Kundiman is a genre of traditional Filipino love songs. The lyrics of the kundiman are written in Tagalog. The melody is characterized by a smooth, flowing and gentle rhythm with dramatic intervals. Kundiman was the traditional means of serenade in the Philippines.
The kundiman emerged as an art song at the end of the 19th century and by the early 20th century, its musical structure was formalised by Filipino composers such as Francisco Santiago and Nicanor Abelardo; they sought poetry for their lyrics, blending verse and music in equal parts.
Origins and history
Scholars and historians believed that the kundiman originated from the Visayas. Dr. Francisco Santiago (1889–1947), the "Father of the Kundiman Art Song", briefly explains in his scholarly work The Development of Music in the Philippines that the reason this Tagalog song is called kundiman is because the first stanza of this song begins thus:
- "Cundiman, cundiman
- Cundiman si jele"
- "Hele ng Cundiman
- Hele ng Cundangan"
In 1872, the illustrious Franciscan Tagalist and poet, Joaquín de Coria wrote Nueva Gramática Tagalog Teorica-Práctica which, besides treating grammar, also enumerates the characteristics of Tagalog language, and discusses Tagalog poetry. In this book, Coria also listed the names of the most important songs of the Tagalogs. They are:
- Diona and Talingdao (songs in the homes and in ordinary work)
- Indolanin and Dolayin (songs in the streets)
- Soliranin (boat songs)
- Haloharin, Oyayi, and Hele-hele (lullabies)
- Sambotani (songs for festivals and social reunions)
- Tagumpay (songs to commemorate victory in war)
- Hiliraw and Balicungcung (sweet songs)
- Dopayinin (similar to Tagumpay; more serious and sincere)
- Kumintang (love song; also a pantomimic "dance song" - Dr. F. Santiago)
- Cundiman (love song; used especially in serenading)
The Spanish scholar V.M. Avella described the kundiman in his 1874 work Manual de la Conversación Familiar Español-Tagalog as the "canción indígena" (native song) of the Tagalogs and characterized its melody as "something pathetic but not without some pleasant feeling."
- Cundiman, cundiman
- Cundiman si jele
- Mas que esta dormido
- Ta sona con ele.
- Desde que vos cara
- Yo ta mira
- Aquel morisqueta
- No puede traga.
- Cundiman, cundiman
- Cundiman, cundaman
- Mamatay, me muero
- Sacamay mo lamang.
The Spanish writer and historian Wenceslao E. Retana recorded in 1888 the lyrics of a popular kundiman in Batangas. The melancholic lyrics in the Tagalog original as recorded in Retana's book El Indio Batangueño reads:
- Aco man ay imbi, hamac isang ducha
- Nasinta sa iyo, naghahasic nga
- Di ba guin si David ng una ay aba
- Pastor ay nag harin ng datnan ng awa?
- Hele ng Cundiman
- Hele ng Cundangan
- Mundo palibhasai, talinghaga lamang
- Ang mababa ngayon bucas ay marangal.
- Sa lahat ng hirap sintang dala-dala
- Salang cumilos isip coi icao na
- Acoi mananaog na hahanapin quita
- Hele ng Cundiman
- Hele ng Cundangan
- Cundangan nga icao ang may casalanan
- Tataghoy-taghoy ni 'di mo pa paquingan.
In 1916, Dr. Juan V. Pagaspas, a doctor of philosophy from Indiana University and a much beloved educator in Tanauan, Batangas described the kundiman as "a pure Tagalog song which is usually very sentimental, so sentimental that if one should listen to it carefully watching the tenor of words and the way the voice is conducted to express the real meaning of the verses, he cannot but be conquered by a feeling of pity even so far as to shed tears."
Dr. Francisco Santiago, the "Father of Filipino Musical Nationalism", declared in 1931 that the kundiman "is the love song par excellence of the Filipinos, the plaintive song which goes deepest into their hearts, song which brings them untold emotions."
Endowed with such power, the kundiman naturally came to serve as a vehicle for veiled patriotism in times of colonial oppression, in which the undying love for a woman symbolized the love of country and desire for freedom.
José Rizal, leader of the Propaganda movement and the Philippine national hero, has consecrated the kundiman in his social novel Noli Me Tangere. Not only this but he himself wrote a kundiman which is not of the elegiac type because its rhythm sounds the threat, the reproach and the revindication of the rights of the race.
