Discover the Folk Music of the Visayas

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The Visayas is a region in the Philippines that is teeming with beautiful music. Discover the different folk music genres of the Visayas and be entranced by the unique melodies.

The Visayas

The Visayas is a cluster of islands in the central Philippines. It is composed of eight major islands: Leyte, Samar, Bohol, Cebu, Negros, Panay, Guimaras, and Masbate. The region is known for its beautiful beaches, its vibrant culture, and its folk music.


The Visayas (/vɪˈsaɪəz/ vih-SY-əz; Tagalog: Kabisay-an) is one of the three principal geographical divisions of the Philippines, along with Luzon and Mindanao. It consists of several islands in the central and southern Philippines. Its land area covers approximately 132,000 square kilometers (51,000 sq mi),[1] representing about 7% of the country’s total land area.

The largest island group in the Visayas is the Visayan archipelago, which includes more than 7,100 islands stretching from Panay Island in the west to Leyte Island in the east. The Visayans started migrating to the neighboring islands of Luzon and Mindanao around 4,000 years ago following a wave of Austronesian invasions starting from Taiwan.[2] By 1000 CE, Austronesian settlers had established themselves throughout the archipelago.

Some notable indigenous groups in the Visayas region include the Warays of Eastern Samar, numerous subgroups of Ati people on Panay and Negros Islands, and the Negrito peoples on some of the remote islands. The contemporaneous rise and fall of maritime empires such as those belonging to Srivijaya, Majapahit and Brunei have left an indelible mark on Filipino culture due to increased cultural exchanges between Southeast Asia and what is now Filipino territory.


The Visayas is a group of islands in central Philippines. The region is home to a unique form of folk music, which has elements of Spanish and indigenous influences. The music is characterized by its use of the kulintang, a type of percussion instrument.

The Visayas region has a long history of colonization by foreign powers. The first to arrive were the Spanish, who began their rule in the 16th century. During this time, the Visayas was exposed to Spanish culture and music. This can be heard in the folk songs of the region, which often have Spanish lyrics or themes.

Indigenous people in the Visayas have also been playing the kulintang for centuries. This instrument is usually made up of eight gongs of different sizes, which are suspended from a frame. The gongs are played with sticks, and the resulting sounds produce a complex and hypnotic rhythm.

The kulintang is often used as accompaniment for folk songs in the Visayas. These songs often tell stories about the daily life and culture of the people in the region. They also provide a glimpse into the history of the Philippines and its many invasions by foreign powers.

The Music of the Visayas

The Philippine Visayas is a cluster of islands in the central part of the archipelago. It is here where you will find some of the most beautiful beaches, as well as the friendliest people. The music of the Visayas is as diverse as its people. There is a wide range of music styles that can be found in this region, from folk to rock.


The music of the Visayas has its origins in the Tribal music of the Visayan ethnic groups that inhabited the central parts of the Philippine archipelago. The music was shaped by Chinese, Spanish and American influences. The Visayas is a region made up of more than 7,000 islands in the central Philippines. The four main island groups are Samar, Leyte, Bohol and Cebu.

The music of the Visayas is characterized by a strong beat and a wide range of emotions. The lyrics are often about love, loss, and heartbreak. The music is often upbeat and lively, but can also be deeply moving and soulful.

The folk music of the Visayas is an important part of the region’s cultural heritage. The music is typically performed by bands or orchestras made up of traditional instruments such as guitars, basses, drums, flutes, and voices.


The music of the Visayas is as diverse as the region itself, with a wide variety of instruments and styles. The most common instrument is the kulintang, a set of small metallophones played with mallets. Other popular instruments include the gongs called gangsa, flutes, drums, and various types of stringed instruments.

The kulintang is the most iconic instrument of the Visayas, and it is central to many traditional folk dances. The kulintang is usually played by a group of musicians, with each player assigned to one of the small metallophones. The music is often fast-paced and vibrant, adding to the excitement of the dance.

Gangsa are large gongs that are played with sticks or mallets. They are often used as accompaniment for kulintang music, but they can also be played alone. Gangsa music is usually slower and more ritualistic than kulintang music, and it is often used in ceremonies and religious events.

Flutes are another popular type of instrument in the Visayas, particularly in the southern islands. These flutes are often made out of bamboo, and they have a distinctive sound that is both mellow and haunting. Flute music is often used for courting rituals and for traditional healing ceremonies.

