Kulintang Music of the Philippines is an ancient ensemble musical form usually recognized by the use of knobbed gongs made of bronze or brass. The ensemble can include the kulintang, a set of gongs laid in a row according to pitch upon a stand; hanging gongs known as agung and gandingan; and a goblet shaped drum played with sticks called a dabakan, which establishes the rhythmic structure of the music. The music is associated with different cultures of the Southern Philippines, including the Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausug, Sama, Tboli, and Blaan cultures, with each culture/region having a unique kulintang tradition. In the traditional setting, this music is played by community members for their own pleasure, in social competitions, in celebration of special occasions, or to assist in healing ceremonies.
During the mid 1970s, as a youth in Manila, Titania Buchholdt was introduced to the ensemble instruments by her mother, and she studied informally with musicians who worked with the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company. It was in 1993 when she was reintroduced to the music form in the Bay Area working with a variety of musicians including Frank Holder, Dana Nunez, and Joey Maliga. She finally connected with late master artist Danongan “Danny” Kalanduyan, recipient of the NEA's National Heritage Fellowship, and began a long-lasting mentorship and study of kulintang and Filipino culture, becoming a central member of Kalanduyan’s Palabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble. In 2001 Buchholdt and Kalanduyan were awarded a contract as part of ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program. She went on to study with a variety of other master kulintang musicians in Mindanao, Philippines, establishing herself as an accomplished practitioner of the music and tradition. Buchholdt entered into the tradition at an early stage of its manifestation within the United States, specifically the California Bay Area. Her understanding of its development, participants, and evolution as a transnational expression between the United States and the Philippines is quite unique. Buchholdt is currently co-producing a documentary based on kulintang musicians from five cultures in Mindanao: Maguindanao, Maranao, Teduray, Tboli, and Blaan.
As a master artist in ACTA's Apprenticeship Program in 2017, Titania Buchholdt will be mentoring her apprentice Lauren Benetua on the musical practice of the kulintang ensemble and culture. The apprenticeship will center upon developing Benetua’s skills on the various instruments of the ensemble, focusing on three musical pieces that have culturally significant roles within the Maguindanaon and Maranao cultural groups.