Music Major Connects with Cultural Heritage Through Filipino Art Song

Meleana Cabales was scrolling through YouTube earlier this year when the song “Madaling Araw” by Francisco Santiago popped up in her recommendations. Curious, she clicked on the link.

“I was hooked from the first listen,” she recalls. “It vaguely sounded like something I’d sung before, but it was also familiar for other reasons. The lilt of the piano reminded me of the waltzy karakol, a processional used at our family’s fiestas. The singer’s sentimentality reminded me of the passionate karaoke numbers I’ve heard at numerous Filipino parties. This nostalgia for a song I was hearing for the first time was hard to ignore.”

Cabales, a College of Charleston music major concentrating in vocal performance, became interested in Filipino music traditions while taking an ethnomusicology class taught by Michael O’Brien, associate professor and chair of the College’s Department of Music. As it turns out, “Madaling Araw” is part of a little-known genre of Filipino art song (voice and piano) called kundiman. With the help of the School of the Arts‘ new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Grant, which supports collaborative faculty/student research, Cabales, who is of Filipino and Samoan descent, embarked on a semester-long research project with O’Brien to learn more about a genre of music tied to her own cultural heritage.

The project will culminate on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, at 3 p.m. with Cabales presenting a lecture and recital on kundiman at Trinity United Methodist Church, 273 Meeting St. The 45-minute recital will highlight five art songs along with a presentation on the historical and musical significance of the genre. A reception with Filipino food will follow.

To learn more about Meleana’s research project, check out the full article by Amanda Kerr in the College Today.

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