Concert at the
Rondalla Music at the Park
several versions of the origin of the rondalla. One says that in the
beginning it was a group of young men who went around regularly to play
and sing in front of houses. Another says that it was a group of street
musicians begging for alms. The group, it says, was called murza or murga,
and there were also groups like it in Spain and Mexico. Still another says
that it was a musician's group playing on the stahe and that it was called
a comparza. And there's that one saying that it was a typical music group
popular among universities in Spain as the estudiantina - or tina for
short. The members of the group played mandolins, violins, guitars,
flutes, cellos, basses, tambourines, castnets, and triangles. The students
donned pirate costumes.
The terms comparza and rondalla seemed
popular in the higher strata of the musical society. They had the same
connotation, although in the Philippines, the term comparza was popularly
applied to the group only during the Spanish regime and up to the early
years of American domination, when rondalla took over. Today, any group of
stringed instruments played with the plectrum is called a rondalla.
The rondalla instruments are the bandurria, the laud, the
octavina, the guitar, and the bass-guitar (bajo de unas). The bajo de unas
has became unpopular and the orchestra's string bass, or contrabass, a
poor substitute, has taken its place. The piccolo and the percussion
instruments (bass drum, snare drum, and cymbals) have also been added. In
a larger combination, the conductor now adds the mandolin, the violin, and
the viola and makes the percussion section more colorful by putting in the
marimba, or xylophone, the tambourine, castanets, the triangle, the
tom-tom, and the like. Of all these instruments, the bandurria is the
mainstay of the group. It has the biggest number of players in the family
of instruments to which it belongs. Other instruments on the string and
percussion sections are added when the rondalla must assume a symphonic
nature. In this case, the number of players increases to 60 or more,
proportionately doubling or tripling the number of original and authentic
instruments of the group.
The guitar, brought into the Philippines
by the Spaniards, may be said to have inspired the development of the
rondalla in the country. Filipino ingenuity produced several other
instruments modelled after it - and these new instruments joined the
guitar in the group that was to develop into the rondalla.
the native talent that produced the instruments, there was the Filipino
natural inclinatrion toward music, which the Spanish friars encouraged by
giving free instruction in music and recruiting the musically-talented for
training in the playing of various musical instruments. Many musicians
later flocked voluntarily to the convents to study not only the playing of
musical instruments but the theory of music as well.
took lessons under the friars studied the instruments of their choice.
Among the instruments to choose from were the piano, the organ, the
violin, the flute, and the guitar. Those who chose the guitar as their
major study had also to learn to play allied instruments, such as the
bandurria and the laud, which were already manufactured by the Filipinos.
The popularity of the stringed instruments was such that the study of the
instruments often became a family affair. Some Filipinos not only played
the instruments but also went into the business of manufacturing them.
Some of the personalities connected with the history of the
rondalla in the Philippines: Pedro Buencamino; Victorino Carrion; Manuel
Antonio Mata; Natalio Mata; Leonardo Silos;
Rosalio Silos; Telesforo
Sucgang and Nicanor Abelardo.
Rondalla festivals and contests
began to be sponsored by the government offices and private entities. The
motive behind the sponsorship was to raise the standards of the rondalla
organisations and to develop further the talents of the performers.
The rondalla plays music ranging from the simple folk songs to the
complicated classical and romantic forms. It achieves better sonority,
however, when it plays native dance music and folk music. The professional
groups play selections from operetas, operas, and the like. Overtures are
among their masterpieces. The rondalla also plays dance crazes like the
mambo, the cha-cha, the rock 'n' roll, the calypso, and the jerk. It
provides music for radio plays. It plays during baptisms, weddings,
funerals, and fiestas. It also renders accompaniment to vocal, violin, and
other instrumental solos, and to choral ensembles. Rondalla music brings
cheer to the tired farmer and inspiration to the homemaker.
all the Filipino composers wrote for the rondalla. Some composed and
arranged music for the rondalla on request. There were composers directly
or indirectly connected with rondalla groups and some composers saw the
rondalla as a medium for expressing their musical ideas or as something
with which to create unique effects in tone color.
Some of the
composers involved with the rondalla: Toribio David; Antonio J. Molina;
Capt. Fulgencio Gragera; Bayani M. de Leon; Octavio V. Cruz; Lucino T.
Sacramento; and Jerry Dadap.
The tone quality of the rondalla is a
new cohesion of musical sound, entirely different from that of a symphony
orchestra or band. The cohesiveness lies in the fact that the instruments
in the group are all played with the plectrum, making for a certain
uniformity in the manner of playing.
The rondalla has became an
institution. It is a distinct contribution to the musical culture of the
nation. The rondalla is the most practical music group for out-of-town
engagements, for the instruments are portable. If the rondalla is popular,
it is because it is easy and simple to organise, the instruments being
The rondalla is versatile. It can tackle all
types of music, from simple folk songs to classical overtures and operatic
selections. It is not surprising that it has become an essential part of
The views and opinions
expressed on this web site are those of the authors, and do not
necessarily represent the views of The
Centre for the Arts. This webpage is last updated on the 17th June
2002. Content by NUS Rondalla.