Guide to the Kutiyapi

The kutiyapi, also known as kudyapi, is a two-stringed boat lute that originated in the Philippines. Some name variations also existdepending on what region it is used. In Maguindanao, this instrument was referred to as ‘kutiapi,’ while the Maranao called this ‘kotyapi.’ At the same time, the Subanon named it ‘kotapi.’ The Tiruray people named it slightly different as they called it ‘fuglung or faglong.’ A similar instrument called kacapi is also played in Southeast Asia. It shared the same name, although the kacapi is a zither instrument and not a lute.

This instrument, commonly known as kudyapi,is about four to six feet long and has about nine frets that are made of hardened beeswax. It is carved out of softwood like the jackfruit tree. Interestingly, kudyapi is the only stringed instrument among the Maguindanao people. However, in some other groups, like the Manobo and the Maranao, it is one of their several most common instrument. Much like all the kutiyapi instrument, a constant monophonic effect is played with one string. Meanwhile, the other string, which was an octave above the drone, played the melody using a rattan or plastic pluck. This feature is also notable in the boat lutes or crocodile lutes of other Southeast Asian countries.

Although several regular boat lute kudyapi has hardened beeswax in its fret, the Palawano was able to arrange the instrument’s fret into different patterns. With that, the patterns have made it possible to have two different scaled kudyapi. The first one is called the binalig, which has a higher-pitched scale that is somewhat similar to the peolog. The second one was called dinaladay. In contrast to the binalig, the dinaladay has a lower-pitched scale and is usually used for teaching compositions of an abstract nature.In Maranao, they played the instrument using the scales bagu and andung. These two scales were similar to the Palawano’s binalig and dinaladay. However, in contrast to the Palawano’s musical pieces, the Maranao people uses the kudyapi as an accompaniment to epic chants or bayoka. Some of the older examples of andung pieces were the Mamayog Akun and Kangganatan. In addition, the kudyapi has also been associated with many older light ensembles like the kasingkil or kasayao-sa-singkil ensemble. In this ensemble, the kutiyapi is paired with the kubing or jaw harp, suling or bamboo ring flute, a kulintang, and thegandangan, a pair of double-headed drums.

Aside from that, another ensemble in which the kudyapi was included was in the Kapanirong. This ensemble is most commonly recognized as a courtship ensemble. In Filipino music, a group of young bachelors usually goes to the maiden’s house and play their music by the window. The kudyapi was played together with another instrument like the kubing, insi flute, serongagandi, and a brass-tray called tintik.

The T’boli and other Lumad groups also showcase their talent using this instrument. Their kutiyapi was tuned to a major pentatonic scale and is played like a bowed instrument. As well as that, the kutiyapi is used as an accompaniment in improvised songs. Interestingly, the Mindanao Moro, as well as other non-Islamized Lumad, used to separate the vocalist player and the kudyapi when performing. Also, their vocalist usually uses a free-flowing method of singing on top of the instrument’s rhythm. Whereas, in the Maranao and Maguindanao, the set of rhythms and the phrases are connected with kutiyapi’s melody.

Meanwhile, among the Tagalogs, the kudyapi was already a forgotten instrument. The only trace wherein the kudyapi was used was in the folk song like “Sa Libis sa Nayon.’ The Tagalog’s kudyapi was called ‘kutyapi,’ and was written in ‘Relacion de las Islas Filipinas in 1604 by a Jesuit Friar, Pedro Chirino. According to the Spanish priest, unlike the southern counterparts of the ‘kutiyapi,’ this Tagalog’s boat lute has four strings. Subsequent records followed, and these were in accounts ofanother two friars, Diego de Bobadilla and Francisco Colin. It was in a text written during the 17th century where the two priests mentioned the instrument. However, among the three priests, Colin was the only one who had mentioned that the kutiyapi has “two or more strings.” Additionally, it was not recorded when does the kutiyapi fade into history.