Drums are also widely used in Visayan music, both for traditional folk dances and for ceremonial purposes. Drums come in all shapes and sizes, from large bass drums to small hand drums. Drumming is an important part of many traditional festivals and celebrations in the Visayas.

Stringed instruments are less common in Visayan music than other types of instruments, but they do play a role in some regional styles. The most common stringed instrument in the Visayas is the rondalla, a type of guitar-like instrument that is often used for accompani


The music of the Visayas is as diverse as the provinces found in this central Philippine region. The province of Iloilo is known for its “dinagyang” music, which is played during the annual religious and cultural festival of the same name. Dinagyang music is a type of folk music that includes drums, trumpets, and cymbals, and its rhythms can vary from fast to slow.

The province of Capiz is known for its “harana” music, which is a form of traditional love ballad. Harana songs are typically about unrequited love, and they are often sung by boatmen as they row their boats down Capiz’s rivers.

The province of Cebu is home to several different styles of music, including “suliranin” songs, which are typically about social issues such as poverty or injustice; “awiton-awiton” songs, which are upbeat folk songs that are often played at festivals; and “sinulog” music, which is played during the annual Sinulog festival in honor of the Sto. Niño de Cebu (the child Jesus).

The music of the Visayas region is reflective of the diverse cultures and traditions found within it. Whether you’re listening to dinagyang rhythms or swaying to a harana ballad, you’re sure to enjoy the unique sounds of this central Philippine region.

Famous Visayan Folk Musicians

The Visayas is a collection of 7,107 islands located in the central Philippines, and is home to a multitude of different cultures and music. One type of music that is prevalent in the Visayas is folk music. Folk music is a genre of music that is passed down orally, and often has a message or story that is meant to be conveyed. There are many famous folk musicians from the Visayas, and in this article, we will be discussing some of them.

Susana Osmeña

Susana Osmeña (born November 28, 1944), better known in the Visayas as “Maestra Susana” is a Filipina musician, cultural activist, and environmentalist from Cebu City, Philippines. She is credited for helping to revive interest in the kulintang music of the Visayas and Mindanao.

Born to a family of musicians, Susana began playing the kulintang at the age of six. She later studied under renowned musician Danongan Kalanduyan. In college, she joined a band called Dakila which popularized traditional Philippine music.

After college, Susana moved to Manila to pursue a career in music. She released her first album in 1974, entitled Kulintang Music of the Philippines. The album was met with critical acclaim and helped increase awareness of kulintang music among Filipinos.

In 2008, Susana was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts, becoming only the second Filipino musician to receive this honor. She has continued to perform and record music throughout her career and remains an active advocate for Filipino culture and traditions.

Francisco Buencamino

Francisco Buencamino is one of the most famous Visayan folk musicians. He was born in 1898 in the town of Talisay, Cebu. He is best known for his composition “Sarong Banggi”, which has been recorded by many artists including the Philippine Madrigal Singers. Buencamino was also a prolific composer of film music, and his work can be heard in such classics as Insiang (1976) and Himala (1982). He died in 1986.

Max Surban

Max Surban is a famous folk musician from the Visayas region of the Philippines. He is best known for his ability to play the guitar and sing at the same time. He is also a skilled songwriter, and his songs often tell stories about the people and culture of the Visayas.

Max Surban was born in Cebu City, and he began playing music at a young age. He was first inspired by his father, who was a folk singer himself. Max Surban began performing in public when he was just a teenager, and he quickly became popular for his unique style of music.

In the early 1980s, Max Surban released his first album, entitled “Binonko sapay mo man.” This album was an instant hit, and it helped to propel him to stardom. Since then, he has released several more albums, all of which have been very successful.

Max Surban is one of the most popular folk musicians in the Philippines, and he is beloved by fans all over the world. If you’re ever in the Visayas region, be sure to check out his music!


After learning about the different types of folk music found in the Visayas, it is clear that this region has a rich and varied musical heritage. From the lively rhythms of the kundiman and kumintang to the mournful sounds of the balitao and dalAHAY, the music of the Visayas reflects the diverse culture and history of this fascinating part of the world. Whether you are a casual listener or a passionate collector, we hope you will take some time to explore the folk music of the Visayas and discover its many charms for yourself.

Similar Posts