7" Survey: Pantayo

Photo: Tom Beedham

Photo: Tom Beedham

Every edition of this season’s Long Winter, we’re releasing a free split seven-inch, each side featuring a song from one of the night’s featured artists. To compliment the releases, we’ve issued a seven-part questionnaire to each of the artists involved, giving the subjects an inch (about 85 words) of space to answer each of our questions.

As diasporic Filipina-Canadians, Pantayo’s seven members pursue traditional kulintang (gong-chime music from the Philipinnes) as a means of (re-)accessing their culture and building community. In advance of their performance at Long Winter this Saturday (Jan. 16) and the release of their track “Binalig Bahala Na” on this month’s split with Indoor Voices, Pantayo collectively answered our seven-inch survey to explain their approach to the traditional form and discuss their experiences as diasporic people living in Toronto.

Long Winter: Who are you and how did Pantayo come together?

Pantayo: Pantayo came together as a result of self-directed workshops that met about once or twice a month starting in the winter of 2012. We started the group as a means to (re)connect with our culture as diasporic people, through learning to play a variety of Indigenous Filipino gongs (aka a kulintang ensemble). Pantayo was formed by Christine Balmes, Michelle Cruz, Kat Estacio, Katrina Estacio, and Marianne Rellin. Joanna Delos Reyes came on board towards the end of 2013, and Eirene Cloma joined mid-2015. Each member is encouraged to learn how to play all the ensemble instruments.

How about “Binalig Bahala Na” – what inspired that?

"Binalig" is a type of song that means "to be made different." Indigenous Filipino music has always been improvisational, so it's interesting that we came up with “Binalig Bahala Na” also by improvising. After learning the core (traditional) gong parts of this song, we experimented with accompanying instruments and decided to add a kick drum and some synths. There are also some choral vocables in the beginning of the song. "Bahala na" is a Tagalog expression that means leave it up to god (Bathala), kinda like [the expressions] “insha'Allah” or “que sera sera”/”whatever may be may be.”

For lots of listeners, this will be their first point of access to your music. Where does this song fit into the rest of your catalog?

“Binalig Bahala Na” is a great example of how our individual influences and experiences come together when we arrange songs. Growing up or living in the Filipino-Canadian diaspora affected our ability to readily access Indigenous and folk music from the Philippines and shaped our musical preferences. Becoming familiar with kulintang music has been part and parcel to exploring our identities as diasporic people. “Binalig Bahala Na” is one of our songs that is non-traditional in format, speaking to this exploration and its complexities. 

Once they’re turned on to this, what releases (songs, EPs, albums, or otherwise) should people pursue as logical next steps to getting to know your music?

The logical next step would be to head on over to our Bandcamp. Oh. And we're also working on an EP – watch out for it!

When you think of winter, what’s a memory that stands out for you?

For most of us, it usually has ties to our first Canadian winters. Memories of being too cold, in awe of snow, excitement with winter activities, frustration with walking on slush (!) or worse, wiping out ’cause of black ice (!!), sadness from being away from family, that kind of stuff.  There is also something to be said about escaping Canadian winter and spending our first (Christmas / New Years) holiday in the Philippines with loved ones -- that's pretty memorable too.  

How do you survive winters in Toronto? 

We try to get warmth from the company of others, warm food, warm thoughts. Those of us who like the cold keeps active by getting involved in a bunch of indoor + outdoor activities. We also try to start band practice a bit later, cause it's harder to get up and be productive on a weekend morning. Can you tell we're not morning people?

What are you most looking forward to for the Jan. 16 edition of Long Winter?

The many different people crossing paths and sharing space. Important voices and ideas being brought to the forefront. And lasers.