Kulintang is an ancient musical instrument consisting of small, horizontally laid brass gongs. The instrument includes a gandang, two sets of barrel-shaped drums and a giant-sized gong. Kulintang music represents a great form of gong music consumed by Filipinos and other people around Southeast Asia. It is considered an ancient tradition that antedates the influences of multiple religions in the region. The instruments are played by the tribes of Maguindanao such as the Maranao, Tboli, Kalagan and other tribes located in Mindanao. Outside Southeast Asia, it is seldom that you hear modern music that uses the kulintang instrument.
Pantayo means “for us” in Tagalog, is an all-women queer Filipinx music band based in Toronto. The Filipino-Canadian “R&B Gong Punks” group consists of Christine Balmes, Eirene Cloma, Michelle Cruz, Kat Estacio, Katrina Estacio, Marianne Rellin and Joanna Delos Reyes.
The founding members of the group met in the kulintang workshop at Kapisanan. “We started our group when we met in 2012. We were exploring our ‘Filipinoness’,” Pantayo mentioned in an interview with Filipino TV. Their music is grounded by traditional kulintang mixed with pop culture music to create a unique genre. “I think it is really important to talk about the instruments and to say the names of the people who transcribe,” Kat says. Their songs are either in Tagalog or in English.
On February 25, 2020, Pantayo announced their first single “Divine”, which hallmarks the gentle rhythm of their instruments with their angelic voices. Within that same self-titled album, they released their first music video “Heto Na”, a song inspired by Original Pilipino Music disco songs in the ’70s. “Heto Na means ‘here we go’ and is one of Pantayo’s many songs that is oriented towards hope, justice and a commitment to seek out an ethical relation to Filipinx history, geography, migration and the queerness that knots all of these sites together,” Pantayo stated in their social media.
This earned them a nomination to the 2020 Polaris Music Prize, presented by CBC Music. Their album was one of the top 10 albums in the 2020 Short List. However, they did not win the award and it was given to Backxwash artist for the album “God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It”. Although they did not win the award, Pantayo continues to create resounding exceptional music that represents the Filipinx community.
“As long as you are playing it, you are actually contributing to the culture. Maintaining that visibility is really important in sustaining and contributing to evolving culture. ” Katrina Estacio explains the importance of representing culture by using the traditional instrument.