FFE Magazine

Filipino Icon: Kundiman

Photo from Himig

Kundiman is a genre of traditional love songs. These songs often express feelings of intense romance, yearning, and devotion. Many say that its name was derived from “kung hindi man” (if it should not be so), a common phrase found in the lyrics of earlier versions of these songs.

In the olden days, men would often sing Kundiman to their women in a traditional courtship custom called Harana. Since Kundiman is a form or serenade, its melody is often slow and smooth, with a gentle rhythm with dramatic intervals. It is also often sung with an accompanying guitar.

Kundiman can be traced all the way back to the 1800s. At this time, these songs were sung to express love and devotion to women. However, by the time of the Philippine Revolutionary movement against Spanish rule, the Kundiman took on a different role.  Since the Spaniards prohibited the use of patriotic songs, the Filipinos used the Kundiman as a substitute. Devotion to the woman in the songs represented devotion to the motherland instead.

After the revolution, western influences began to change the Kundiman. Lyrics became more poetic in form. By the early 20th century, Kundiman was uplifted to an art form pioneered by formally trained musicians like Francisco Santiago and Nicanor Abelardo. Later on, the Kundiman was also used as love songs in zarzuelas (performances that alternate between spoken and sung scenes similar to musicals) and themes for romantic movies.

Kundiman was highly popular during the 1800s to the 1930s. Today, it is loosely used to refer to any romantic ballad expressing the same sentiments of the traditional genre.

Some of the famous Kundiman are “Iyo Kailan Pa Man” (Yours for Always), with music by Angel Peña and lyrics by Levi Celerio and Mutya ng Pasig” by Nicanor Abelardo




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