- Kundiman ni Rizal
- Tunay ngayong umid yaring diwa at puso
- Ang bayan palibhasa'y api, lupig at sumuko.
- Sa kapabayaan ng nagturong puno
- Paglaya'y nawala, ligaya'y naglaho!
- Datapuwa't muling sisikat ang maligayang araw
- Pilit na maliligtas ang inaping bayan
- Magbabalik man din at laging sisikat
- Ang ngalang Tagalog sa sandaigdigan!
- Ibubuhos namin ang dugo'y ibabaha
- Ng matubos lamang ang sa Amang Lupa!
- Hanggang 'di sumapit ang panahong tadhana
- Sinta ay tatahimik, tutuloy ang nasa!
- Sinta ay tatahimik at tutuloy ang nasa!
- O Bayan kong mahal
- Sintang Filipinas!
In 1941, National Artist for Music, Antonio J. Molina introduced Jocelynang Baliwag to the academe as the Kundiman of the Revolution. The melody of "Jocelynang Baliwag" is undeniably older than the title and the lyrics. The music sheet introduced by Molina describes the melody of "Jocelynang Baliwag" as “musica del legítimo kundiman procedente del Campo insurrecto" ('authentic kundiman music in the revolutionary camps'). In 1905, Isabelo Florentino de los Reyes wrote the kundiman and other written pieces including "Ang Singsing ng Dalagang Marmol" dedicated to Josefa 'Pepita' Tiongson y Lara from Baliwag, Bulacan whom he courted. "Jocelynang Baliuag" is actually composed of four musical pieces - "Liwayway", "El Anillo de Dalaga de Marmol", "Pepita" and Jocelynang Baliuag". 
- Jocelynang Baliwag
- P- Pinopoong sinta, niring calolowa
- Nacacawangis mo'y mabangong sampaga
- Dalisay sa linis, dakila sa ganda
- Matimyas na bucal ng madlang ligaya.
- E- Edeng maligayang kinaloclocan
- Ng galak at tuwang catamis-tamisan
- Hada cang maningning na ang matunghaya'y
- Masamyong bulaclac agad sumisical.
- P- Pinananaligan niring aking dibdib
- Na sa paglalayag sa dagat ng sakit
- 'Di mo babayaang malunod sa hapis
- Sa pagcabagabag co'y icaw ang sasagip.
- I- Icaw na nga ang lunas sa aking dalita
- Tanging magliligtas sa niluha-luha
- Bunying binibining sinucuang cusa
- Niring catawohang nangayupapa.
- T- Tanggapin ang aking wagas na pag-ibig
- Marubdob na ningas na taglay sa dibdib
- Sa buhay na ito'y walang nilalangit
- Cung hindi ikaw lamang, ilaw niring isip.
- A- At sa cawacasa'y ang kapamanhikan
- Tumbasan mo yaring pagsintang dalisay
- Alalahanin mong cung 'di cahabagan
- Iyong lalasunin ang aba cong buhay.
The Filipino composer, conductor and scholar Felipe M. de León Jr., wrote that the kundiman is a "unique musical form expressing intense longing, caring, devotion and oneness with a beloved. Or with a child, spiritual figure, motherland, ideal or cause. According to its text, a kundiman can be romantic, patriotic, religious, mournful. Or a consolation, a lullaby. Or a protest and other types. But of whatever type, its music is soulful and lofty, conveying deep feelings of devotional love."
Notable kundiman singers
- Ruben Tagalog (1922-1989) (dubbed as the "King of Kundiman")
- Ric Manrique Jr. (1941-2017)
- Larry Miranda
- Danilo Santos
- Cenon Lagman
- Armando Ramos
- Rudy Concepcion (1915-1940)
- Sylvia La Torre (b. 1933) (dubbed as the "Queen of Kundiman")
- Conching Rosal
- Dely Magpayo (1920-2008)
- Cely Bautista
- Carmen Camacho (b. 1939)
- Rosario Moreno
- Mabuhay Singers
- Diomedes Maturan (1941-2002)
- Eva Vivar
- Rhodora Silva
- More than a Love Song (en). Filipinas Heritage Library.
- Kundiman Music.
- J. Pagaspas, Native Amusements in the Province of Batangas
- F. Santiago, The Development of Music in the Philippines
- F.M. de León Jr., "But What Really Is The Kundiman?"