the Philippines[citation needed], was seen as a bold move[citation needed], but the success of Taglish in popular songs, including Sharon Cuneta's first hit, "Mr. DJ", broke the barrier.

Philippine rock musicians added folk music and other influences, helping to lead to the 1978 breakthrough success of Freddie Aguilar. Aguilar's "Anak" ("Child"), his debut recording, is the most commercially successful Filipino recording, and was popular throughout Asia and Europe, and has been translated into numerous languages by singers worldwide. Asin also broke into the music scene in the same period and was popular. Other similar artists included Sampaguita, Coritha, Florante, Mike Hanopol, and Heber Bartolome.


Folk rock became the Philippine protest music of the 1980s, and Aguilar's "Bayan Ko" ("My Country") became popular as an anthem during the 1986 EDSA Revolution. At the same time, a counterculture rejected the rise of politically focused lyrics. In Manila, a punk rock scene developed, led by bands like Betrayed, the Jerks, Urban Bandits, and Contras. The influence of new wave was also felt during these years, spearheaded by the Dawn.


The 1990s saw the emergence of Eraserheads, considered by many Philippine nationals as the number one group in the Philippine recording scene. In the wake of their success was the emergence of a string of influential Filipino rock bands such as True Faith, Yano, Siakol, Teeth, Parokya ni Edgar and Rivermaya, each of which mixes the influence of a variety of rock sub-genres into their style.[10][circular reference] A 1990s death metal (Skychurch, Genital Grinder, Death After Birth, Disinterment, Kabaong ni Kamatayan, Mass Carnage, Apostate, Murdom, Exhumed, Sacrilege, Rumblebelly, Disinterment[11] (Death Metal Philippines), Dethrone, Aroma) emergence had bands as prominent fixtures at Club Dredd of the "tunog kalye" era.


Filipino rock in the 2000s had also developed to include some Punk Rock, Hardcore, Emo, hard rock, heavy metal, and alternative rock such as Razorback, Wolfgang, Greyhoundz, Slapshock, Queso, Typecast, Chicosci, Bamboo, Kamikazee, Franco, Urbandub, and the progressive bands Paradigm, Fuseboxx, Earthmover, and Eternal Now.


The 2010s saw the rise of various unsigned acts of different sub-genres from another format of rock, independent music which included indie acts such as Autotelic, Snakefight, Jejaview, Bullet Dumas, Ang Bandang Shirley, Cheats, BP Valenzuela, She's Only Sixteen, The Ransom Collective, Oh, Flamingo!, Sud, Jensen and The Flips, MilesExperience, Tom's Story, Lions & Acrobats, Ben&Ben, December Avenue, IV of Spades, CHNDTR, Clara Benin, Reese Lansangan, Unique Salonga, This Band, I Belong to the Zoo, Brisom, Lola Amour, Luncheon, Munimuni, Over October, and Leanne and Naara, among others.

Rock festivals have emerged through recent years and it has been an annual event for some of the rock/metal enthusiasts. One big event is the Pulp Summer Slam where local rock/metal bands and international bands such as Lamb of God, Anthrax, Death Angel, and Arch Enemy have performed.[12] Another all-local annual event, Rakrakan Festival, where over 100 Pinoy rock acts are performed.

The neo-traditional genre in Filipino music is also gaining popularity, with artists such as Joey Ayala, Grace Nono, Bayang Barrios, Kadangyan and Pinikpikan reaping relative commercial success while utilizing the traditional musical sounds of many indigenous tribes in the Philippines.

Hip hop[edit]

Filipino hip-hop is hip hop music performed by musicians of Filipino descent, both in the Philippines and overseas, especially by Filipino-Americans. The Philippines is known to have had the first hip-hop music scene in Asia since the early 1980s, largely due to the country's historical connections with the United States where hip-hop originated. Rap music released in the Philippines has appeared in different languages such as Tagalog, Chavacano, Cebuano, Ilocano, and English. In the Philippines, Francis M, Andrew E., and Gloc-9 are cited as the most influential rappers in the country, being the first to release mainstream rap albums. This was later followed in the late 2000s (and since the 2010s) by a new breed of hip hop/rap/trap artists like Abra, Bassilyo, Dello, Loonie, Shehyee, Shanti Dope, Al James, Because, and Skusta Clee, as well as prominent groups like Ex Battalion, ALLMO$T, and O.C. Dawgs.

Other genres[edit]

Many other genres are growing in popularity in the Philippine music scene, including several alternative groups and tribal bands promoting cultural awareness of the Philippine Islands.

Pinoy jazz [edit]

Likewise, jazz experienced a resurgence in popularity. The initial impetus was provided by W.D.O.U.J.I. (Witch Doctors of Underground Jazz Improvisation)[13][14][15] with their award-winning independent release Ground Zero[16] distributed by the now-defunct N/A Records in 2002, and Buhay, led by Tots Tolentino,[17] in the year before that. This opened up the way for later excursions, most notable of which is the Filipino jazz supergroup Johnny Alegre Affinity,[18] releasing its eponymous debut album in 2005 under London-based Candid Records.[19][20] The Kapampangan singer Mon David [pam][21] likewise reinvented his persona as a premier jazz vocalist, winning the London International Jazz Competition for Vocalists in 2006.[22] Among the female jazz singer-songwriters, the British-Filipino Mishka Adams became very popular as a flagship artist of Candid Records, releasing two well-received albums.[23][24]

