Incorporating Rondalla instruments on records has been a trademark of mine for quite sometime now. Very evident in the last two records I arranged and co-produced: Orange & Lemon’s last album “Moonlane Gardens” and The Camerawalls debut “Pocket Guide To The Otherword.” From time to time I receive quite interesting feedbacks and inquiries about it. So I decided to apprise everyone with some historical and relevant information.
What is a Rondalla? A quick search from wisegeek.com gave me this:
A rondalla is an ensemble of plectrum instruments, stringed instruments played with a plectrum or pick. It originated in Spain, but became one of the traditional forms of Philippine folk music after its introduction to the islands in the 19th century. Philippine rondalla instruments are made of native Philippine wood and played with a tortoise-shell plectrum.
The word rondalla is from the Spanish ronda, meaning “serenade.” The core instruments of a Spanish rondalla are the guitar, the mandolin, and the lute. The musicians are accompanied by at least one singer, and sometimes also by handheld percussion instruments. Though the ensemble of stringed instruments existed in some form in Spain since at least the 16th century, the rondalla dates from the early 19th century. It soon thereafter traveled to the Philippines, at the time a Spanish colony.
The major Philippine rondalla instruments are the banduria, the guitar, the octavina, the laud, and the bass guitar or double bass. The banduria is the central instrument of the ensemble and, along with the octavina and laud, unique to the Philippines. The guitar and double bass each have six strings, while all other rondalla instruments have 14 strings grouped into six tuning units to produce a richer sound.
An eight-piece rondalla should have four bandurias and one of each of the guitar, octavina, laud, and double bass. Many rondallas are quite large, with 30 or 40 members, especially for important social events. A 30-piece rondalla has 16 bandurias, three piccolo bandurias, three guitars, three octavinas, three lauds, two double basses. The number and type of percussion instruments is optional for any size rondalla.
My father has been a Rondalla instructor since 1965. It is no wonder why I’m fascinated with the instruments especially my intent on its application on contemporary music. I grew up tagging along with him and experiencing at a very early age the aesthetics to appreciate such, listening to Philippine folk songs and kundiman (serenades) arranged for a Rondalla ensemble. I took a certain liking for the Octavina. It gives out a rich mellow sound comparable to the effect of the Cello in a string quartet, apparent in the instrumental section of our single “Clinically Dead For 16 Hours.”
Other songs in Pocket Guide To The Otherworld where i threw in some octavina and banduria sections includes the following from subtle to the obvious:
1. Markers Of Beautiful Memories – a single high note tremolo attack of the banduria towards the end of each chorus.
2. I Love You Natalie – a simple banduria instrumental sequence followed by a clean electric guitar solo.
3. Canto De Maria Clara – the most relevant piece for a rondalla arrangement would be none other than a poem from our National Hero – Dr. Jose Rizal. The combination of banduria and octavina gives a very rich texture to the song with a vintage and patriotic feel over acoustic guitar jangles.
4. Lizards Hiding Under Rock – a perfect example of how powerful and effective the banduria is with call and answer solos over a semi rock tune.
To listen to the songs visit our MySpace account. Enjoy! – Clementine