Saturday, January 14, 2012

Another Cebu Musician

You probably have read my stories and watched my videos on those Cebu harpists. Now here is another one I encountered during my walk on the evening before Sinulog 2012. Yep, I went walking to see how might the Cebu Sports Center be, that eve before the grand parade. That as I gave time for friends to arrive and gather at our designated dinner place.

I already know some Visayan songs, yet I did not much get what this old man was playing. I just knew it was also a Visayan song. I listened in and watched him bang those strips to create his music. The left hand even has two sticks! Hmm, while I did toss a coin into that small box on the left end of his instrument, I think I helped him a bit since my watching (and taking a video clip) attracted other passers by who in turn tossed coins to the box. His wife, equally old was just beside smiling at everyone and greeting them “Pit Senyor” or thanking them for the coins.

I have seen a lot of beggars do music for alms, some even singing… but this one attracted me for the instrument in use. It’s a xylophone for easier reference. But on closer look, the keys are made of bamboo so it is some kind of a ‘native marimba’. I have seen many such kind of instrument being used by the remaining tribes or cultural minorities in the Mindanao areas all the way to Indonesia and Malaysia even as far as Vietnamn and Cambodia. I know those are called “gabbang”. First time I saw though that it was being used by a beggar on the streets. Hey, similar pieces are even in many museums now!

I asked who made the instrument and the wife pointed to the husband who is blind on both eyes. Husband added that the wife took charge of nailing the bamboo strips to the base as it would be hard for him to do being blind. I asked how he learned to play this instrument and he said he just kept practicing and testing every tune out on the keys until he could play a full song. This old man even allowed me to take a try and so I did! Tapping all the strips, I got a real do-re-mi on the last octave (smaller strips) but as I went to the bigger keys, they were not perfect “do-re-mi”s. I did not have to ask why and the old man said he needed the sharps and flats for playing Visayan songs. Hmm, I think I’d believe him on that!

I wish to see more (normal) people playing this kind of instrument. It has a nice crisp though ethereal sound reminiscent of the mountains and the music of our forebears.


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