Other notable names were guitarist Bob Aves[25] with his ethno-infused jazz,[26][27][28] and Akasha, led by Mar Dizon, which anchored Monday-night jazz jams during the early 2000s in Freedom Bar, a venue located in Cubao, Quezon City. The spoken-word fusion ensemble Radioactive Sago Project also displayed very strong jazz underpinnings. In recent years, after-hours jazz jams in a venue called Tago Jazz Cafe,[29] also located in Cubao, became an incubator for groups like Swingster Syndicate[30] and Camerata Jazz.[citation needed]

Novelty pop[edit]

Pinoy novelty songs became popular in the 1970s up to the early 1980s. Popular novelty singers around this time were Reycard Duet, Fred Panopio and Yoyoy Villame. Novelty pop acts in the 1990s and 2000s included Michael V., Bayani Agbayani, Grin Department, Masculados, Vhong Navarro, Sexbomb Girls, Joey de Leon ("Itaktak Mo"), Viva Hot Babes, and Willie Revillame.

Latin genres[edit]

The prevalence of Bossa nova and Latino music in Philippine popular music had been very evident, in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and onwards. Performers such Annie Brazil and her son Richard Merk, the Katindig family of musicians (Eddie Katindig, Romy Katindig, Boy Katindig, Tateng Katindig, Henry Katindig), Bo Razon, Eileen Sison, and more recently, Sitti, achieved popularity and commercial success with their infectious Latin-derived performances and recordings.


While there has long been a flourishing underground reggae and ska scene, particularly in Baguio, it is only recently that the genres have been accepted in the mainstream. Acts like Brownman Revival, Put3ska, Roots Revival of Cebu, and The Brown Outfit Bureau of Tarlac City have been instrumental in popularizing what is called "Island Riddims". There is also a burgeoning mod revival, spearheaded by Juan Pablo Dream and a large indie-pop scene.

Electronic music[edit]

Electronic music began in the mid-1990s in the Manila underground spearheaded by luminaries like Manolet Dario of the Consortium. In 2010, local artists started to create electropop songs themselves. As of now, most electronic songs are used in commercials. The only radio station so far that purely plays electronic music is 107.9 U Radio. The 2010s also began the rise of budots from Davao City, which is regarded as the first "Filipino-fied" EDM, as well as high-profile nightclub venues such as The Palace Manila (BGC, Taguig) and Cove Manila (Okada Manila in Parañaque). It also gained the popularity of indie electronic producers, DJs, and artists with the likes of Somedaydream, Borhuh, Kidwolf, Zelijah, John Sedano, MVRXX, MRKIII, Bojam, CRWN, NINNO, Kidthrones, and Jess Connelly.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Santos, Tomas U. "Now and then: Is OPM going extinct?". Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  2. ^ Groupies' Panciteria, retrieved August 18, 2016
  3. ^ RocKapampangan: [the birth of Philippine Kapampangan rock, Angeles City, Philippines: Holy Angel University Center for Kapampangan Studies, 2008, OCLC 319585853
  4. ^ "Alpha Music Corporation".
  5. ^ John Shepherd, ed. (2005). Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World (1. publ. ed.). London: Continuum. p. 210. ISBN 978-0-8264-7436-0. This annual songwriting competition was geared toward discovering new Filipino talent in popular music, and produced a rich repertoire of Filipino music ...
  6. ^ "Himig Handog". Himig Handog. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  7. ^ Policarpio, Allan (February 25, 2013). "Director-composer wins Himig Handog". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  8. ^ "Philpop: About Us". Philpop MusicFest Foundation. Retrieved June 25, 2013.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Pinoy rock
  11. ^ "Disinterment: Manila Death Metal Band". Spotify Technology S.A., headquartered in Luxembourg. Retrieved 7 October 2008.
  12. ^ Santos, Kevin L. "Metal bliss". Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  13. ^ Arcellana, Juaniyo. "Witchdoctors of Pinoy Jazz".
  14. ^ "Philippine eLib Portal". June 16, 2008.
  15. ^ "WDOUJI music, videos, stats, and photos".
  16. ^ "Ground Zero — WDOUJI".
  17. ^ "Tots Tolentino". Retrieved May 18, 2021.
  18. ^ "Johnny Alegre".
  19. ^ Gil, Baby A. "Smooth jazz from Affinity".
  20. ^ "Johnny Alegre - Jazzhound".
  21. ^ "Mon David".
  22. ^ Isorena-Arcega, Susan. "Mon David: Master Jazzman".
  23. ^ Ayson, Jim. "Mishka Adams: Jazz for you".
  24. ^ Ropeta, Patrick Camara. "British Filipino jazz artist relaunches monthly show".
  25. ^ "Bob Aves".
  26. ^ "A Musical Melting Pot: The Bob Aves Jazz Group".
  27. ^ Tina, Arceo-Dumlao. "Jazz musician, producer Bob Aves, 64".
  28. ^ Chua, Zsarlene B. "Jazz musician, producer Bob Aves, 64".
  29. ^ Sebastian, Vic. "Rediscovering Jazz: Tago Jazz Cafe".
  30. ^ Ranada, Pia. "Fete dela Musique 2013: Music mecca". Rappler.


  • Clewley, John. "Pinoy Rockers". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 213–217. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0.

Further reading[edit]

  • Barlow, Sanna Morrison. 1952. Mountain Singing: the Story of Gospel Recordings in the Philippines. Hong Kong: Alliance Press.

External links[edit]